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From shade to shelter




Each year, the magic of the most famous Christmas tree in the world lives long past the holiday season. It all begins with the journey of a very special tree.

  • In 1931, men working at Rockefeller Center put up the site’s first Christmas tree. The workers decorated the 20-foot-high balsam fir with garlands that were homemade by their families.
  • In 1933, Rockefeller Center decided a tree would be the perfect way to celebrate the center, and an annual tradition was born.
  • An estimated 500,000 people visit Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree each day during the holiday season.
  • Once the trees come down after the holidays, the trunks are milled, treated and made into lumber that Tishman Speyer, the owner and operator of Rockefeller Center, donates to Habitat for Humanity. This year, some pieces of the tree that couldn’t be turned into lumber have been used to make special paper for a commemorative bookplate that can be placed inside copies of The Carpenter’s Gift.
  • “People probably say, ‘It’s done; the tree is gone.’ But not for our family,” says Habitat homeowner Iveth Bowie, who helped build the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree into her home in Connecticut’s Fairfield County. “For our family, it’s more than a tree. It’s hope. It used to be a nest for birds, but now it’s going to be a nest for me, for my family.”
  • Lumber from Rockefeller Center Christmas trees has been used to help build Habitat homes in Pascagoula, Mississippi; New York City; Stamford, Connecticut; and Newburgh, New York.
  • Employee groups from Tishman Speyer and Random House Children’s Books both participated in Habitat build days earlier this year in Newburgh, New York, the recipient of the 2010 tree.
  • “What first drew me was simply a beautiful story, wonderfully rendered and illustrated. And Rockefeller Center and that tree,” says Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books. “I walk through Rockefeller Center almost every morning of my life. Very, very early in the morning, so I have it sort of to myself. That means I have that tree sort of to myself, which is a great rarity.

    “Then, Habitat. This book has a kind of richness of story and illustration. We can enrich what is already a wonderful thing: the whole Habitat story, experience, exposure and connectedness.

    “The achievement of The Carpenter’s Gift — and everything that comes with it — is dimension upon dimension upon dimension. It’s one of the most wonderful projects I’ve been involved with, and I’ve been in this business for 30 years.”

Special thanks to Tishman Speyer for the annual donation of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and for sharing facts and figures from the tree’s history.