Empire State Plaza Tree

Albany, New York

[Ellis letter, 16 May 1975] [Preston letter, 4 June 1975] [O'Shea letter, 19 November 1976]
Ellis letter offering seedlings to state foresters / Preston letter requesting seedlings for New York / O'Shea letter on Empire State Plaza tree

A sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) Moon Tree was planned to be planted at Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York, possibly in the spring of 1977. The earliest record of the tree being considered for planting at Empire State Plaza is from November 12, 1976, and a response on November 19. These are the only mentions of Empire State Plaza that we have, so it is not clear that a tree was ever planted there. The paper trail described below is the only evidence we have of the tree's history.

A letter addressed to "All State Foresters Field Offices" was sent by Howard Burnett (for Thomas Ellis) of the Forest Service Office in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, to the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Lands and Forests Administration, dated May 16, 1975. The letter, which was presumably the beginning step for most of the Moon Trees planted around the country, offered Moon Tree seedlings for planting in New York. (Howard Burnett also took part in the first official Moon Tree planting in Philadelphia and wrote a first hand description of the event.) On June 4, 1975, James O. Preston, Director of the Division of Lands and Forests, responded with a request to Howard Burnett for one or more of the Moon Tree seedlings for New York.

On September 30, 1975, Thomas Ellis sent a letter to James Preston informing him that limited numbers of seedlings would be available for each state for planting during the Bicentennial. Preston wrote a letter to Deputy Commissioner Hullar on December 18 asking that three seedlings be allocated to New York state, one for a planting at Fulton Ferry in Brooklyn, and two more for planting in other areas. The letter mentions Syracuse, but there is no other record of a tree being planted there.

[Ellis letter, 30 September 1975] [Preston letter, 18 December 1975]
Ellis letter to Preston on the seedlings / Preston letter requesting three seedlings for New York

Barton Zeh wrote to Ron Dinas of the Institute of Forest Genetics in Gulfport, Mississippi, on March 15, 1976, to arrange for shipping of three sycamore seedlings after April 30, 1976, and inquiring about the exact date. A memo and an airbill dated June 7, 1976, shows the sycamore seedlings were sent by air freight from the Southern Forest Experiment Station in Gulfport to the N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany. The seedlings were shipped on Allegany Airlines to Albany Airport.

[Zeh letter, 15 March 1976] [Airbill, 7 June 1976] [Air Freight Memo, 7 June 1976]
Zeh letter arranging shipping after April 30 / Airbill showing seedlings delivered to New York / Memo on air freighting of seedlings

On November 12, 1976, James Preston sent a letter to James O'Shea, Commissioner of the Office of General Services in Albany New York, informing him that the state had three Moon Tree seedlings, and offering one for planting at Empire State Plaza. The letter had an enclosured information sheet and sample interpretive sign, which we do not have copies of. O'Shea responded to Preston on November 19, 1976, stating his interest in planting a Moon Tree at the Empire State Plaza and planning to have the Supervisor of Public Buildings Landscaping get in touch with Preston. This is the last information we have on this tree, there is no further news or documentation on the planting or disposition of the seedling.

[Preston letter, 12 November 1976] [O'Shea letter, 19 November 1976]

Letters and information courtesy of Kendall Nagi and the New York State Archive.

History of the Sycamore Moon Trees

Moon Tree Home Page

Dr. David R. Williams, dave.williams@nasa.gov
NSSDCA, Mail Code 690.1
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771

NASA Official: Dave Williams, david.r.williams@nasa.gov
Last Updated: 31 October 2023, DRW