Delaware Park Lake Tree

Buffalo, New York

[Ellis letter, 16 May 1975] [Preston letter, 4 June 1975] [Franczyk letter, 5 May 1977]
Ellis letter offering seedlings to state foresters/ Preston letter requesting seedlings for New York/ Franczyk letter on Buffalo planting

A sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) Moon Tree was planned to be planted by the shore of Delaware Park Lake in Buffalo, New York circa 1977. The paper trail described below is the only evidence we have of the tree's history. It ends with a plan to plant the seedling at the South Park Conservatory in Buffalo. The documentation provides a good example of the process that was followed in transferring the Moon Tree seedlings to the states.

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 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. On December 18, 1975, James Preston sent a memorandum to Deputy Commissioner Hullar informing him that one seedling had been allocated for the Fulton Ferry in Brooklyn, and they were requesting two more, possibly for Buffalo and Syracuse. 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.

[Ellis letter, 30 September 1975] [Preston letter, 18 December 1975] [Zeh letter, 15 March 1976]
Ellis letter to Preston on the seedlings / Preston letter that 3 seedlings were going to New York/ Zeh letter to arrange for shipping

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 Dept. of Environmental Conservation in Albany.

[Airbill, 7 June 1976] [Air Freight Memo, 7 June 1976]
Airbill showing seedlings delivered to New York / Memo on air freighting of seedlings

On November 12, 1976, James Preston sent a letter to Stanley Makowski, the mayor of Buffalo, informing him that New York State had three Moon Tree seedlings, one of which was being offered to the City of Buffalo. Mayor Makowski replied to James Preston on November 17, 1976 acknowledging his offer, and on December 6, Gus Franczyk, the Commissioner of Parks, accepted James Preston's offer.

[Preston letter, 12 November 1976] [Makowski letter, 12 November 1976] [franczyk letter, 6 December 1976]
Preston offer letter to Mayor Makowski / Mayor Makowski reply thanking Preston / Franczyk letter to Preston accepting the offer

James Preston wrote to William Friedman, New York State Regional Director, on December 27, 1976, informing him that Buffalo was accepting a Moon Tree. On December 29, 1976, Barton Zeh, the N.Y. State Principal Forester, wrote to Gus Franczyk, Buffalo Commissioner of Parks, informing him that they would make arrangements to deliver the seedling. It was at the Saratoga State tree Nursery and stood about 3 feet tall, including the root ball. He also asked for the location of the planting and details of any planned ceremonies. Also on December 29, James Preston wrote to Franczyk.

[Preston letter, 27 December 1976] [Zeh letter, 29 December 1976] [Preston letter, 29 December 1976]
Preston letter to Friedman on Buffalo tree / Zeh letter to Franczyk on delivering the seedling / Preston letter to Franczyk

On March 9, 1977, Gus Franczyk wrote to Barton Zeh, informing him the Moon Tree would be planted along the shore of Delaware Park Lake, in the vicinity of the Historical Building. The planting date was tentatively planned for Arbor Day, April 29. James Preston wrote to William Friedman on March 17, 1977 to inform him that they would be arranging shipment of the seedling to Buffalo on April 25. Also on March 17, Barton Zeh wrote to Gus Franczyk to inform him the tree was leafed-out in the greenhouse and they would be arranging transport of the tree. However, Franczyk replied to Zeh on March 25 that it would be inadvisable to plant a leafed-out tree outdoors during the dormant season, and they planned to move the planting date back.

[Franczyk letter, 9 March 1977] [Preston letter, 17 March 1977] [Zeh letter, 17 March 1977] [Franczyk letter, 25 March 1977]
Franczyk letter to Zeh on choice of site / Preston letter to Friedman on shipping seedling / Zeh letter to Franczyk on leafed-out tree / Franczyk letter to Zeh on delaying planting

On May 2, 1977, Franczyk wrote to Zeh, informing him they were planning to plant the tree on May 25, 1977 and would confirm by telephone. Written notes on the letter say "South Park Conservatory 25th 10 AM ceremony" and "will place in conservatory until reaches a size commensurate for outplanting".

[Zeh letter, 2 May 1977]

This is the last documentation on this tree. If it was planted at the South Park Conservatory on May 25, 1977 as planned, there is no record of the planting or the ceremony, and no information on the tree and whether it was outplanted at a later date or where the planting occurred. Presumably it was still planned to be planted along the shore of Delaware Park Lake in Buffalo.

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,
NSSDCA, Mail Code 690.1
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771

NASA Official: Dave Williams,
Last Updated: 23 October 2023, DRW