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Secrets of the City: D.C.

Revealing all the untold stories of our Nation’s Capital. From all the best local spots to where we got our beloved Cherry Blossoms, check out the stories that make the District unique!

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A Local’s Guide to the Cherry Blossoms

The true sign of spring in the District is coming, Cherry Blossoms. Any other time of the year, they look like regular trees, but from March to April, the pink flowers on the Cherry Trees surrounding the Tidal Basin draw millions of visitors to the National Cherry Blossom Festival. 

a vintage photo of Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore

Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore Photo from the National Mall National Park Service Instagram Account (@nationalmallnps) posted March 18, 2021

This year will mark 110 years since the people of Japan gifted these Cherry Trees to the people of the United States as a celebration of friendship in 1912.

But of course, there is more to the story. According to the National Park Service, all the way back in 1885, Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore (the first female board member of the National Geographic Society) was the first to suggest a massive installation of Cherry Trees downtown.

After returning from a trip to Japan, she fell in love with the beautiful trees. She suggested an installation downtown to the U.S. Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, who immediately shot her down. Eliza knew it was a great idea, so she continued asking for 24 years!

a close up of a tower

Photo from the National Mall National Park Service Instagram Account (@nationalmallnps) posted March 20, 2021

During this back and forth, it just so happened that Jōkichi Takamine (a Japanese Chemist) and Mr. Midzuno (the Japanese consul to NYC) were visiting DC. They learned of the installation and asked if the 2,000 trees could be given to D.C. in the name of Tokyo instead.

A few years later, 3,020 Cherry Trees arrived in DC on Valentine’s Day 1912; how romantic! If you look closely, you can find the plaque marking the first two Cherry Trees planted in 1912 by the First Lady and the Japanese Ambassador’s wife.

Now, 110 years later, these beautiful trees are the talk of the town every March. Thousands of people travel to D.C. to participate in the annual Cherry Blossoms Festival and snap a few pictures with the fluffy white blossoms framing the monuments.

Written by Jessica, our local expert guide. Jessica is a Historian, Archivist, and Tour Guide living and working in the District who loves sharing the secrets of the city with tourists and locals alike. Want to learn more? Join us on an Insider’s Pub Crawl!

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