Community Christmas Trees are a Mansfield tradition
by Steve McCloskey
Anyone traveling through downtown Mansfield since Thanksgiving can’t help but notice things look a little bit more holiday-like this year.
There’s been a great deal of positive comments made about the upgraded Christmas lights and the addition of community Christmas trees in the downtown district. Both have added greatly to the sense of community and holiday spirit.
When Kathy Barrett and her recently formed Fourth of July committee were looking for fund-raising ideas for next summer’s fireworks show, the concept of offering Christmas trees to be decorated by downtown businesses and organizations was suggested.
The committee loved and quickly implemented the concept, but didn’t realize this new idea was actually a continuation of a tradition perhaps as old as Mansfield itself.
Over the span of its lifetime, Mansfield had often had some type of community Christmas tree. In the early years, the unveiling of the Christmas tree was an event held at every church with church members and the community invited to participate. One of those churches – actually two – were housed in the current home of the History Center, serving as the home first to the Methodist and then Universalist congregations.
After the turn of the century, somebody came up with a real traffic-stopper for the tree location. The community decided to place their Christmas tree where everyone would notice it – smack-dab in the middle of the then called Public Square.
Today we call it the traffic light at the intersection of Main Street and Wellsboro Street.
It’s hard to imagine now, but for a long span of time, a 30-foot Christmas tree was annually erected in the busiest intersection in the borough.
That didn’t present as much of a problem as you would think during the horse and buggy age, but when the automobile-era arrived, it started to become a safety, if not a convenience, issue. Despite its drawbacks, the community leaders kept the tradition at least into the 1930s. They even removed the traffic signal island at the intersection to erect the tree, requiring a full stop for traffic at all four entry points.
By the 1940s, the tree location changed to what is now known as First Citizens Community Bank and later on Main Street in front of the Twain Theater or Smythe Park as well as other places.
The History Center on Main Street is the oldest remaining location in the borough for a community Christmas tree display. We invite you to stop by with family and friends and look at our Christmas tree in front of the building that features photos of area citizens from the 1920s.
It is after all, a Mansfield tradition.