Washington Mon­u­ment lights are a tra­di­tion

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Chris Kal­tenbach THEN AND NOW chris.kal­tenbach@balt­sun.com

Only in Bal­ti­more, per­haps, could the city’s fa­vorite Christ­mas tree be a178-foot­tall mar­ble col­umn.

Hey, the rest of the world should be so lucky.

And it turns out, like so much about Bal­ti­more in the last 50 years or so, we have Wil­liam Don­ald Schae­fer to thank for the Washington Mon­u­ment’s sta­tus as a glow­ing hol­i­day main­stay.

Be­fore 1972, var­i­ous gar­den clubs deco- rated the mon­u­ment for the hol­i­days, usu­ally with a taste­ful col­lec­tion of greens.

The idea of putting any­thing as gar­ish as lights on the na­tion’s first ma­jor mon­u­ment to the Fa­ther of Our Coun­try was dis­missed out of hand.

Back in the 1960s, when it was com­mon prac­tice to bathe the mon­u­ment in flood­lights in the evenings, some­one was heard to com­plain it made famed de­signer Robert Mills’ hand­i­work look like it had a case of warts.

The lights were promptly turned off.

But then Schae­fer, who was about to mark his third Christ­mas sea­son as Bal­ti­more’s mayor, came back from a trip to In­di­anapo­lis. This was back be­fore that city stole our Colts and be­came not ex­actly our best friend, and Schae­fer was re­port­edly taken by its tra­di­tion of dec­o­rat­ing many stat­ues and other struc­tures with lights.

Put ’em on the Washington Mon­u­ment, the mayor or­dered.

And thus was a hol­i­day tra­di­tion born.

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