The Baltimore & Ohio Holly Tree

One tradition for kicking off the Christmas Season in Cecil County is the annual lighting of the “Holly Tree by-the-tracks.” This year the 61st lighting is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 6th. The Baltimore & Ohio held its first public ceremony in 1948 when thousands of people gathered to ring in the season as lights from holly-tree-03thousands of bulbs on the evergreen softly illuminated the Jackson, MD hillside. For many years the company dispatched a special train from Mount Royal Station for the occasion. After 1971, the tree was dark for a time until a group of volunteers started making sure the tree festively blazed for the holiday season.

The magic of the 1954 lighting ceremony was captured on a 33 1/3 long playing record. It included carols by the B & O Glee Club and the B & O Women’s Music Choir. That old vinyl, a long unheard broadcast, has sat silently on a shelf, but recently I digitized the portion of the audio in order to enjoy the snap, crackle and pop of a vinyl recording from a long time ago. Musical selections directed by Dr. James Allan Dash, a narration by the master of ceremonies Walter Linthicum, gasps of delight and loud applause, and much were captured on the record. So you may enjoy a portion of that festive occasion that took place over a half-century ago, I will post a part of that audio here on the web site over the next few days.

Click here to hear a partial audio of the 1954 ceremony from a long playing album.


10 responses to “The Baltimore & Ohio Holly Tree

  1. Great Nostalgia. Thanks for your efforts!

  2. Thanks Ted for posting.

  3. I was looking at my neighbors’ holly tree this morning here in the Outer Banks. It is about 25 feet tall and loaded with berries. It caused me to think of days gone by when my family and friends got in their cars and took, what seemed to me, a long ride from Solley, MD to see the “big Holley Tree” lighting.
    Trying to explain the details to my wife from NJ was difficult, complicated by my 62 year old memory, so I searched on holly tree and Baltimore, and your site appeared.
    Thanks for this article, I may well have been at the 1954 lighting. My memory is now rejuvenated!

  4. Larry:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story and the memory of visiting the Holly Tree. By-the-way, where is Solley, MD?


  5. Hey Mike,
    Solley is about 10 miles South of Baltimore and East of Glen Burnie in Anne Arundel County. It was “established” by the Solleys who owned two general stores in the area.
    Happy New Year!

  6. My husband and I recently purchased property near the tree and am so intrigued at the history and delighted to find your post.

    Thank you so much for the Information.

  7. I just happened to remember this all of sudden. When my husband was stationed in Bainbridge, we use to go see it each year. We now live in southern Maryland and are planning to visit next year. It was a great memory to share as a family.

  8. Mike I Just happened along your page this morning, 26 December 2016, and was quite impressed to see that you had the excerpt of the vinyl LP.

    I would like to make a remark, and than make a request.. First my request; Did you by chance digitize the entire LP? If so, would you be willing to forward me a copy? If you are willing, you may send it to me using my e-mail address, which is listed in the details section.

    And now for my remark: I have s somewhat distant relationship to the Holly Tree’s past, in that my Partner of 17 year, Thomas A. Lockard, (deceased September 2012,) was a distant relative; ( I believe on his Mother’s side, Laura C. Lockard, Madden name Craig,) of Mr. Evan J. Sentman; who planted the tree.

    When the Centennial celebration was held, I along with Tom was present at the ceremony, The B & O Railroad made up a special train which they brought up form Baltimore, I purchased a limited edition lithograph depicting the lighting ceremony. One of the highlights was a parade through Perryville, with one of the distinguished guests being a childhood hero, Sally Star.

    I have also been told that a song written about the tree, exists; and unfortunately has been lost to time.

    It was a yearly tradition for Tom and I to visit the tree’s location on Jackson Station Road. Since Toms death I have relocated to Northern NJ.. Your site has reminded me of how much I miss Tom, and how much I miss seeing the tree.

    • Anthony thanks for sharing your memories. I haven’t digitized the entire thing, but I certainly can do that and I will see that you get a copy. Give me a couple of weeks and I’ll do that. I’ll be in touch by email. Thanks

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