The Democracy Tree

In the late 1990’s, an elm tree started to grow out of one of the potted plants on Democracy Project founder Mark Schaefer’s balcony. After a couple of years of tending as best one could to the tree, it became apparent that the tree needed to be planted in the ground if it were to survive. But where should the tree be planted? A neglected tree box on New Hampshire Avenue provided an opportunity over the Fourth of July weekend to save a tree and witness to a community. (For more information, read the Washington Post article about the tree). 

This was the state of the tree box when we started. Untended, overgrown with weeds. Perhaps of interest to a botanist, but hardly aesthetically appealing.

tree box overgrown with weeds

The state of the tree box afterward. Elm tree planted, red, white, and blue flowers circling the tree, placard, flag, and three red flowers in front of the placard. What once was blight, now a testimonial to the citizens of the District. The legend on the placard is at bottom left. 

transplanted tree with wooden plaque and American flag

The new plaque for the Democracy Tree, placed spring 2001.

bronze plaque

The new plaque, set in concrete, adorned with red, white, and blue pansies, giving witness to the neighborhood.

The tree was given a new look for 2001, with the plaque installed and a new fence placed around the tree box.

Democracy Project volunteers Keith Ivey and Stephanie Gober pose in front of their handiwork as pedestrians take in the message from the plaque.

The Democracy Tree with its new look

Other DC voting rights items visible in this picture:

  • DCVote Bumper Sticker “It’s Time”
  • D.C. license plates reading “Taxation Without Representation”
  • Foundry Democracy Project bumper sticker “Let my people VOTE”

As of August 2003, the tree was approximately 25 feet high, having nearly grown in size and volume 500%. May this tree, like the cause of democracy to which it was dedicated, continue to flourish and grow.

Summer 2008:

The Democracy Tree

Summer 2017: The tree is one of the many stately elms along New Hampshire Avenue. A sign of the strength and durability of the DC Voting Rights movement.

The Democracy Tree planted by Mark Schaefer
The massive trunk of the Democracy Tree with the accompanying plaque
The Democracy Tree planted by Mark Schaefer, several stories tall