Part One – Cherry Blossom Time
As the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC burst forth in their annual displays of flowering beauty (somewhat diminished this year due to earlier snow and ice) they stand as a testament to the efforts of First Lady Helen Taft to transform what was a swampy, mosquito-laden, marshland into a scene of riotous color and a destination for millions of visitors since their initial planting 94 years ago this month. The trees were a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo, Japan and on March 27, 1912, Mrs. Taft, along with Iwa Chinda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees. Many more followed but those first trees still stand at the terminus of 17th Street NW, located several hundred yards west from the memorial to John Paul Jones. There is a large plague near the base of the trees marking the historic event. At the initial tree planting Mrs. Taft presented a bouquet of roses to Viscountess Chinda and from that simple ceremony the annual Cherry Blossom Festival evolved. Since then, subsequent first ladies have served as honorary chairpersons of the festival.