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A Christmas tradition continues

UPPER TOWNSHIP — Members of the Historical Preservation Society of Upper Township continued the Christmas tradition of decorating the Shoemaker Holly Tree.

For many years it has been a community event to decorate and light the famous tree during the Christmas season. Young and old gather to celebrate the birth of Christ and this wonderful communal occasion. The public is invited to hang a Christmas ball on the tree at any time.

The Shoemaker Holly Tree is at the John Townsend Rest Stop at milepost 23 of the Garden State Parkway.

The tree is over 325 years old. It is said to be the oldest tree of its kind in New Jersey and perhaps the nation. The name comes from the Shoemaker family as the last owners of the property before selling to the Highway Authority to build the final stretch of the Garden State Parkway in 1953. Everyone assumed the tree would come down.

Millville resident and Holly Society of America founder Daniel G. Fenton led the charge to save the tree, according to the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry. He worked with Gilmore Clarke, the Highway Authority’s chief architect, to incorporate the holly tree into the overall design of the highway. They created a 120-yard-wide separation between the north and south lanes still there today.

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