O, Christmas Tree! Bryant Park’s Evergreen Grew on Alum’s Farm

For the third year, the family-run operation of Daniel Stutzman ’57 has supplied a picture-perfect tree to the iconic Midtown locale

“Bear Hugs” celebrates heartwarming stories of Cornellians on the Hill and around the world. Have an idea? Email us at cornellians@cornell.edu!

By Lindsay Lennon

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, NYC’s Bryant Park hosted its 2023 tree-lighting ceremony.

Set against the iconic backdrop of Midtown Manhattan, the hourlong spectacle featured performances by Broadway singers and world-class ice skaters.

But the real star, of course, was the tree: standing 48 feet tall, weighing 8,000 pounds, and shimmering with more than 12,000 lightbulbs and 1,000 oversized ornaments.

It had been trucked in from Stutzman Farms, the third-generation evergreen farm of retired arborist Daniel Stutzman ’57.

A large Christmas tree lit with yellow lights and a blue star on top on display in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, New York City.
The beloved tree in NYC’s Bryant Park in 2022.

Based in Hornell, NY (about 90 minutes west of Ithaca), the operation was started by Stutzman’s father, who went on to help found both the New York State and national associations of Christmas tree growers.

After Stutzman earned a biochemistry degree from CALS, he worked for major food brands including Chef Boyardee and Beechnut—yet still helped manage the group of Christmas tree farms his family by then owned throughout New York and Pennsylvania.

In the ’70s, he left corporate life and took over the business with his brother. But Stutzman’s devotion to growing crowd-pleasing Christmas trees dates to long before that.

A man standing in front of a large Christmas tree being loaded onto a truck by several other men
One of Stutzman’s massive evergreens, en route to Yuletide glory.

In 1958, when he was working for Gerber in California, Stutzman was headed to a ski trip on Mount Shasta when he found himself at a roadside nursery outside Sacramento.

He got to chatting with the owner, who introduced him to the abies concolor—commonly known as a white fir.

“The reason I liked them was because they were a typical Christmas tree,” recalls Stutzman. “They have a wonderful aroma, and they hold their needles well. They’re beautiful.”

In the ’70s, Stutzman left corporate life and took over the business with his brother—but his devotion to growing crowd-pleasing Christmas trees dates to long before that.

The following spring, Stutzman returned to the Sacramento nursery and bought 100 six-inch seedlings, which he planted back at the farm. They’re now 60 feet tall.

Over the years, Stutzman’s trees have served as showpieces in the holiday displays of municipalities across the Northeast.

Not only is this Stutzman Farms’s third year supplying Bryant Park, but its 40-plus-foot evergreens have appeared in cherished spots around Philadelphia—including the city hall and courthouse and atop the iconic “Rocky steps.”

Though he’s still active on the farm, his son recently took over the business.

Daughter (and fellow CALS alum) Leslie Stutzman-Solitario ’86 is now a landscape architect in Leesburg, VA.

She grew up on the Hornell farm, where she worked every summer pruning trees.

“My dad instilled in us an incredible work ethic,” she says, “and also what it means to be a caretaker of the land.”

A number of Stutzman’s evergreens have also taken root across the Hill—including on the Ag Quad, Libe Slope, and outside the Hotel and ILR schools.

Stutzman-Solitario even planted a blue spruce outside her sorority house, Kappa Kappa Gamma.

“Beautification,” says Stutzman. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”

All photos provided.

Published December 7, 2023


  1. Katherine Hanna, Class of 1964

    I thought this would be about Bryant Park in ithaca! On East Hill, Belle Sherman.
    Oh well! This is how a Townie like me would react!

  2. Deborah Goldfarb Washofsky, Class of 1969

    I lived on Bryant Avenue across from the triangle park. My first reaction was the same. Although couldn’t imagine a giant tree being placed there.

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