Christmas Tree Commerce Space Typology

Preservationists discuss and observe how space is used in communities, from parks to historic buildings to infill development or more recently, pop up spaces such as parklets and the food truck phenomenon.  Use of available space varies by season. Following Thanksgiving, space in and out stores displays and sells Christmas décor, including trees. (Okay, corporate America begins peddling Christmas paraphernalia in September.) Christmas tree sales are common sights this time of year, but are not noticeable for the rest of the year.

Some of my favorite Christmas memories are searching for the perfect Christmas tree with my parents and sisters. Inevitably, it took hours.  It was cold. And we always chose a tree that was too big for the minivan and too tall for our 12’ high ceiling in the living room. And, of course, the tree always had some strange shape to it. But with enough ornaments and lights, the tree looked perfect in the end. Most years we cut down a tree at a tree farm, except for off years when trees were sparse and too expensive. Then we’d head to the local garden center and wander around the lot of trees there, standing them up to get opinions and compare and contrast our options.

Where do you buy your tree? Do you enjoy trekking through the woods or do you prefer choosing a tree that is already cut? There are many options if you’re looking for a live Christmas tree. Christmas trees are sold everywhere. Find them at the corner gas station, in the town green, outside churches and schools, outside retail stores, on front lawns, at farmers’ markets, on a farm, in a store, and more.

Christmas sales are operations of seasonal business. Trees are sold in seasonal conversion of flexible space. These spaces come in varying styles and subsets. These are seasonal conversions of flexible space. I offer this typology for your consideration as you are out and about this holiday season.

 Type One: Retail Stores

Retail stores selling trees are easy to find. Convenience stores, local hardware stores, garden centers, and big box stores are most likely to sell trees. The format will vary, depending on the subtype.

  • Subtype A: Quick & Convenient. Trees will be lined up against the building, with a sign advertising the trees for sale. Choose your tree and pay inside. This would be good if you’re in a hurry.

Retail Store. Subtype A: Quick & Convenient. These trees are leaning against the convenience store building at a gas station in White River Junction, VT.

Retail Store. Subtype A: Quick & Convenient. These trees are leaning against the convenience store building at a gas station in White River Junction, VT.

  • Subtype B: Tree Shopping. This type is affiliated with retail stores, from your local garden center to the big box store. With this type, the trees are usually sold within an enclosed area and there are more trees available than Subtype A. You enter through the store and pay inside. You can choose a tree quickly or browse amongst the aisles of trees.

Type Two: Tree Lots

Tree lots are converted spaces, more specifically spaces that do not serve any retail purpose during the remainder of the year. These spaces are simply constructed.

  • Subtype A: Tree farmstand. This type can be thought of as a Christmas tree farmstand. A farmer could have trees leaning on wood supports with a sign advertising trees for sale. These trees are locally grown and harvested.

Type Two: Tree Lots. Subtype A: Tree farmstand. These trees are for sale on a  farmer's front lawn in White River Junction, VT.

Type Two: Tree Lots. Subtype A: Tree farmstand. These trees are for sale on a farmer’s front lawn in White River Junction, VT.

  • Subtype B: Streetside tree lot. Type B is space converted in an open lot or open space on a lot, other than a residential property. The lot might be the gas station down the road or the church parking lot. Trees are supported by 2x4s nailed together to form bents, and are arranged in aisles. Work lights or Christmas light strands strung together light these lots, offering a festive glow to Christmas tree selection. Signs advertise trees for sale.

Type Two: Tree Lots. Subtype B: Streetside tree lot. This tree lots is set up adjacent to a gas station in Burlington, VT. For the remainder of the year, there is nothing in this space.

Type Two: Tree Lots. Subtype B: Streetside tree lot. This tree lots is set up adjacent to a gas station in Burlington, VT. For the remainder of the year, there is nothing in this space.

Type Three: Tree Farms

Tree farms, where you can cut-your-own tree or choose a precut tree, come in all shapes and sizes. Some farms spread for acres and acres, baling trees, serving hot chocolate, selling wreaths. Others are small operations without any frills.

  • Subtype A: The no frills tree farm. This type offers tree hunters the opportunity to cut down their own trees, probably providing saws and assistance for tree loading, but nothing else. Signs will direct you to the tree farm. Drivers park on the grass and head into the tree farm. Trees are not previously cut.

Type Three: Christmas Tree Farm. Subtype A: No frills. This farm offers cut-your-own trees, but no other festive activities.

Type Three: Christmas Tree Farm. Subtype A: No frills. This farm offers cut-your-own trees, but no other festive activities. This one is located in Charlotte, VT.

Type Three: Christmas Tree Farm. Subtype A: No frills. This tree farm advertises from the road. Turn down the driveway, drive behind the farmhouse and the trees are near.

Type Three: Christmas Tree Farm. Subtype A: No frills. This tree farm advertises from the road. Turn down the driveway, drive behind the farmhouse and the trees are near.

  • Subtype B: The Christmas extravagance farm. – This type of tree farm brings out all the bells and whistles: sleds, wagon rides, Santa Claus, Christmas gifts, a tree baler, hot chocolate & cider for sale. It’s a Christmas outing for the whole family.

Type Three: Christmas Tree Farm. You're looking at a 14' Christmas tree, a classic O'Shea choice.

Type Three: Christmas Tree Farm. You’re looking at a 14′ Christmas tree, a classic O’Shea choice.

Don’t be fooled, however. The size of the operation does not necessarily correspond to the price of the tree. Cost is reflected in geographic location and the availability of trees. What do you think? Do you have additional types or subtypes to add? Perhaps your area of the country is different for Christmas trees. I’d love to hear. Happy tree choosing!

Preservation ABCs: U is for Utilities

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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U is for Utilities

This photo show two types of street lights and a traffic signal, without wires strung between structures. Imagine how different it would look with wires.

This photo (taken in St. Paul, MN) shows two types of street lights and a traffic signal, without wires strung between structures. Imagine how different it would look with wires.

Our streets, towns, and cities have telephone lines, fiber optic cables, cell towers, water lines, sewer lines, etc. These are utilities, and they are a fact of life for just about everyone (unless you’re choosing to live “off grid”). Utilities are most often above ground if you’re referring to wires and cables (see this discussion), whereas water and sewer lines are underground. All come into play in all sorts of projects, whether new construction, rehabilitation, or transportation, to name a few. The locations of utilities are important, as is the sustainability of utilities. Are underground wires the better choice for weather related problems?

While utilities wires are a necessity to modern life (until everything is wireless someday), the fact is that there are more wires than in the past. And these wires can obscure viewsheds to and from historic buildings (example seen here). Traffic signals, telephones, cable: sometimes these can be overwhelming in our view. Consider these questions. Should traffic signals have mast arms or overhead wires? Should street lights be attached to telephone poles or separate structures? Where should a traffic signal control box be located? To which part of the house should the utilities connect?

Not sure what you think? The next time you see a telephone pole, count how many wires are strung across it. How would your neighborhood look with wires or without wires (hence, they are underground)? The next time you are in a downtown or neighborhood core, look around. Do you see wires?

What do you think is the best solution? Undergrounding utilities is expensive, but makes an incredible difference, whether people consciously realize it or not.