Man in Seattle tree: How long has tree been there?

The tree was originally at Mercer Street and Aurora Avenue North and was replanted in fall 1973 at the current location.

On Tuesday, a man who climbed a downtown Seattle tree stayed there for more than eight hours, refused to come down and threw things at firefighters who tried to help him.

The scene near Fourth Avenue and Olive Street, by the downtown Seattle Macy’s store, drew hundreds of onlookers and thousands more with a worldwide online audience.

It also made some people ask: How long has that tree been there?

The tree was originally at Mercer Street and Aurora Avenue North and was replanted in fall 1973 at the current location. At the time it was 35 feet tall, and given 4 to 1 odds it would survive because of the replanting shock.

The tree was part of a redesign of the Jewett Triangle, named for John Jewett, a longtime Seattle businessman who died in 1971.

There is still a plaque near the base of the tree remembering Jewett, who was born in 1910, and marking the Fourth Avenue Stewart Street Triangle Improvement, which was dubbed “Operation Triangle.”

“The President’s Club of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce donated $1,000 to the project and the balance, $12,000, came from Forward Thrust funds,” according to a Seattle Times story from Sept. 13, 1973.

By the time the tree was installed in 1973, 26 similar triangles were completed on street rights-of-way as part of Operation Triangle, according to the article. The tree was decorated for Christmas celebrations since at least 1992.

In summer 2010, the city did emergency work on the sequoia tree at Fourth and Olive because of a loss to about 10 feet of the tree's top. City staff consulted with an internationally known tree expert. Soil renovation was done, and follow up care was done for weeks to ensure the tree’s survival.

Police estimated Thursday that the sequoia tree was 80 feet high. At one point the man threw an apple at officers – something they said could bring an assault charge – and threw branches at negotiators.

Shortly after 8 p.m., the man was hanging upside down.

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Forward Thrust, which paid most of the tree replanting costs, was a collection of civic improvement bond proposals. Some Forward Thrust proposals were approved in February 1968 and May 1970 Thursday, leading to the Kingdome, arterial highways, neighborhood improvements fire protection, and other changes.

One of parts that failed in both 1968 and 1970 was a regional rail transit system – something similar to what is being done by Sound Transit today.