You can’t miss the 75-foot-by-75-foot pecan tree at the corner of Armstrong Parkway and Preston Road. Known as the “Million Dollar Monarch,” the Highland Park bulwark has grabbed the attention of passersby for 152 years, ever since it was discovered during the Civil War. Years later, when the town of Highland Park was in development, city planner George E. Kessler designed the parkway in the middle of Armstrong to protect the tree and give it a place of honor.
Beginning in 1927, more than 5,000 red, blue, orange, and green Christmas lights have illuminated the pecan’s branches every holiday season, except during World War II and the 1973 energy crisis. It’s recognized as the oldest tree lighting tradition in Dallas County—every first Thursday of December.
But earlier this year, the Monarch’s health came into question due to its age, and its future was uncertain. Back in March, an arborist from Preservation Tree Service assessed the tree and reported four main spots of decay: to a structural root near the trunk, to two limbs, and to the upper trunk. Turns out that a car wreck had damaged the root a couple years ago. The potential for failure of a limb presented a danger to the public and was rated as moderate.
After this evaluation, Highland Park spent nearly $35,000 replacing support cables, updating the lightning protection system, aerating soil, and applying fungicide, among other fixes, in order to help save the tree and its lighting tradition.
It worked. The old pecan may be showing its age, but it’s survived to see another holiday season. The switch flips tonight.