Not every century-old tree has its own Facebook and Yelp pages –– not to mention a short documentary.
A stately sycamore along West Silver Lake Drive attained that status after 30 vintage chandeliers were strung among its branches.
“Everyone went nuts. They loved it,” said Adam Tenenbaum of neighbors’ reaction to his luminous project launched seven years ago with chandeliers salvaged from a set-building job.
Tenenbaum rewired and weatherproofed more fixtures procured from donations and swap meets, hoisting them with the help of his aerialist roommate, Brion Topolski.
One large chandelier hangs squarely over Shadowlawn Avenue, which runs alongside Tenenbaum’s 1920s home.
“We were testing the boundaries with that one,” said Tenenbaum, who has rented the property for eight years and works as an airbrush makeup artist. “We took the tree into the neighborhood.”
Tenenbaum has artfully placed the fixtures among gaps where leaves catch light from scores of 25-watt bulbs. In other hands, the marriage of chandeliers and majestic tree, both icons of grand elegance, could have turned precious or even gaudy.
Liberace performing on a forest-themed set comes to mind.
The tree’s glow instead has warmed the neighborhood, turning Tenenbaum’s frontyard into a kind of communal park.
Marriage proposals and wedding photo shoots are commonly held beneath the tree, and locals often show off the tree to visitors. The sycamore has appeared in music videos, and five film location scouts list the location in their books.
Some people have made pilgrimages from San Diego and even overseas to behold the sight. Children (and adults) are drawn to the radiant tree as if it were the threshold to J.R.R. Tolkien’s enchanted Middle-earth.
“The tree’s a hidden gem,” said Mai Vo, who lives in the area. “It’s just — elegant.”
Three years ago, Tenenbaum installed a tricked-out 1970s parking meter in front of the tree to help fund electricity for the chandeliers, which add $200 a month to his bill (“like lighting 30 rooms,” he said).
The outré meter, with its fan of 17 bulbs and the words “Chandelier Tree,” doubles as installation signage. The meter’s take is about $85 each month.
An arborist recently examined the sycamore for undue stress and found none. But the expert gave the tree about 15 years to live because of its old age.
Tenenbaum’s hope is that a location scout will cast his Chandelier Tree in a major film, bestowing cinematic timelessness.
“A Wes Anderson film would be about perfect,” he said.