Melrose on display at W’s house

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NATCHEZ — The “art” of Christmas now has a different meaning to Kate Morris.

Morris, a student at LSU and park ranger for the Natchez National Park Service, was chosen by the Natchez National Historic Park to create an ornament that was put on display in the White House. Each year, the White House chooses a theme for Christmas, and this year they chose “Holiday in the National Parks,” which highlights the importance of the nation’s national parks.

“Kate was a great choice because she has done recreations of flags and other artistic things for us in the past and we knew she had a talent,” Natchez Park Guide Nathan Hatfield said.

Email newsletter signup

All 390 national parks were asked to create an ornament depicting the most famous image in their park. The 347 ornaments will adorn the 18-foot Fraser fir tree in the “Blue Room” on the State Floor in the White House throughout the holidays.

“There were a lot of rules and regulations I had to work with,” Morris said. “I immediately knew I wanted to paint Melrose, I just didn’t know how I was going to paint it.”

The creation of the large gold ornament took 13 hours to complete. One side of the ornament featured the front of Melrose, while the other side featured the back.

“I wanted to feature the house because unlike most antebellum homes, the back of the house differs greatly from the front,” Morris said.

For the park service, and Natchez the significance of the ornament is undeniable.

“It reminds folks we are just as important as the more glamorous parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone,” Hatfield said.

On Nov. 28, Morris was invited by first lady Laura Bush to attend a ceremony celebrating this year’s Christmas theme. Morris was able to tour the first floor of the White House and see her ornament hanging on the tree.

“It was definitely a highlight of my life, it is very special,” Morris said. “I worked for the park service for almost nine years and it is exciting I got to do something closely associated with the park service, which is something I love.”

So far the tree has been featured on many television shows including the “Today Show.” Once the tree is taken down, Morris’ ornament will be placed in the permanent ornament collection in the National Archives.

Morris hopes one day she can see the ornament again.

“Maybe as a grandmother I can take my grandchildren to the archives and show them my ornament,” Morris said.