Newsletter Signup | Subscribe to Magazine

Take a trip through the magical, mystical Aluminum Forest

Imagine a door opens, you step inside, and you suddenly feel like you are inside a rainbow.

Story by Eddy Hoyle  +  Photography by Lisa Staff

Imagine a door opens, you step inside, and you suddenly feel like you are inside a rainbow. Shimmering light in gold, silver, pink, and turquoise glistens and engulfs you. Walking (or gawking) through the Aluminum Forest is a magical trip back in time to a Christmas wonderland of yesteryear, and you are invited to experience it at an open house Dec. 5 at the Lowcountry home of Kelly McClure, a collector of vintage aluminum trees and all things Christmas.

absolute joy • McClure is shown with Buddy, one of her two rescues from the Hilton Head Humane Association. The cost of admission to the Aluminum Forest is a donation to the organization.

O’Christmas Trees!

Don’t miss the chance to visit the Aluminum Forest from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5.
The cost to attend is a donation to the Humane Society (cash or checks only). RSVP to [email protected] to register and secure a gate pass. For those unable to attend Dec. 5, McClure will accommodate small group tours on a limited basis. Contact her via email or The Aluminum Forest Facebook page.

McClure’s vision is to share her collection of nearly 40 vintage aluminum trees with the public to benefit the Hilton Head Humane Association. “The Hilton Head Humane Association is an organization I care deeply about,” McClure said. “I adopted two dogs that were taken in with extensive medical and surgical needs. The cost to rehabilitate very ill and neglected animals is very high. I feel called to open my display to raise money for medical care provided by the Humane Association.”

A walk through the “Aluminum Forest” wraps you in a warm feeling of nostalgia and wonder.”

“Kelly is a true supporter of our organization,” said Franny Gerthoffer, executive director of Hilton Head Humane Association. “We are honored to have her donate her time and beautiful Christmas display to help raise money for the medical needs of the animals. Kelly is devoted to the mission of rescue. She not only is hosting this fabulous event, but she has rescued medically challenged dogs from us over the years. She is the true meaning of giving.”

A walk through the “Aluminum Forest” wraps you in a warm feeling of nostalgia and wonder. And it’s not just the shimmering lights and sparkling trees. Remember when you were a kid spinning and sliding down a snow-covered hill on a round saucer? She even has one of those.

Her display is nothing short of a spectacular blast from the past. There are vintage signs and textiles, primitive art, municipal decorations and collections of various ornaments. Every nook and cranny of McClure’s home is filled with such decorations as ornaments from around the world, motorized color wheels, lighted signs and displays, Nativity scenes, elves, a Santa collection, antique Italian carolers, wooden toys from World War II and department store banners. There is a mid-century motorized display of Santa’s elves that will charm you. In one corner, tiny flocked mice and kittens wear cloth outfits. These German Kunstlerschatz ornaments are playfully arranged on a goose feather tree.

This year McClure is honoring the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing and man’s first step on the moon. “The relevance of this anniversary is because the space race, the atomic age, economic prosperity and the dawn of futuristic designs all coincided with the production of aluminum Christmas trees that embody all of those aspects of that era.” So McClure has included a display with a patriotic theme: Santa sitting on a rocket with red, white and blue ornaments and silk flags. 2019 is also the 60th anniversary of the debut of the first aluminum tree at the New York City Toy Show in 1959. McClure’s collection includes a 1st edition of this 1959 model tree.

Another rare tree in her collection is a vintage tree made for the Carnation Company. “It has flocked tips made to look like powdered milk, and to the best of my knowledge it’s the only one that has ever surfaced.”

Her aluminum forest boasts three Snow Puff Trees made of spun glass, a Visca tree with antique bubble lights, an Evergleam plastic tree that is one of the first green artificial trees, a 7-foot Revlis blue aluminum tree, and a Canadian Fairyland blue tip. But the holy grail of her collection is a rare 7-foot pink aluminum tree. McClure has been collecting aluminum trees for nine years. “I have examples of every known major brand of aluminum trees. Collectors like myself consider them modern art.”

Other rarities in McClure’s collection include a star-shaped aluminum wreath made by Star-Band in Portsmouth, Va. She also owns a Mirro brand silver tree that boasts aluminum caps shaped like poinsettias on every branch. A one-of-a-kind, hand-painted wall hanging graces her dining room. It is a 5’x7’ depiction of the first day of Christmas – a partridge in a pear tree. There were 12 separate paintings auctioned off, all from one seller.

“I’d love to find others, but I am very lucky to own the ‘first day of Christmas’ painting,” she said.

Evergleam was the premier producer of aluminum trees. Theron Georges, an Evergleam scholar, recently published the first reference book for the aluminum tree collector called “The Wonderful World of Evergleam.” Autographed copies of this book will be available at the Aluminum Forest open house with 25 percent of each sale going to the Humane Association.