The “Tree of Hope” of the Harlem Renaissance

During the 1920s and 1930s, Seventh Avenue in the 130s was nicknamed the Boulevard of Dreams, a stretch of Harlem lined with top theaters and clubs such as the Lafayette Theater and Connie’s Inn.

Lafayettetheater

Between these venues was a lone elm tree (see it above) known as the Tree of Hope, bringing good luck to any up-and-coming entertainer who touched it before hitting the stage—as Ethel Waters, Eubie Blake, and other legends supposedly did.

Treeofhopeplaque2The tree didn’t last long though; it was chopped down in 1934 when the city widened Seventh Avenue. Part of it went to the Apollo Theater, while the rest was cut up into souvenirs.

A second tree was soon planted in its place by Bill (Bojangles) Robinson, but that too met the ax. 

This plaque, however, serves as a reminder of it on Seventh Avenue and 131st Street. 

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5 Responses to “The “Tree of Hope” of the Harlem Renaissance”

  1. m Says:

    Little Abe Relis here, I think I seen a movie about this tree years ago. Only they
    changed it to brooklyn. An instead of Eubie Blake they had Joan Blondell. Great film the way I remember it.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    You know Abe, that is one of my favorite movies. Knowing a little bit about your personality, I can definitely see you fancying those saucy showgirl types.

    The Joan Blondell character was much racier in the book though. She worked in a condom factory, but that got cut out, of course. You should read it sometime!

  3. rmt5 Says:

    Hey there, I’m not sure if you check this still, but I’m really interested in the first picture on this page. Could you direct me to its source? Thanks so much in advance!

  4. gimelgort Says:

    Is this not where the stump on the stage of the Apollo theater comes from? Acts rub it for good luck before they hit the stage.

  5. Gordon Polatnick Says:

    Hi Y’all. I’ve been collecting info on the Tree of Hope and finally was inspired to open a jazz cafe called EZ’s Woodshed across the street from the original tree. There is still a depiction of the stump visible today on the window gate painted by legendary Harlem muralist, Franco the Great. Another depiction of the original tree is painted on the wall mural adjacent to the old Lafayette Theatre (now Williams church) on the corner of 132nd Street. You can also visit a sculpture by Algernon Miller which was placed on the median in 1972 at 7th Ave. and 131st Street marking the location of the “replanted” stump. Visit my website for more photos including the dedication ceremony for the current (4th) Tree of Hope – ready to be rubbed directly in front of the churches northernmost door.

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