It started out as a mystery: In the 1980s or early 1990s, a six-inch ivory statue of the Virgin Mary suddenly appeared from a tree on 71st Street between First and York Avenues—probably the middle one below, which is boxed off.
One account has it that the statue popped out after a truck knocked a limb down during a construction project. Another says that it materialized while workers were trimming branches.
Upon seeing the little statue, the workers refused to cut anymore. Within days, “the tree was enshrined by the faithful, who came to honor the Virgin and leave behind objects of devotion,” reports a New York Times FYI piece from 1998.
So was the statue’s appearance a miracle? Apparently not. A letter to the Times explained that the a nearby shop sold religious objects, and the owner would hang some from the tree.
A statue hung close to the trunk was soon entombed by growing bark—then uncovered years later. Today, the only objects of devotion left near the tree are empty bottles and food wrappers.
Tags: Catholic New York, East 71st Street, miracle tree New York City, New York street, Upper East Side, Virgin Mary appearance, Virgin Mary image, Virgin Mary statue New York City, York Avenue history