A Tree Grows A Landmark

The Friends of Leonard Library opened a year of celebration for the book by commissioning Williamsburg artist Amy Lyons to paint historically accurate murals depicting scenes from “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. Lyons also illustrated the cover for the 75th edition of the book, published by HarperCollins.


The Leonard Library, Francie, the heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn visits the Leonard Library where she discovers “the world was hers for the reading.

On the 75th Anniversary of the much loved novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the Leonard Library received a great gift. United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, officially designated this library on 81 Devoe Street at Leonard Street a Literary Landmark.

The Brooklyn Public Library’s website cites: there are 170 literary landmarks in the United States. They include the childhood homes of Mark Twain, Pearl Buck, and Laura Ingalls Wilder; City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco; and Boston Public Garden, the setting for Caldecott Medal winner, “Make Way for Ducklings”.

Author Betty Smith’s daughter, Nancy Smith Pfeiffer, holds her mother’s novel, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” at the Leonard Library, Betty Smith’s local library when she was a girl Photo Credit Gregg Richards/Brooklyn Public Library

“I wish my mother were here; she would be so pleased and honored,” said Nancy Smith Pfeiffer, the daughter of Betty Smith. “This year we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the first printing of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It is fitting that a plaque taking note of her achievements be installed in the library where it all began. It is here that my mother discovered her love of books and reading. I can almost hear that young girl, known as Elizabeth Wehner in those early days, saying ‘When I grow up I will have a library of my own like this and in it will be all the books that I have loved in my lifetime.  It will be beautiful and smell of paper and ink, and it will be quiet so the people can read and think great thoughts.’ I am glad that libraries like the Leonard Library continue to nourish the love of books and reading.”

Borough President Eric Adams, who was present at the plaque unveiling, said, “Brooklyn was, to Betty Smith, the place of possibilities. That in between all of the brick and mortar, there were families living their lives, facing all of the complexities of life, education, work, and just doing their best with what they had.”

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn takes place in Williamsburg during the early 1900s. The novel also received note in late October, when America ranked it 13th in PBS’s “The Great American Read” survey to determine America’s 100 best loved books.  Betty Smith also wrote a sequel, Tomorrow Will Be Better.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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