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Tree of Hope (site of)

About this listing

A talisman for performers

Place Details

Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : Central Harlem
Theater, Performance

Place Matters Profile

The Lafayette Theatre, where the nominator says the Tree of Hope was originally located, was also known as the "House Beautiful." According to the Harlem 1900-1940 exhibit produced by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the theater was located at 132nd St. and 7th Ave. "It was probably the first New York theater to desegregate and as early as 1912, African American theatergoers were allowed to sit in orchestra seats instead of only the balcony.


Nominations

Hank Smith

The Tree of Hope, originally located in front of the Lafayette Theater at 132nd St. and 7th Ave. in the 1920s, was then moved (the stump of it) to the middle of 131st St. and 7th Ave., later removed and replaced by a plaque, which is now gone.

Legend has it that black performers hanging out by it got lucky and got jobs. It became a good luck symbol, and performers would kiss it before going into the Lafayette. A remnant of the tree still exists and is kissed before performers perform at the Apollo's amateur night.

There was once a sculpture and also a plaque, signed by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, at its location at 131st St. and 7th Ave., but it is all gone now. It needs to be replaced.


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