Leonard Library Designated Literary Landmark by the American Library Association on the 75th Anniversary of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Brooklyn, NY—The Leonard branch of Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) was officially designated as a Literary Landmark last night by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.

Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, was a frequent visitor to the Library as a child growing up in Williamsburg. Like the author, Francie, the novel’s heroine, visits Leonard Library where she discovers “the world was hers for the reading.” The iconic novel turned 75 this year.

“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.”

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

“It is a privilege to designate Leonard Library as a national Literary Landmark in honor of Betty Smith,” said Beth Nawalinski, Executive Director, United for Libraries, the division of the American Library Association, which selects the landmarks. "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is cherished by so many readers, and adding this library to our nation’s Literary Landmarks is the perfect tribute to both the book and its author.”

In 2008, BPL staff joined Smith’s family and the NYC Parks Department to plant a tree in the author’s memory outside Leonard Library, one of Brooklyn Public Library’s original Carnegie branches. The exterior has remained largely unchanged since it opened its doors in 1908, just a few years before Francie Nolan visits the library in the early chapters of the book.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the 75th anniversary of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with the family of author Betty Smith, and dedicate this plaque on behalf of generations of readers who continue to find meaning in Francie’s poignant story,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Library. “We are grateful to United for Libraries for commemorating the branch Francie visited.”

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 the novel. Lyons illustrated the cover for the 75th edition of the book, published by HarperCollins.

"HarperCollins is honored to be partnering with the Brooklyn Public Library on the 75th Anniversary celebration of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Since 1943, this extraordinary novel and its spirited heroine, Francie Nolan, have enchanted and inspired millions of readers, and there’s no more fitting location than the Leonard Library—a place beloved by both Francie and Betty Smith—to mark this special occasion,” said Jennifer Civiletto, Senior Publishing Manager, HarperCollins Publishers, who oversaw the 75th anniversary edition.

“Reading is a portal to nurturing the education and imagination of our children. Decades ago, Betty Smith placed her discoveries on paper and captured the hearts of many with her masterpiece, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Public Library's Leonard branch was the seed that planted that tree of inspiration for her so many years ago. I am thrilled that her childhood library in Williamsburg will be designated as a literary landmark, as it will leave a lasting legacy for the many hearts and minds that she impacted all over the world. A tree has grown in Brooklyn, and so much more,” said Eric L. Adams, Brooklyn Borough President.

“I am thrilled that the Leonard Branch of Brooklyn Public Library was officially designated as a Literary Landmark. Brooklyn Public Library is a shining star in our countries' library system. Every time. I visit a branch, it is beaming with children, adults and seniors enjoying the great services that Brooklyn Public Library provides. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is an American classic, and certainly a NYC classic. This book speaks to the importance of libraries in our neighborhoods and Leonard Branch truly is a neighborhood library,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol.

“I am thrilled to see that the Leonard Library has been designated a Literary Landmark by the American Library Association on the 75th Anniversary of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “As the Council Member representing Williamsburg, Ridgewood, and Bushwick, I can confidently say that the Leonard Library has stood the test of time. Generations after the publication of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the library continues to enrich the lives of Williamsburg residents, much like it did for Francie Nolan. I thank the library for their continued contributions to the cultural and educational well-being of our community, and look forward to continuing to support their work.”

“The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment was pleased to help bring renewed interest to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by featuring it in our inaugural One Book, One New York program in 2017, and we are thrilled that Harper Collins has issued a new 75th anniversary edition of this classic New York City novel and has chosen local artist, Amy Lyons, for the book’s new cover art,” said Julie Menin, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner. “We congratulate the Leonard Library in Williamsburg for inspiring Betty Smith to write the book back in 1943 and for becoming a designated literary landmark all these years later.”


About Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is an independent library system for the 2.5 million residents of Brooklyn. It is the fifth largest library system in the United States with 60 neighborhood libraries located throughout the borough. BPL offers free programs and services for all ages and stages of life, including a large selection of books in more than 30 languages, author talks, literacy programs and public computers. BPL’s eResources, such as eBooks and eVideos, catalog information and free homework help, are available to customers of all ages 24 hours a day at our website: https://www.bklynlibrary.org