Frederick Douglass Playground

The Daily Plant : Wednesday, April 7, 2004


A Harlem treasure has finally returned home. After extensive conservation, the vibrantly colored abstract Tree of Hope sculpture returned to its original location last week at Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and 131st Street in Manhattan. The piece was reinstalled by Parks & Recreation’s monuments and operations crews. The sculpture’s artist, Algernon Miller, was at the site to oversee its placement.

"I’m happy that it's up," said Miller, of the installation. "It was up there in a terrible condition for so many years, and it wasn't helping my career any. I'm grateful to The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for their grant. I'm just so happy to see it up, and I'm hoping that the community enjoys it."

Originally installed in 1972, this abstract, painted-steel sculpture by Algernon Miller (b. 1945) symbolically commemorates the original Tree of Hope that stood opposite the Lafayette Theater at 131st Street and Seventh Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard). Many celebrated performers, including Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, rubbed the original tree for good luck.

The restoration of the artwork was carried out by Mr. Miller, with the support of a $5,000 grant from the Fund for Creative Communities, a joint program of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the New York State Council on the Arts. Looking at original photographs and based on his own experience, Miller recreated the colorful painted surface of the steel tree and added a new protective coating. The Housing Development Fund Corporation of Harlem, a social service and transitional housing center, provided a work studio to Mr. Miller while he conserved and repainted the sculpture. Parks & Recreation masons rebuilt the concrete base for the sculpture to stand on.

Mr. Miller is engaged as one of two artists currently designing the memorial to Frederick Douglass at Frederick Douglass Circle (northwest corner of Central Park). The Tree of Hope was originally commissioned under the auspices of the Creative Artists Public Service Program in conjunction Harlem Cultural Council.


"I who have been involved with all styles of painting can assure you that the only things that fluctuate are the waves of fashion which carry the snobs and speculators; the number of true connoisseurs remains more or less the same."

Pablo Picasso

Directions to Frederick Douglass Playground

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