Before 2020 ended, Magnolia Tree Earth Center broke ground for expansion. The Center is the brainchild of environmental activist Hattie Carthan.
The story goes that in the 1960s, Carthan was on the bus in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn when she noticed a lovely, tall magnolia tree. As an admirer of the tree, she led a group of community residents to save this rare evergreen when it was threatened to be destroyed by nearby construction.
Located at 677 Lafayette Avenue, the magnolia tree was planted around 1885 according to the New York City Parks website. It started off as seedling from Virginia and became a New York City Landmark in 1970. Three years later, the Magnolia Tree Earth Center was incorporated. The three adjacent brownstone buildings were also declared landmarks.
Today, the Center dedicated to the legacy of Hattie Carthan offers floral arrangement classes, Women’s Circle, a group of women exchanging stories of their lives and OSHA 40 classes. Upcoming programs include Tree Corp. which instructs children how to care for street trees, Gardening, Health and Wellness, as well as annual programs like a school supply giveaway. The Center also offers low-cost non-for-profit office space.
The façade of the 679 Lafayette Avenue building provides protection for the tree from cold winter winds, and the walls of the cellar protect its roots. On the chilly day of the groundbreaking on November 19, 2020, the Magnolia leaves were a vibrant green on a tree that is nearly 57 feet tall, patiently waiting for the next blooming cycle.
Board Chairman Wayne Devonish gave special thanks to contributors, major and in-kind. He presented plaques to Patrick Toussaint as a $10,000 contributor and to Darryl Scott for his invaluable 500 hours of in-kind support.