Betty Smith House

Betty Smith (1896-1972) was a Brooklyn-born novelist and playwright who is best remembered for her 1943 publication of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, majority of which was allegedly penned while she lived at this house in Woodhaven, Queens. Smith did not graduate from high school and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan instead to support her new husband’s pursuit of a law degree. After becoming the mother of two daughters, Smith enrolled as a non-matriculating student of journalism, drama, writing, and literature at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Through a series of awards and fellowships earned by her work, Smith continued her studies at Yale Drama School until she returned home to New York with her daughters in 1934 to continue her writing career. A job opportunity through the WPA’s Federal Theater brought Smith and her daughters to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1936, where she further pursued writing and drama endeavors including newspaper editing, stage production, playwriting, and working on novels. Some of her most famous novels written after A Tree Grows in Brooklyn include Tomorrow Will be Better (1947), Maggie-Now (1958), and Joy in the Morning (1963).


Andrew Ruppenstein, "Betty Smith," Historical Marker Database, accessed March 1, 2024,

"A Tree House in Queens," Forest Hills Celebrity & Entertainment, accessed March 1, 2024,

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "Betty Smith Papers, 1909-2000," accessed March 1, 2024,