The imposing Cotton Tree standing in the centre of Freetown towers above the nearby buildings and is a historical symbol of Sierra Leone’s capital. Located in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the main roundabout on Siaka Stevens Street, near the Supreme Court Building and National Museum, the city’s most famous landmark provides welcome shade for passers-by as well as being the entrance to the capital’s downtown district.
It is believed that in 1792 a group of former African American slaves, who had gained their freedom by fighting for the British during the American War of Independence, landed on the shoreline and headed for a large tree above the bay and held a thanksgiving service for their deliverance in the shade offered by the tree.
The tree also provided a location for the trading of slaves in the growing city as well as being home to a large colony of bats until just a few years ago.
In addition, the Cotton Tree has been included in many works of art and across the country cotton trees are often associated with mysticism.