An elm tree in Washington Square Park, nicknamed "The Hanging Tree" or
"The Hanging Elm," is reputed to be the oldest living tree in
Manhattan. It dates back to the late 18th Century.
"Washington Square Park
Originally a marsh surrounding Minetta Brook, in the early years of
New York this area was used as a graveyard for slaves and yellow fever
victims, a dueling ground and a place of execution. Near the northwest
corner can be found the Hanging Tree, perhaps the oldest tree in
Manhattan. The Marquis de Lafayette is said to have witnessed the
festive hanging of 20 highwaymen here in 1824."
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"Washington Square Park & Arch
This is the heart of the Village and the main gathering place for
Villagers and visitors alike. Park history goes back to 1797 when the
area was designated as a pauper's burial ground. The site was also
popular with early New Yorkers as a dueling ground, and was used for
public executions. A large tree in the northwest corner of the park is
the famous (or infamous) Hanging Elm, said to be the oldest tree in
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"In the city's early days, when most of New York's population still
inhabited Manhattan's southern tip, a marsh covered the park. During
the 1798 cholera epidemic the city desperately needed an out-of-town
paupers' graveyard and drained the marsh to meet this exigency. On the
northwest corner of Washington Square an extremely tall English elm
tree stands only about ten feet from the park's edge. A straight line
drawn west from this tree would practically hit the front of Tony's
father's building. Some say the tree on the corner is the oldest tree
in the entire five boroughs. Oldest or not, the Hanging Elm earned its
name when Manhattan established a public gallows and chose it as the
site for executions. Perhaps the city chose the tree because of its
proximity to the paupers' graves, which allowed the city authorities
to dispatch its least valued citizens without bothering to haul the
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This article has a small photo of the tree:
"Three hundred years ago, however, things were a little different in
the park. Known then as the Potters' Field, it was used as a colonial
cemetery for victims of yellow fever and cholera. Between 10,000 and
15,000 people are believed to be buried there. During, and after the
Revolutionary War it was a notorious hanging ground, where at least
three-dozen individuals were killed at the site, with the final
execution occurring in 1819. 'The Hanging Tree' is still standing in
the park at the southwest corner (pictured at right), although the
tree limb where the actual hangings took place was removed in 1992 by
the Parks Department."
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You can see another photo of the tree here:
Vanishing Downtown: The Hanging Tree, Washington Square Park
My Google search strategy:
Google Web Search: "oldest tree" OR "oldest living tree" manhattan
Google Web Search: "hanging tree" "washington square"
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