2. The Oldest Tree in Manhattan is Located in Washington Square
Despite being the oldest tree in Manhattan, the Hangman’s Elm is actually an English elm, located in the northwest corner of Washington Square Park. English elms were amongst the first non-native arboreal species planted in the continent. Historical records suggest that the elm has seen about 330 years of American history. Believed to have been a seedling in 1679, its existence would have very closely followed the British conquering of New Amsterdam.
There are several eponymous legends surrounding the elm. During the Revolutionary War, it was said that traitors were hung from the tree. In fact, in 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette even claimed to witness the hanging of twenty highwaymen there. Alternatively another story goes that in 1820 a nearby gallows was set up to hang Rose Butler, a slave convicted of arson. Whichever tale holds true (if any), the dark aura of the Hangman’s Elm’s past nevertheless has aptly led to its rather gruesome naming.