Hangman's Elm, or simply "The Hanging Tree", is an English Elm located at the northwest corner in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York City. It stood at 135 feet (41.15 m) tall when last measured nearly 35 years ago, and has a diameter of 67 inches (1.70 m).
In 1989, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation determined that this English Elm was 310 years old. (Currently their website states: "Historical records suggest that it is more than 300 years old."). As a result, many believe that it is the oldest known tree in Manhattan. The elm has outlived the city’s other famous old trees: Peter Stuyvesant’s pear tree at the northeast corner of 13th Street and Third Avenue, and the great Tulip poplar at Shorakapkok in Washington Heights.
The earliest references to the elm as a "hanging tree" date from the late 19th century, long after the supposed hangings were said to have taken place. Recent extensive research into the park's history by more than one historian has shown that the tree was on a private farm until the land was bought by the city and added to Washington Square in 1827. No public records exist of hangings from this tree.
The only recorded execution in this area was of Rose Butler, in 1820, for arson. She was hanged from a gallows in the city's potter's field, on the eastern side of Minetta Creek, about 500 feet (150 meters) from the elm; at that time, Minetta Creek ran in a shallow ravine between the potter's field and the farm where the elm stood.
- Swett, Benjamin (2017-03-14). Trees of New York City. ISBN 9781581574432.
- Geismar, Ph.D., LLC, Joan H. Washington Square Phase 1A Archaeological Assessment (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-03.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Harris, Luther. Around Washington Square: An Illustrated History of Greenwich Village.
- English Elm or 'Hangman's Tree' at Northwest Corner - Southeast View
- Washington Square Park Phase 1A Archaeological Survey (pdf: Loads slowly)
- Hangman's Tree Deserves New Name and More Help