Washington Square Park in New York City is not only a beautiful green space but also a place steeped in history and legends. From parades to picnics, music to hangings, this park has seen it all.
How Washington Square Park Came to Be
Before Stanford White became the most famous architect of New York City, he was known for hosting the most amazing parades. So, they hired a very young Stanford White to make the parade for the anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington, who was the very first president of the US. He built a wooden version, and the parade was so popular that the public demanded Stanford White build a permanent one. And now, we have this beautiful marble park standing here.
In 1917, a group of artists, Marcel Duchamp, John Sloan, and Gertrude Drik, sneaked into the top of the park’s arch and had an all-night picnic, drinking tea and lots of alcohol. They even declared that Greenwich Village was its own country. They were caught, and after that, the door on the arch was locked.
The Beat Goes On Music and Culture in Washington Square Park
During the 1950s and 1960s, thousands of musicians played all around the fountain, making it the hottest spot to be present in New York City at that period. Folk music really stirred up here in the Greenwich Village.
This park became a cultural epicenter, attracting artists and intellectuals from around the world.
The Hanging Tree: The Oldest Tree in Manhattan with a Dark Past
In the very northwestern section of Washington Square Park stands the oldest tree in all of Manhattan. This tree has been standing for over 400 years and is also known as the Hangman’s Elm because, according to legend, people used to be hung right on the branches of this tree. Just imagine what this tree has seen, from the Lenape to the Dutch arriving to the bridge taking over New Amsterdam to the American Declaration of Independence, and all the way through the crazy era of the 50s and 60s. All winter long, this tree is still standing, witnessing the city’s evolution and growth.
Visiting Washington Square Park is a must for anyone visiting New York City, not just for its beauty but for the rich history and legends it holds. From parades to picnics, music to hangings, this park is a living monument to the city’s past and a vibrant center for its present.
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