Where was Nathan Hale really hanged?

A 13-foot statue of Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale stands tall in City Hall Park. Yet no one seems to know for sure where he was actually executed for spying on the British.

NathanhalecityhallparkThere are two competing locations. A plaque posted on a Banana Republic store at Third Avenue and 66th Street claims that the 21-year-old American spy was strung up on a gallows within 100 yards of that site on September 22, 1776.

The information comes from a British Officer’s diary, which stated that the hanging occurred at “the Royal Artillery Park near the Dove Tavern at the old Post Road, now Third Avenue. . . .”

But there’s another plaque, on East 44th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, that says this is the location of Hale’s execution and that the “British Artillery Park” existed here.

The building the plaque (below) is affixed to belongs to the Yale Club. Hale was a Yale graduate, class of 1773.



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13 Responses to “Where was Nathan Hale really hanged?”

  1. CelestialCharms Says:

    Interesting debate!

  2. petey Says:

    well the plaque says “near this site”, so that could refer to the 3rd avenue location. he was actually captured on long island, which apparently was a battleground for spying during the war.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    You’re right, I should have said near, not at. I guess in 1776, East 66th Street was considered near 44th Street.

  4. Chicken Underwear Says:

    How did you get to take that picture? That statue is behind the City Hall security fence. They would not let me in without an appointment

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    It’s an old photo. I didn’t know Nathan Hale is no longer accessible to the public.

  6. Alex Says:

    The statue used to be at City Hall Park by Broadway near the N train station. I have a photo of the statue as well circa 2000.

  7. fabrice leclercq Says:

    there is another plate at 51st street and 1st ave. that claims to be the site of Howe’s headquarters and “near the execution site for Nathan Hale. How can we not be more certain of such an important piece of Americain history?

  8. Mark Says:

    The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation City Hall Park website states: “hanged for treason the next morning on a gallows believed to have been erected near 63rd Street and First Avenue.” Wow, that makes four. (So far.) Perhaps he really did have more than “but one life to lose” for his country.

  9. Caera Says:

    On the subject of the statue being inaccessible, an NYPD officer at City Hall told me to get on a tour and ask to see the statue if I wanted to get a picture with it, though I have yet to do so; that was the last stop on my group’s trip so there was not time. I think you can also get a visitor pass and go see it; what really matters is they just want you to go through security.

    On the subject of hanging sites, my money is on 66th and 3rd because the 44th and Vanderbilt plaque is actually not where it originally rested. When they tore down the building it was on, a slaughterhouse if I remember correctly, they put it on the Yale Club building because Nathan attended Yale. There is no other relevance to the location. And since they both referred to the artillery park mentioned in the soldier’s diary, it makes sense to go with the one that remains in its original place.

    There is also a rumor that City Hall itself is where Nathan was executed, but I have to disagree with that one as well, because it was 4-5 miles from where he was known to be held that night. Who would walk someone that far just to kill them, especially when it was not a major event (at the time)? Howe and his men would have had other things on their mind, with the fire and such.

    I guess we’ll never truly know, unless someone builds a time machine. What really matters is what he said, however paraphrased it wound up over time.

  10. John Donnelly Says:

    There is a plaque on Main St. in Castleton VT.

  11. What should we rename Third Avenue? | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] United Nations Avenue, International Boulevard, and Nathan Hale Boulevard (presumably because the Revolutionary War hero was reportedly hanged at today’s Third Avenue and 66th […]

  12. Why Manhattan has two streets named Beekman | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] But during the Revolutionary War, Mount Pleasant had some new residents: British generals, who made it their military headquarters. (Nathan Hale was also supposedly hanged here, but that’s a piece of history still in dispute.) […]

  13. Honora Mcdonald Says:

    I always thought that Nathan Hale was hanged at Halesite, hence the name.

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