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CALABASAS : Old ‘Hanging Tree’ Felled by Storm

There won’t be any more necktie parties at the old “hanging tree,” in Calabasas.

The 12-foot oak tree, a landmark in the city’s Old Town, toppled over during the night Wednesday, the victim of the recent storms, according to officials of the Leonis Adobe, a museum nearby.

The tree, bereft of branches, had been dead for years, making it fragile and vulnerable to the elements, said Ray Phillips, president of Leonis Adobe Assn. Leonis Adobe is the feature attraction of Old Town, a Western-style section of shops and restaurants on Calabasas Road.

While there is some doubt whether anybody was ever actually hanged from the tree, it added a gruesome touch to Old Town’s Western theme. A noose, which was placed on the tree about 25 years ago, made the tree a conversation piece and fodder for gallows humor.

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The noose was stolen Thursday afternoon after the tree fell. Rick Baldwin of Agoura, a regular visitor to Old Town, said he saw two men take the noose and leave in a vehicle.

“If they catch these guys, I would like to have the first hanging we’ve had here in 50 years,” he joked.

Phillips said it is possible the association will want to try to restore the tree. But it won’t be easy, he said, because the tree shattered when it fell.

Some in Old Town said they were sad the tree is gone.

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“I think they should make a replica and put it back,” said Cheryl Goldstein, owner of Calabasas Hair Salon, which is across the street from Leonis Adobe.

“The tree was an old historical landmark,” she said. “People used to sit in the Sagebrush Cantina (a restaurant and bar next door to the museum) and admire the noose.”

The tree was about 100 years old when it died in the 1960s, Phillips said. It was later moved to another spot about 50 feet away, where it remained until Wednesday night, he said.

It is not known how the tree got the reputation as a hanging tree, Phillips said. He believes it became associated in the public mind with criminals because it once provided shade for a small jail.

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A man named Larry Kramer, who once ran a store across the street from Leonis Adobe, insisted that a tree in front of his store was a hangman’s tree. This fueled debate about which was the real hanging tree, Phillips said. That tree is still standing, he said.


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