Skip to main content

Alexander Hamilton's The Grange

(Revised September 2015) Below is the dining room of the only real house Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) ever knew, a place he called The Grange, built in the bucolic countryside of Harlem Heights north of what was then New York City.



Hamilton Grange, operated by the National Park Service, commemorates the life of this influential Founding Father. The Federal Style house is located just off W. 141st Street between St. Nicholas Avenue and Convent Avenue. In spite of the fake grapes and fake roses, it was here in this room that Hamilton started to come to life for me.

He was an ambitious, stubborn and argumentative man, with a cold command of policy. But rather not so great in politics. I imagined him sitting at the head of this table, bantering with his children, 
arguing about the nation's finances with guests, or telling stories about George Washington.

As I learned in the ranger-guided tour of the house on Sunday, he had to watch his own finances. He cut corners in some places on the house, but not on others. A conspicuous consumer, Hamilton splurged on the silverware.   

Bullet points from the resume of Alexander Hamilton: 

• Aide-de-camp for General George Washington 1777
• Commander under Lafayette, Yorktown 1781 
• New York delegate to the Continental Congress 1782-83
• New York legislature 1787
• Delegate, Continental Congress 1787
• With John Jay, James Madison, author of The Federalist Papers, arguing for ratification of the U.S. Constitution 
1787-88
• Secretary of the Treasury 1789
• Author, program to finance the federal government, 1790-91
• Founder, Bank of New York
• Leaves government to practice law in New York 1795
• Inspector-general of the Army 1798-1800
• Feuds with John Adams, 1796-1800
• Leaves government altogether 1800
• Moves with his family to The Grange, Harlem 1802
• Dies following a duel with Aaron Burr 1804



A proponent of a strong central government, for reasons he well argued in The Federalist Papers, Hamilton came to represent an arrogance that was not well-received among his more democratic-leaning countrymen. 


The statue above is outside St. Luke's Episcopal Church.



In 1802 Hamilton, his wife Elizabeth Schulyer Hamilton, and his children moved into a new dream house, The Grange, the center of a 32-acre country estate. From the house you could see the Hudson River and the Harlem River. We are not far from the battlefields.

In September of 1776 at the Battle of Harlem Heights (near Columbia University, Hamilton's alma mater in Morningside Heights), the Continental Army under the command of General Washington stood tough against the British Army. In November 1776 the patriots lost their hold of New York City in the Battle of Fort Washington (Bennett Park in Washington Heights).

The National Parks ranger conducting tours of the house told a tragic tale that befell the family. In November 1801, Hamilton's son, Phillip, died in a duel to defend his father's honor. His sister, Angelica, was overcome with grief and suffered a breakdown. She never spoke again, expressing herself solely at the piano. The piano is here in this room.  

Hamilton's house is now in its third location. Originally perched a few blocks north and west, the house fell into a slow decline following Hamilton's death and his widow's subsequent move to Washington, DC. 

St. Luke's Episcopal Church bought the house in 1889 and hauled it a couple of blocks for use as a chapel. The church then built a big Richardsonian Romanesque building (background in the sculpture pictures, as below). The National Park Service acquired the house in 1962. 

An ambitious restoration project began in recent years, and the house was moved in 2008 to the current location in St. Nicholas Park. It was a big deal when the park service moved the house. A team hoisted the structure high up on hydraulic coils, essentially lifting it over the church, and then back down to the street and over to the park. A short film about this feat of logistical engineering concludes the tour of the house.

Hamilton couldn't stay out of the political fray long, especially when it came to his long-standing feud with Aaron Burr. The end came on July 11, 1804 in Weehawken, NJ, on the very same field where Hamilton's son was killed, when Burr shot and mortally wounded Hamilton in a duel. Hamilton died the next day.  In addition to restoring the house, the park service successfully rehabilitates Hamilton as an important figure in American history.

Before the trip downtown, enjoy a walk around this area. The streets are lined with beautiful brownstones. This neighborhood is called Hamilton Heights.

While the narrative told at Hamilton Grange concedes that he remains controversial, the house and the story's tragic nuances humanize our nation's number one Federalist.

By the way, if you find yourself appalled over the arguments of states rights advocates, you may find yourself cheering here.
    
For a full Hamilton tour of New York City, take the train downtown to Trinity Wall Street and visit his grave in the churchyard. It's a most fitting resting place for Hamilton, just blocks away from the nation's financial center and the steps where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States. 

See National Park Park Service page on the Hamilton Grange National Memorial










Popular posts from this blog

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers. Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.   Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been fr

North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line

The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north.  Near Beacon, a view of autumn colors from the Metro-North Hudson line One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red.  Autumn light in Hastings-on-Hudson Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.   Autumn leaves on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Hastings Still, October is a gr

Walking on Snow

❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ For the better part of this new year, snow has been either on the ground or in the forecast. In the city landscape, the streets look enchanting for a day or so and then devolve into a dirty mess. This sort of snow is unappealing for an invigorating walk. A snowy path in Inwood Hill Park The forest, on the other hand, has managed to stay enchanting throughout each bout of winter weather. The presence of owls and hawks, bright red cardinals and sweet chickadees, and brown squirrels and black squirrels transform the woodlands into a fairy tale. An Eastern Screech-Owl at home in the winter forest I've spent much of the whole pandemic year, going back to March 2020, in the woods of Inwood Hill Park in Northern Manhattan. While I have been accustomed to walking through the park in spring, summer, and autumn, I've never managed to engage with the deepest parts of the forest when a lot of snow was on the ground. Last winter there wasn't much snow anyway. Eastern Screech-Owl

An Early Autumn Walk in Central Park: 2020 Edition

This week, the singer Diana Krall released a cover of “Autumn in New York,” the standard by Vernon Duke. An accompanying video , filmed in New York by Davis McCutcheon and directed by Mark Seliger, portrays the city in moody yet beautiful black and white tones. Beyond the lack of autumn colors, the film shows the empty streets of the pandemic city. The mood riffs on the underlying melancholy of the song’s lyrics, that the fall season “is often mingled with pain.” Approaching The Mall in Central Park  When I think of autumn in New York, I automatically imagine walking in Central Park in the vivid colors of the season. The images here, from a meandering one-mile stroll this past Saturday, show only a hint of autumnal glory but reflect more conventional representations of both the season and the song. Yet, walking in Central Park at the beginning of autumn is tinged for me with a hint of sadness, or truthfully, with some anxiety about the coming months. The Mall in Central Park I hadn’t v

A Morning Walk from Penn Station to Times Square

Penn Station to Times Square New York City entered a new phase of the reopening on Monday, but you would never know it from a morning walk in Midtown on the day after.  At 34th Street and 8th Avenue, an outsize reminder of the public health crisis from Montefiore Medical Center After running an errand near Penn Station, I decided to take a walk up to Times Square and Broadway before heading home from 59th Street and Columbus Circle.  34th Street looking east toward the Empire State Building I wasn’t altogether prepared for the sights and sounds of this time and this place. Like many other New Yorkers, I have rarely left my neighborhood for the past four months.  8th Avenue at W. 38th Street After exiting a quiet Penn Station near 8th Avenue and W. 33rd Street at what would normally be the end of rush hour, I found myself suddenly dropped into a city (mostly) bereft of crowds.  A few commuters near Port Authority and The New York Times building, 8th Avenue and W. 40th Street Yet, I had

Walking It Off: Coping with Holiday Stress During the Pandemic

When I began this series, “Pandemic Posts from the Pause: New York City in the Age of Coronavirus” in March of 2020, I could see the first young greens of spring from my window. New Yorkers were told to stay home then and away from others. As someone who enjoys walking in the city, I knew that I would need to sacrifice many things this year. I was not going to give up walking. I quickly figured out that I could safely go to Inwood Hill Park near my house and wander the trails in the old forest. In March, I could breathe in the spring air away from others. There was little else to do during those early days of the “pause.” New Yorkers suffered greatly at the beginning. In a few months we were able to get the numbers down and to manage some semblance of human interaction, at a distance and masked.  Now, with the beginning of the holidays, the city and nation faces the existential threat of the virus’s return, the political assault on democratic norms, and the ongoing threat of the clima

Facing the Dark Ages

A close look at The Met Cloisters Update: The Met Cloisters reopened on September 12, 2020. See the museum's website for ticket information. The Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 82-year-old home for its medieval collection in Fort Tryon Park (known as The Met Cloisters in recent years, the result of rebranding), dominates Northern Manhattan like a mystical fortress, like some object of a mythical quest. From nearly any direction, it’s easy to see the tower with its sandy-colored walls, double-arched windows, and Mediterranean style tile roof. Walking south on Broadway north of Dyckman Street , the way of everyday serfs and pilgrims going to market, the otherworldly sight of the imposing structure can transform an otherwise pedestrian journey.  View of The Met Cloisters from the northeast Culture and architect critic Lewis Mumford (1895-1990), reviewing the museum’s opening in 1938 for his regular column in The New Yorker, didn’t care much for the tower, but that was his

A New York Spring Calendar: Blooming Times and Seasonal Events

See the UPDATED 2018 CALENDAR HERE . Updated for 2017 . At this time of year, thoughts turn to spring. Let's spring forward to blooming times, the best locations for witnessing spring's beginnings, and springtime events in the big city. While the occasional snow could blow through the city, we're just weeks now from callery pears in bloom and opening day at the ballpark. In The Ramble, Central Park. mid-April Blooming Times •  Central Park Conservancy's website  lists blooming times within the park. During the month of March we begin to see crocus, daffodils, forsythia, snowdrops, witch-hazel, and hellebores. Species tulips will emerge in several places, but the Shakespeare Garden and Conservatory Garden are particularly good places to catch the beginning of Spring blooms. Central Park near E. 72nd St., saucer magnolia, typically end of March. •  Citywide Blooming Calendar from New York City Department of Parks & Recreation April is u

Early Voting in Washington Heights, and A Walk

Early voting for the 2020 federal election in New York began on Saturday, October 24 and continues through Sunday, November 1. The weekend was overcast and autumnal, with the bright yellows of fall on display. In New York City, thousands of New Yorkers turned out at the 88 early voting locations and waited in long lines, many stretching around the block.  A line to vote in Washington Heights. The line stretched around the block multiple times. Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn were two of the well-known sites, but most voting places were typical neighborhood places such as schools, churches, and hospitals.   The scene outside the entrance to the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, one of the early voting locations in Washington Heights. In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, two early voting locations were within a short walk of one another, causing some confusion for voters emerging from the 168th Street subway station. The Columbia Universit

Purposeful Pastimes in a Pandemic

The disruption of everyday life in this pandemic can lead to confusion, immobility, or a lack of concentration. I know this has been true for me. Certain activities that in normal times would be effortless and fun now seem suddenly too hard or irrelevant. For me, this includes writing anything longer than a paragraph. I also painted a small scene of the streetscape out my window but it took me over a month to finish it. I’ve now identified a handful of activities that are easy for me, and I’ve managed to rationalize them by finding meaning in them as well. The first, of course, is walking. While staying home is the preferred course of action during a pandemic, a solitary walk in a nearby park is acceptable within the current guidelines. I find these walks in nature absolutely necessary for physical and mental wellbeing. Taking pictures of birds can also be fun, educational, and meaningful. While the Great Egret, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Cardinal are common in these