Tour: Visit The Real-Life Sites of Hamilton’s Revolution

Special Features   Tour: Visit The Real-Life Sites of Hamilton’s Revolution
 
You can see where he lived, died and told his story.
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of <i>Hamilton</i>
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton Joan Marcus

Though Alexander Hamilton‘s face is emblazoned on the $10 bill, most people were familiar only with the highlights of his life, specifically his status as first treasury secretary of the United States and his death as a result of a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s musical reveals much more to Hamilton's life than his death.

Part of the thrill of Hamilton comes from its setting in and around Manhattan, where the Schuyler Sisters (including Hamilton's future wife Eliza) sing early in the show, “history is happening.” Places connected to Hamilton‘s life abound in New York City, but also in New Jersey, where Hamilton spent a great deal of time, especially while serving as aide-de-camp to George Washington. For Hamilfans, there are many places to visit just a subway, ferry or train ride away to explore the Founding Father’s life and times.

New York City Sites
Miranda's musical explores Hamilton's life, mostly from his time at King's College (now Columbia University) in 1776 through to his death in 1804. Aside from spending periods of time in Philadelphia, New Jersey and elsewhere, Hamilton called New York his home for most of his life, starting with his college days and ending with his final years living in uptown Manhattan, in the section of Harlem now known as Hamilton Heights.

It‘s Quiet Uptown:” Hamilton Grange

Hamilton Grange
Hamilton Grange Wikimedia Commons

A strange yellow house sits on a gentle hill within the bounds of St. Nicholas Park just a short walk from the 145th Street A train station: the Hamilton Grange. The structure, designed by architect John McComb Jr. and completed in 1802, is believed to be the only home Alexander Hamilton ever owned. In 2006, the structure was moved to its current location from its previous spot beside St. Luke’s Episcopal Church across the street (having previously been moved to make way for the city’s ever-expanding grid). The house was significant to Hamilton, who lived there for only two years before his death. He commissioned the house for his wife Eliza and his eight children, and it was completed not long after the death of his eldest son, Philip, in a duel fought to defend his father’s honor. The family took solace in spending days in what would then have been considered the countryside and which would have taken about a 90-minute carriage ride to reach from the city’s industrial center in lower Manhattan. As the company sings toward the end of the musical, “It’s quiet uptown,” and Hamilton and his family likely benefited from the space they had to themselves at the Grange, which he named after his grandfather’s estate in Scotland.

Nowadays, the Grange is a U.S. National Park service site open to the public. A small introductory exhibit about Hamilton’s life takes up the lower level of the house. The main rooms of the house can be visited either as part of a guided tour or on a self-guided basis during certain hours of the day with the supervision of a park ranger. A short video tells the history of the house and shows its relocation in 2006. The guided tour gives visitors a sense of the Hamilton family’s day-to-day use of the house and the history surrounding several of its prized objects, including the family’s pianoforte, which also plays a pivotal role in the musical.

Hamilton Grange is located at 414 West 141st Street, New York, NY. The Grange is free to visit. Up-to-date hours and information about guided tours can be found at nps.gov/hagr.

Cabinet Battle:” Morris-Jumel Mansion

Morris-Jumel Mansion
Morris-Jumel Mansion Photo by Richard Patterson

Further uptown is another historic house, in this case the oldest remaining house in the borough of Manhattan: the Morris-Jumel Mansion. The house, an early example of Palladian architecture, is considered notable primarily because it serve as the temporary residence of George Washington between Sept. 14-Oct. 20, 1776, after the army's retreat from Brooklyn after the Battle of Long Island in the period before Hamilton had joined his military "family" as an aide-de-camp. Though it had been a private residence owned by British military officer Roger Morris prior to Washington’s time at the mansion, it was later converted into a tavern called Calumet Hall. Calument was the site of several cabinet meetings during Washington's presidency in 1790. Hamilton, Vice President John Adams, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of War Henry Knox were among the attendees at these cabinet “battles.”

Vice President Aaron Burr, who served under Washington’s successor Thomas Jefferson at the time when he mortally wounded Hamilton, lived in the Morris-Jumel mansion years after its connection to Washington and his cabinet. This continued the uncanny intersections of the two statesmens’ lives over the years, which began with their concurrent military service and lasted through their law careers (which occasionally saw the two men working together in court) and political careers (which eventually resulted in the rivalry that spelled Hamilton’s demise). In 1810, the mansion was purchased by Stephen Jumel, a French emigrant who died in 1832, leaving the house to his widow Eliza Jumel. Burr married Eliza in the house’s downstairs parlor at age 77 (she was 19 years younger at the time) and slept in one of the house’s upstairs rooms, just down the hall from where Washington had slept. Burr and Jumel only lived together for three months before separating. Their divorce was finalized after about three years, officially completed on the date of Burr’s death, September 14, 1836. (Alexander Hamilton, Jr. was the attorney representing Jumel at the time.) The mansion now operates as a house museum that’s open to the public. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote parts of Hamilton in Burrs bedroom, drawing inspiration from the house’s historic past.

Morris-Jumel Mansion is located at 65 Jumel Terrace, New York, NY. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and free for members and children under 12. Up-to-date hours of operation can be found at morrisjumel.org.

“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story:” 82 Jane Street and Trinity Churchyard

82 Jane Street (left) and the Trinity Churchyard
82 Jane Street (left) and the Trinity Churchyard Photo by Richard Patterson

After the fateful duel that mortally wounded Hamilton across the river from Manhattan in Weehawken, NJ, the former Treasury Secretary was brought to the Bayard Mansion (home of his friend, banker William Bayard Jr.), which stood at what is now 82 Jane Street in the West Village. A plaque hangs on the current structure in commemoration. Hamilton is buried in the churchyard south of Trinity Church next to his beloved Eliza, who lived for 50 years after his death and proceeded, as the musical describes, to tell Hamilton’s story. Eliza’s sister Angelica Schuyler Church is buried in the opposite churchyard to the north of the church alongside relatives, her own name having faded from her tombstone. The current Trinity Church is actually the third church at its current site, having been built in 1839. Nearby St. Paul’s Chapel is a beautiful example of the architecture of the period, having been completed in 1766; the chapel was where the Hearts of Oak militia (Hamilton’s unit during his time at King’s College, now Columbia University) would conduct drills and also where Washington worshipped following his inauguration (his pew is still on display).

Trinity Churchyard is located at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street. St. Paul’s Chapel is located on Broadway between Vesey and Fulton Streets. Hours and information (and an app-led tour) for both can be found at trinitywallstreet.org.

Your Obedient Servant:” Fraunces Tavern

Fraunces Tavern
Fraunces Tavern Photo by Richard Patterson

Fraunces Tavern on Pearl Street, like the Morris-Jumel Mansion, is one of the oldest structures in Manhattan and has several notable connections to Washington and Hamilton. A thriving tavern during the Revolutionary War run by expert cook and patriot Samuel Fraunces, the building’s Long Room was where George Washington said an emotional farewell to his officers following the signing of the Treaty of Paris that effectively ended the war. Hamilton would likely have been present. The tavern then housed offices for the Departments of Foreign Affairs, War and Treasury during the early years of the new government. The Tavern was also the site of an 1804 dinner hosted by the Society of the Cincinnati for veteran officers that was attended by both Hamilton and Aaron Burr a mere week before their fateful duel. The tavern building, which was renovated by the Sons of the American Revolution in the early twentieth century, is home to a restaurant and museum. Guided tours of the building, which are free with admission on specific dates, tell the story of the building’s rich history, which extends beyond its Washington and Hamilton connections.

Fraunces Tavern is located at 54 Pearl Street, New York, NY. Admission is $7 for adults; adjusted rates for seniors and students with valid ID and children 6-18. Admission is free for children 5 and under and active military with ID. Up-to-date hours of operation and information about free weekend docent-led tours can be found at frauncestavernmuseum.org.

New Jersey
For die-hard Hamilton fans and history buffs, New Jersey boasts a handful of relevant historical sites to visit. Morristown, a little more than an hour outside of New York on New Jersey Transit’s Dover-bound Morristown Line, was host to George Washington and the Continental Army’s encampment from December 1779 to June 1780, during one of the coldest winters on record. Closer to New York City, the site of Hamilton and Burr’s climactic duel in Weehawken can be accessed by a ferry run by NY Waterways.

“A Winter's Ball:” Washington's Headquarters Museum and Ford Mansion in Morristown, NJ

Ford Mansion
Ford Mansion Photo by Richard Patterson

Though in his later years Hamilton became an eminent statesman, his early success was marked by his service both in a New York volunteer militia and later in the Continental Army, which lasted from 1775 through 1781. For much of this time, Hamilton served as an aide-de-camp to Washington, beginning in 1777 and ending in the Battle of Yorktown, which effectively ended the Revolutionary War. From late 1779 through early summer 1780, the army set up camp in Morristown, then a quiet Presbyterian town with convenient lines of communication to New York City, Philadelphia, and Trenton. That winter marked Washington’s second encampment in Morristown. During the first encampment, Washington had stayed in Arnold’s Tavern on Morristown Green (the town’s central square), which burned down in 1918. Troops had found themselves amidst a smallpox outbreak that killed approximately one-fifth of the town’s population and prompted the swift inoculation of troops at Washington’s behest.

By the time the Continental Army returned to Morristown for a second time in 1779, the military had learned its lesson; instead of staying in close proximity to the town’s residents, they built cabins in nearby Jockey Hollow. Washington took up residence this time at the Ford Mansion in Morristown, which had been built by Colonel Jacob Ford Jr. in 1774. Ford died in 1777, leaving the house to his widow Theodosia Ford (not to be confused with Hamilton’s Theodosia, the name of both Aaron Burr’s wife and his daughter). Washington, his staff, and his aides-de-camp took up the majority of the house while the Fords, who would have received some compensation for the use of their house, slept in a few modest rooms. The site, known as the Ford Mansion, has an adjacent museum, the Washington’s Headquarters Museum, that houses several unique revolutionary artifacts, including a sword believed to be George Washington’s inaugural sword, and a painting of Washington by Gilbert Stuart, one of the foremost portraitists at the time. Tours led by park rangers begin at the museum and continue at the Ford Mansion, where Washington's bedroom—as well the rooms of his aides, including Hamilton—can be seen.

Washington’s Headquarters Museum and Ford Mansion is located at 30 Washington Place, Morristown, NJ. Admission is $7 for adults; visitors 15 and under are free. Up-to-date hours and seasons can be found at nps.gov/morr/planyourvisit/hours.htm.

“Helpless:” Schuyler-Hamilton House in Morristown, NJ

Schuyler-Hamilton House
Schuyler-Hamilton House Photo by Richard Patterson

Now run by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Schuyler-Hamilton House was where Eliza Schuyler stayed during the winter of 1779-1780, when she met and was courted by Alexander Hamilton. Eliza was staying with her uncle Dr. John Cochran, who was physician to Washington, and his wife, Gertrude. The house was owned by Jabez Campfield, another doctor who served as a surgeon during the war. Gertrude, having known that her niece met Hamilton in the summer of 1779 and took a liking to him, invited Eliza to stay with them for the winter. While summers during the Revolution were reserved for war, winter provided an opportunity for courtship. Eliza and Hamilton quickly fell in love (as Eliza sings of her husband’s eyes in the musical, “I’m down for the count, and I’m drownin’ in em”). They were married at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany the following winter. The house is now open once a week to visitors. Guided tours can be arranged.

Schuyler-Hamilton House Museum is located at 5 Olyphant Place, Morristown, NJ. Admission is free; tours may be arranged. More information, including up-to-date hours, can be found at njdar.org/schuyler-hamilton.html.

“The World Was Wide Enough:” The Hamilton-Burr Dueling Grounds Weehawken, NJ

The Hamilton-Burr Dueling Grounds
The Hamilton-Burr Dueling Grounds Photo by Richard Patterson

Hamilton’s life has long been defined, at least in part, by the duel that ended it July 11, 1804. The pistols used during the duel, which had belonged to Hamilton’s brother-in-law John Barker Church (Angelica’s husband), are now displayed privately at JP Morgan Chase headquarters in Manhattan. (Burr founded The Manhattan Company, which became Chase Manhattan Bank, which became JPMorgan Chase.) The approximate site of the duel can be visited in Weehawken, NJ, just a short ferry ride from midtown Manhattan. From the ferry station in Port Imperial, an uphill climb brings curious visitors to Hamilton Park, which features staggering vistas of Manhattan. The dueling grounds in Hamilton Park are marked by a bust of Hamilton and a placard commemorating the duel, which most likely occurred on a wooded ledge somewhere below the marked spot. Hamilton’s son had died less than three years before him, in a duel using the same pistols.

Hamilton-Burr Dueling Grounds is located in Hamilton Park in Weehawken, NJ, accessible via a set of stairs across from Port Imperial ferry station and another set of stairs at Pershing Road. The park is also accessible by following Pershing Road north until it meets J. F. Kennedy Boulevard. Admission is free. More information can be found at weehawken-nj.us/parks. Ferry information can be found at nywaterway.com/PortImperialWeehawkenTerminal.aspx.

Other Hamilton Sites

“The Room Where It Happens:” 57 Maiden Lane

57 Maiden Lane
57 Maiden Lane Photo by Richard Patterson

When Aaron Burr takes center stage to sing about wanting to be in “the room where it happened,” it was 57 Maiden Lane, where Thomas Jefferson rented a house, that he’s singing about. On that site, now technically 59 Maiden Lane, a plaque hangs to commemorate Jefferson’s stay at that address, which was the site of his “dinner table bargain” discussion with Hamilton and Madison that led to the Compromise of 1790, which shifted the nation’s capital southward from New York City to the coast of the Potomac River and resulted in the assumption of states’ debt by the federal government.

“What'd I Miss:” Federal Hall

Federal Hall
Federal Hall Photo by Richard Patterson

The Federal Hall building currently standing at 26 Wall Street is actually the second Federal Hall to stand at that location. The first was built in 1700 and served as the first U.S. capitol building. The original building was the site of Washington’s inauguration, which Alexander Hamilton would have viewed from his own home nearby on Wall Street.

Federal Hall is located at 26 Wall Street, New York, NY. Admission is free. Up-to-date hours and information can be found at nps.gov/feha.

“Take a Break:” Museum of American Finance (Hamilton Room)

Museum of American Finance
Museum of American Finance Photo by Richard Patterson

The site of the Museum of American Finance in downtown Manhattan was the site of the New York City’s first bank, the Bank of New York, from 1797 to 1998. Since 2008, the building has housed the Museum of American Finance, which has a Hamilton Room featuring documents signed by Hamilton and examples of his published work.

Museum of American Finance is located at 48 Wall Street, New York, NY. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and free for kids 6 and under. Up-to-date hours and information can be found at moaf.org.

Statues in Central Park and at Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall

The Statue of Alexander Hamilton in Central Park
The Statue of Alexander Hamilton in Central Park Photo by Central Park Conservancy

Though there are many statues of Alexander Hamilton throughout the country, most notably at the U.S. Treasury Building in Washington, D.C., there are at least two prime examples in New York City, in front of Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall (by sculptor William Ordway Partridge) and in Central Park near the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the east of the Great Lawn (by Carl H. Conrads, donated by Hamilton’s son John C. Hamilton).

Richard Patterson is a critic and editor for Exeunt Magazine as well as a playwright and lyricist. Visit him at therichardpatterson.com and follow @broadwaygayby on Twitter.

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