What if I told you this house is situated in a little piece of Harlem?
Welcome to Hamilton Grange, the summer home of Founding-Father Alexander Hamilton (a Scotsman). And here is a short story of yet another facet of Manhattan life that makes you go “Hmm..”
When things seem to be at there peak, what do most of us do? Move. Change. Run away. Alexander Hamilton was no different. In the new world, his professional and personal life (not to mention, his final resting place) is all within about a ten block radius surrounding Wall Street in lower Manhattan. Everything in his world was a stone throw away from where he lay his head at night, which was important since the modes of transportation involved horses and leather personnel carriers (shoes).
So, like any man with too much money in his pocket, what did he do? Head 90 minutes north to Harlem where he personally designed and helped build a beautiful summer home in the New World style. Plenty of people today still do these ultra-commutes, and I will never pretend to understand why. At my worst, I had about an hour commute daily and it drove me nuts. Daily. Anyway, the commute isn’t the major point here.
Maybe the real reason for the relocation was that yellow fever was a problem in the late 1700s in Lower Manhattan, and Harlem is actually the higher land in Manhattan and with that came cool summer breezes. It was quickly becoming a neighborhood for the elites to move to when they wanted to move away from the rest of us. Maybe Harlem was the first such “exclusive” neighborhood in the United States? “Hmm..” : )
Now don’t let my playful language tarnish this man’s legacy, I am merely having a little fun with the history. Honestly, learning about Hamilton will impress almost anybody. He was a brilliant mind who was slated to complete a rather impressive course load in King’s College (New York), where he could have used education as a reason to hide from service (See: Clinton, GW Bush, Trump, countless other politicians…) but instead, he withdrew from law school to serve as a Patriot. He became George Washington’s right hand man, and the author of the Federalist Papers- which were a propaganda machine to rally the colonists towards seceding from the Crown. He achieved the rank of Colonel in the Revolutionary War.
Additionally, he was a champion of civil rights- but was unsuccessful in abolishing slavery in those early years. He is not a native son of New York- he actually grew up in St. Croix in the Caribbean and was a clerk for a shipping company at a young age. The shipping company hauled slaves in to work in the sugar cane fields. This experience made him a lifelong opponent to the slave trade.
He used his intellect to influence the new government to setup tax systems, create a national bank- The Federal Reserve, and use the federal influence to promote manufacturing and trade. He finished law school after the revolution and used his practice as a pro-bono lawyer for civil rights and to argue that newspapers have the same rights to free speech as ordinary citizens.
That last line… I personally disagree with. The “freedom of the press” case was about a newspaper editor who was sued by President Jefferson for serious libel, and you can read a bunch more about it here. I side with President Jefferson in that a person can have a freely-formed opinion, but a newspaper is not equal to a single mind. Just like a priest, they are a ‘single mind’ that has the ability to alter free-thought in the masses in a manner that no ‘single-person’ can, and often the media’s opinions go unchecked. To me, that sounds very dangerous.
Oh, the house…
He completed it in 1802, and said it was his pride and joy. Unfortunately, he barely lived there two years before his death in 1804 in a duel with President Jefferson’s VP, Aaron Burr. Hamilton and Jefferson did not get along, and it cost him his life at 49 years of age.
*The gorgeous structure in the background of Hamilton Grange house, above, is the City College of New York.
Would you look at the sky in the first photo and this one?? This is in the span of one hour today. I had planned to do a few more photographs to tell an additional story about Hamilton Grange (Spoiler: It was moved, TWICE! The second time, it was lifted OVER this church before being driven down the street!) This church… I don’t know anything about it and that makes it all the more interesting to visit on a day when the sky doesn’t look ready to rain frogs.
Here is a picture depicting the relocations: