The Hamilton Grange


Hamilton Grange (Source: PatersonGreatFalls via Flickr Creative Commons)

The Hamilton Grange is part of the National Park Service and is now located in St. Nicholas Park, which sits on a small part of the once 32-acre estate of Alexander Hamilton. It is located in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood in upper Manhattan.

While Alexander Hamilton only enjoyed two years at his beautiful residence before his fateful decision to accept the duel challenge with Aaron Burr in 1804, the building itself has had a lifetime of history after his death including two moves and many changes in ownership.

Originally commissioned by Hamilton in the late 1790’s, the Grange was designed by architect John McComb Jr., and completed in 1802. It remained in the Hamilton family for the next 30 years following Hamilton’s death in 1804.

However, by 1889, the Grange was in foreclosure and had been condemned for destruction in order to allow for the implementation of the Manhattan street grid, then just reaching that area of Harlem. The congregation of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church acquired the house and moved it a half-block east and about two blocks south, conforming to the new street pattern, to what became 287 Convent Avenue. The original porches and other features were removed for the move.

The church used the house for services over the next 30 years, but after construction began on a new building for the church in 1924, the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society bought the Grange and turned it into a public museum where furniture and decorative objects associated with the Hamilton family were displayed.

The Grange was designated a National Historic Landmark in December 1960. Congress authorized the National Memorial on April 27, 1962, requiring that it be relocated and the house be restored to appear as Hamilton knew it in 1804. It was decided that the now heavily built-up Convent Avenue setting was inappropriate and that the country house should be relocated, however, it took more than forty years to find a location that was acceptable to the community, since there was strong local opposition to any options proposed that required moving the Grange out of the neighborhood.

Cherry Blossoms at BBG

Finally on May 9, 2006, the Hamilton Grange Memorial was closed to the public to allow for extensive architectural and structural investigations as part of a long-term plan to move the house to its final location in nearby St. Nicholas Park. The park location was judged a more appropriate setting for display that would permit restoration of features lost in the 1889 move. The new location would also keep the house in the neighborhood and keep it on land that was within the boundary of Hamilton's original 32-acre estate.

The Grange re-opened to the general public in its current home on September 17, 2011. In the renovated house, a visitor's center is located in the entirely newly constructed ground floor, where the kitchen, laundry and servants' rooms would have been.

Today, in the wake of recent Broadway hit “Hamilton” visits to the estate are up more than 400 percent according to DNAinfo, and there has been a resurgence of activity in Hamilton Heights. Set between the Upper West Side and Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights is a bucolic oasis of a neighborhood, full of unique historic architecture. It is home to many historic townhouses and brownstones, and even has some rustic Gothic and Romanesque buildings that add to the fusion of architectural styles in the area. Hamilton Heights stretches west from Edgecombe Avenue at its easternmost end to Henry Hudson Parkway to the west, and includes many beautiful vistas and parks along the Hudson River. One special subsection of this Hamilton Heights neighborhood is called Striver’s Row, or the St. Nicholas Historic District. It is home to a large collection of Italian Renaissance row-houses designed by Stanford White of the noted McKim, Mead & White architectural firm.

Hamilton Heights is also home to the City College of New York campus and parts of Columbia University, along with Riverbank State Park.

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