Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hamilton Grange (Harlem): 141st Street and Hamilton Terr

It's been over 3 long years since The Grange, Alexander Hamilton's home that was named after his grandfather's homestead in Scotland, was moved to its current location in St. Nicholas Park (which was once part of Hamilton's farmlands) and restoration efforts began.  Today (Constitution Day) marks its re-opening to the public, and there was a great schedule of events from noon to 5pm (tomorrow, there are more special activities and speakers so if you can, check it out).

They allowed self-guided tours through the lower and main levels of the house (upstairs are going to be closed to the public as administrative offices).  The lower level was set up with a small gift shop and interactive displays.  The displays provided descriptions of Hamilton's lowly birth on the Caribbean island of Nevis, his abandonment by his father and death of his mother (all by the age of 14), his rise in early American politics, and his lasting accomplishments, including among other things, establishing the Bank of New York, being the first Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington (he's one of the few non-Presidents on our currency, being on the $10 bill), and creating the system of import customs. For the re-opening celebration, they had actors dressed as Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton (see left) talking with visitors and answering questions about their lives and interests.

The special celebration today also included Caribbean music on a temporary main stage on the grounds, speakers from the 1st Rhode Island (period actors who played African American soldiers who fought during the American Revolution), period dressed musicians (see right) playing colonial era music, a period dressed blacksmith and apprentice doing iron work, and a hand weaver spinning yarn from wool (see below left).

Of course those who know me won't be surprised to find out that one of my favorite demonstration was that of chocolate making.  They had a display of cocoa fruit to chocolate nib grounds preparations and provided tastings of hot chocolate that were phenomenal.

The home furnishings and decorative items were well appointed and the guides (both dressed in period clothing or National Parks rangers) explained which pieces were original and which were reproductions.  They took deserved pride in the beautiful original silver centerpiece (see right) on the dining table that was used to reflect candle light during dinners.  One of the guides also explained that a treasured silver wine cooler (a reproduction is on the sideboard) was a gift from George Washington after the scandal of Hamilton and his mistress broke in the news.  What I found most amazing was that through the 2 moves of the house, they were able to preserve the original moldings of the arched entry from the foyer (it is less "perfect" than the other ceiling moldings around the home but is seems the most true).
There isn't a huge display of original period furnishings and interiors (there are others that are better in the City like the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Gracie Mansion, and Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace), but in sum, the house is well-situated and worth a visit (besides, admission is free).  It is great to see the house finally restored and moved to its final location (there are 2 chambers on the main floor dedicated to explaining the move and restoration process), but if there is another historical/commemorative event there, I would highly recommend visiting during such an event.  My favorite was a demonstration of Revolutionary War military training that they had for children (see above left and below); it was evident to all that both the historian and the children were having a great time.

1 comment:

  1. If you want to find out more about the Hamiltons and the times in which they lived, please check out

    You can hear history come alive with the recreated sound recordings.