Alexander Hamilton: The show, the book and the places
New York — It’s a fine time for history geeks with a thing for Alexander Hamilton. A hip-hop-and-history musical called “Hamilton” — inspired by an 800-page biography — just opened off-Broadway and is sold out for months. Fans of the man, book or musical can visit a variety of places connected to Hamilton, from his Harlem home to the New Jersey waterfront where he was shot in a duel.
Don’t know much about the Founding Father pictured on the $10 bill? Here’s the elevator pitch: Hamilton was a penniless orphan from the Caribbean who was so brilliant — and so good at self-promotion — that he rose through the ranks in the Revolutionary War to become George Washington’s right-hand man. As the first U.S. Treasury Secretary, Hamilton created a modern financial system, funded the national debt, founded a bank and established a mint with the dollar as currency. He defended the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, founded the New York Post, and was even involved in a sex scandal, the Reynolds Affair.
Hamilton also had a lifelong rivalry with Aaron Burr, the vice president under Thomas Jefferson. Burr claimed Hamilton insulted him and challenged him to a duel. Each man fired one shot; Hamilton missed.
Here are some places around Manhattan and New Jersey connected to Hamilton’s life and death:
Dinner party at the mansion
It’s one of the most impressive dinner parties ever held in New York: On July 10, 1790, President Washington hosted his cabinet in the dining room of the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Guests included Hamilton and two future presidents, Vice President John Adams and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The mansion had served as Washington’s military headquarters in 1776.
Oddly, Burr spent time there, too. Years after Hamilton’s death, at age 77, Burr married Eliza Jumel, the rich widow who owned the mansion. Jumel divorced Burr three years later. Her lawyer was Hamilton’s son.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the musical “Hamilton,” grew up near Washington Heights, where the mansion is located, and wrote a hit musical about the neighborhood called “In the Heights.” But Miranda wasn’t familiar with the Jumel mansion until he worked on “Hamilton.” He even spent time in the mansion writing part of the show.
Uptown home: The Grange
The Grange was built in Harlem in 1802 as a country manor for Hamilton’s family. Ron Chernow, author of the “Hamilton” biography, says The Grange is his “favorite spot to commune with Hamilton’s ghost. It is a small but exquisitely proportioned frame house that perfectly reflects his elegant style, extroverted nature and clarity of mind.” Artifacts include Hamilton’s roll-top desk, which Chernow says “received a lot of use” because Hamilton “was a compulsive writer.”
Also displayed is a piano Hamilton’s daughter Angelica played. She had a nervous breakdown after her brother Philip died in a duel in 1801, on the same dueling grounds where their father was shot.
Duel and death
The Burr-Hamilton duel took place July 11, 1804, across from Manhattan in Weehawken, New Jersey. Now called Hamilton Park, the Hudson River site includes a plaque and bust. Hamilton died a day later in Manhattan’s West Village; a sign at 82 Jane Street marks the site.
He’s buried at Trinity Church at Broadway and Wall Street, alongside his widow, Elizabeth, who outlived him by 50 years. Nearby, the Museum of American Finance, located on Wall Street where Hamilton founded the Bank of New York, has an Alexander Hamilton Room.
Cat named Hamilton: Morristown, N.J.
Hamilton was on the prowl for a bride while serving as Washington’s aide de camp, so Washington’s wife Martha named a tomcat after him. The house in Morristown, New Jersey, where Hamilton courted his wife, is called the Schuyler-Hamilton House.
Hamilton and Washington lived and worked nearby in the Ford Mansion, which served as Washington’s military headquarters. It’s part of Morristown National Historical Park, where the Continental Army camped in 1779 and 1780. A sculpture of Hamilton, Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette graces Morristown Green.
Soundtrack for a statue
Miranda performed one of his musical’s signature songs at the White House back in 2009. The National Park Service uses the soundtrack from that performance, “Hamilton Mixtape,” in a video showing Hamilton’s statue undergoing restoration at Great Falls Park in Paterson, New Jersey. The park honors Hamilton’s role in establishing Paterson as an industrial center.
Other Hamilton statues sit in Central Park and at Columbia University outside Hamilton Hall. Statues of Hamilton and Burr also face off in the lobby of the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, where “Hamilton” is playing. But you’ll need tickets to see the duel on stage.
If You Go…
The Grange: 414 W. 141st St., Manhattan; http://www.nps.gov/hagr/index.htm or 646-548-2310. Wednesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., free.
Morris-Jumel Mansion: 65 Jumel Terrace, Manhattan; http://www.morrisjumel.org/ or 212-923-8008. Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., $5.
Museum of America Finance: 48 Wall St., http://www.moaf.org/. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., $8
Morristown, N.J.: Morristown National Historical Park and Washington’s headquarters (Ford Mansion), http://www.nps.gov/morr/ or 973-539-2016. Schuyler-Hamilton House, 5 Olyphant Place, http://www.njdar.org/schuyler-hamilton.html or 973-539-7502.
Great Falls Park: Paterson, N.J.: http://www.nps.gov/pagr. “Hamilton Mixtape” statue restoration video: http://www.nps.gov/pagr/photosmultimedia/multimedia.htm .
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