Hamilton Grange National Memorial New York, N.Y. Visited: April 4, 2004 NPS Site Visited: 14 of 353 NPS Website
WHAT IS IT? House that Alexander Hamilton, first U.S. Treasury Secretary, famed Federalist and Founding Father, lived in from 1802 to his death in 1804.
BEAUTY (2/10) Very little. The yellow Federalist-style House is literally crushed by its neighbors, a brownstone on its right and a Church on its left. The Church has built a stone portico that, while still on Church property, stands in front of part of Hamiltonís home. Everything about the Hamilton Grange is out of context. The house stands two blocks away from where Hamilton built it. The doors, hallways, staircases and porches have been moved and altered so much so that the building is no longer symmetrical. Is the house even Federalist?
Hamilton built his house on the highest ground available so that he could have views from his dining and living areas (an open interior on the first floor) of the sun rising in the east over his farmland and the Harlem River and setting in the west over the Hudson. The House is no longer on the highest ground. One cannot see far past the high rises to the east and the houses just across the street block any views to the west.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (2/10) Very little. Alexander Hamilton was a giant of the Revolution. He built this house, however, as a retreat, a place to retire. We cannot picture much happening here of significance. In addition, the house has been altered so much and is situated in such a strangled existence that whatever beauty it might have had or whatever imagination it could have sparked is no longer.
CROWDS (6/10) Only one other couple was at the Grange.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (1/5) Very difficult. Parking impossible. The Grange is 7 blocks from the 137th Street subway stop. Good luck. The Site is open only Friday through Sunday.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (1/5) None.
COSTS (3/5) Site free. Manhattan expensive.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (2/5) One Ranger was very nice. He took us on a tour of the first floor. We were not confident in the scope of his Hamiltonian knowledge. The other Ranger slept and snored loudly during the intro video.
TOURS/CLASSES (4/10) The video, PBS produced The Duel, was educational but Michael had already seen it. It had nothing to do with the site itself. The video recounts the infamous Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel with good historical commentary. Michael wishes that mention of Hamilton could occur without being inextricably tied to Burr and the duel. He also wishes that the far more captivating Burr would get his own National Historic Site.
FUN (3/10) All of our fun came through watching the video. Both Hamilton and Burr are such lively characters. Scandalous, adulterous sex, libelous accusations, a treasonous heart countered by a noble martyrdom (perhaps), nation building, bank creation, battlefield heroics, attempts at stolen elections, illegitimate birth, rags to riches glory and passionate hatred and self-loathing. Todayís New York Post, the paper Hamilton started, would have loved its founderís antics. It is a shame that the Grange is lacking in its representation and actualization of Hamiltonís enthralling life.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (3/10) Watch The Duel or read about Hamilton. There is no need to come to the Grange at present. If, however, the wild notion of moving the entire building a few blocks down the road to a CCNY park coupled with a full renovation, ever comes to fruition, maybe the House will gain some flair.
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