It’s almost impossible to pick up a magazine, scroll through social media, or watch TV without coming across something that Lin-Manuel Miranda is writing, singing, or rapping. He’s encouraging us to vote–
He’s writing for Disney, he’s tweeting, he’s on a NYC tour bus, he’s on the Tony’s, he’s doing “Wheel of Freestyle” on Fallon—he’s even there when he’s not there: on SLN in the form of Cecily Strong.
We just can’t get enough of him. Infectious—just like his musical score and the story he’s woven of Alexander Hamilton’s life. And because we are all infected, Hamilfans have been been visiting in record numbers the places where Alexander Hamilton studied, fought, worked, raised his family, and died. Devotees who are looking for the next stop on their Hamiltour need only to google “places to visit—Alexander Hamilton” to find detailed posts on the subject: on The Huffington Post, CN traveler, nycgo.com, even the Dallas Morning News—the list goes on. Each of the posts recommends sites in New York and beyond that might fulfill our longing to know more. Visiting these sites somehow makes it real, makes him real; to stand on the very ground, walk through the rooms, actually be where he was helps us to move beyond a character in a play and grasp, for one elusive moment, what was his essence.
So we know where to find Alexander, but finding Eliza is a little more challenging. To trace her steps and discover the critical junctures in Elizabeth Hamilton’s life, I created my own travel plan, a list of the places where she grew up, where she raised her children, where she grieved beside her dying husband, and where she brought care and healing to the children of New York City. While my list duplicates some of those earlier recommendations, visiting different sites, those exclusive to Eliza, will help us to know her in a more deeply personal way.
The Schuyler Mansion
Elizabeth’s family home in Albany, the Schuyler Mansion is a New York State Historic site open to visitors throughout the summer and fall months.
Talk about being “in the room where it happened,” visitors to the Schuyler Mansion find themselves in the very parlor where Elizabeth and Alexander Hamilton were married in December 1780.
The meticulously restored home of Phillip Schuyler, his wife Catherine, and their eight children features many of the family’s furnishings and belongings, while artifacts include everything from Eliza’s sewing box to the family’s crystal stemware. Frequent visitors to the home included many high profile patriots, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, the godfather of Eliza’s youngest sister, Catherine. Philip Schuyler’s great-granddaughter, Louisa Lee Schuyler, donated a pendant containing a lock of George Washington’s hair, which is on display at the Schuyler Mansion.
Walking across the expansive wood floor of the great salon upstairs, visitors can almost hear the banter of the Angelica, Peggy and Eliza from the bed chamber they shared.
William Bayard House, 82 Jane Street, Greenwich Village
So, maybe it’s not the actual location where Alexander Hamilton died after being shot by Aaron Burr, but it’s close. Although a plaque commemorating Hamilton’s death may be found here, the actual site of his death was a block or so north on Horatio Street. Still, it’s in the general vicinity to which Elizabeth was summoned, because, she was told, her husband was having “spasms.” Imagine the depths of her horror and grief to find him so close to death, and for so senseless a reason.
Late in his life, Alexander Hamilton developed plans for a new family home which he called “the Grange.” Built the section now known as Harlem, at that time the Grange, nestled in the country, was a sanctuary from the bustling city .
Elizabeth and Alexander Hamilton had only a few years together at the Grange before his death in 1804. During construction, Elizabeth was given much of the responsibility for ensuring that Alexander’s specifications for the building and grounds were followed. He had painstakingly studied landscape designs, and had figured exact measurements for the elaborate, symmetrical gardens and 13 gum trees, signifying the original 13 colonies. After his death, Elizabeth struggled to retain ownership despite the dire financial circumstances she faced in widowhood. Even today, the Grange seems symbolic, the promise of a peaceful retreat unfulfilled, since the restless building itself, swallowed up by the swelling city, has been moved twice amid controversy.
Finding herself in almost destitute circumstances, Eliza would have lost the Grange if Hamilton’s executors had not purchased it and sold it to her at half price. She managed to hold onto it until November 1833, when her son, also “Alexander,” purchased 4 St. Mark’s Place. Eliza moved there with her son and his wife, Eliza Knox Hamilton, her daughter, Eliza Hamilton Holly and her husband, Sidney Augustus Holly. In the 1820s and 1830s, Greenwich Village had become among the most fashionable places to live in New York, as the elite moved north to escape the growing congestion. A few blocks away, a potter’s field had been converted to Washington Square Park in 1828. It’s heartening to imagine Eliza, who was fond of walking outdoors, strolling in the park with her daughter on a warm summer’s evening.
Here is a photo of the Hamilton-Holly house today where it still stands at 4 St. Mark’s Place:
Elizabeth was a devout Christian who regularly attended Trinity Church services. Through the mid-1800s, pews were reserved for those who rented them. Records indicate that Alexander Hamilton rented a pew for Elizabeth and his family, though he did not routinely attend services with her. In fact, to be considered a true member of Trinity Church, one had to receive communion at weekly services. Trinity Church archives show that Elizabeth was an active communicant, while Alexander’s name is missing from the communicants’ list.
Five of Elizabeth and Alexander’s children were baptized at Trinity Church between 1788 and 1800, according to Trinity’s records. Angelica, Elizabeth’s sister with whom she was very close, is listed as godmother for her namesake, Elizabeth and Alexander’s second child.
Given her faithfulness and her enduring presence at Trinity Church, it is fitting that Elizabeth Hamilton was buried in the churchyard beside her husband. This photo,taken on the day of my visit, shows that visitors continue to honor her memory, marking their respect for her by leaving coins on her headstone.
Providing photos of Graham Windham, Elizabeth’s living legacy, is more difficult because it is not a single site from Eliza’s history and cannot be reduced to a unique spot on the map. GW has become a vital, hopeful force that can be found in schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx, in neighborhoods and homes, as well as at its headquarters in Brooklyn and its residential school, the Graham School in Hastings-on-Hudson. GW teachers, social workers, counselors and family advocates–Eliza’s angels—may be found throughout the city and beyond, doing the important work that she started. At this stop, don’t just visit; instead, linger a while and follow Eliza’s lead by joining in the work of making life better for New York’s children.
To volunteer or to donate to Graham Wyndham’s initiatives, check on the information on this link:
So, as we journey together, we’ll look more closely at each of these critical locations and how they may have influenced the person that Elizabeth Hamilton became. At our next stop, we’ll delve into Eliza’s young life and the social and political circumstances that framed her early experiences. I hope you’ll come along.
Chernow, R (2004). Alexander Hamilton. New York: Penguin.
Michaels, L. (Executive Producer). (2016, October 1). Saturday Night Live [Television
broadcast]. New York: National Broadcasting Company.
Miranda,, L. (2015). Hamilton (An American musical). New York: Atlantic.
Miranda,, L. [Lin-ManuelMiranda]. (2016, October 5). @Lin_Manuel junto a su elenco de
lVersion]. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/nyregion/answers-to-questions-about-new-york.html?_r=0
Schuyler Mansion Tour. (2016, October 6). Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site.
Albany, New York.