Columbia’s most famous dropout finally got the homecoming he deserved.
Harlemites and history buffs came together on Saturday to celebrate the grand reopening of founding father Alexander Hamilton’s country home, Hamilton Grange, in its new location on a one-acre easement in St. Nicholas Park on 141st Street.
The ceremony marked the end of a long journey for the house—the only national memorial dedicated to Alexander Hamilton.
The home, built in the Federal style, weighs approximately 300 tons and was relocated in an effort by the National Park Service to restore the home to its former glory. During its time cramped on a nearby street, the house had lost many original elements, including its foundation and the front and back porches.
The new memorial has been fully restored in the authentic style of the Federal period, as well as upgraded with a new museum and exhibit space on the ground floor detailing Hamilton’s life.
The home will be open for tours, and curriculum-based school programs will run three days a week. A room on the ground floor can also be reserved for small community meetings.
“This is an opportunity for the public to reconnect with Alexander Hamilton in a way they haven’t been able to,” said Mindi Rambo, assistant public affairs officer for the National Parks of New York Harbor.
The process of restoring and relocating the home, originally built in 1802, was daunting for the architectural team from John G. Waite Associates but not impossible. Lead project architect Nancy Rankin recalled the painstaking tasks of modernizing a 200-year-old structure, which included building an elevator and incorporating interior design reminiscent of the time period.
“We really had to evaluate how the house had been put together so we could keep it intact,” Rankin said. “So much of the original elements are still here, so the process had to take that long of a time.”
Some of Rankin’s favorites are the ornate plaster cornices in the dining room, which were covered in layers of old paint.
Virginia Hamilton Duffy, fifth-generation Hamilton descendent and the oldest surviving Hamilton grandchild, made the trip from Connecticut to celebrate the opening of the home.
“Hamilton worked awfully hard to start this country so it’s wonderful to see so many people interested in American history,” Duffy said. She jokingly remarked that she had kept in line with her family heritage by marrying a banker.
Hamilton immigrated to the United States from the West Indies in 1772 and studied at Columbia, formerly known as King’s College. After serving in the Revolutionary War, he went on to become the first Secretary of the Treasury and one of the most famous men in American history. According to Rambo, Hamilton was the “quintessential New Yorker.”
Saturday’s ceremony included the first tours of the house, live colonial-era and Caribbean music, and living history displays with a blacksmith, a weaver, and a chocolate maker. One re-enactor portrayed Alexander Hamilton himself and arrived in a horse-drawn carriage to present the National Park Service with the key to his home.
“Harlem is an old and long standing village in the city of New York, and the Grange is one of the oldest reflections of that pride,” Liam Strain, a North District Park Ranger and SIPA ’07 alum. “We invite the community to stroll, reflect, and enjoy the beauty of the home.”