04 November 2011

Alexander Hamilton’s Grange

You’d never know it wasn’t closed.

Alexander Hamilton is known to have owned only one house, a fine-looking country mansion that hearkens just a bit to his Caribbean roots and that once commanded views of both the Hudson and the East Rivers from a point between what are now known as Harlem and Washington Heights. The neighborhood is known (to some) as Hamilton Heights, in fact, and numberless things here are named after him — almost as if invoking Hamilton might result in a flurry of $10 bills like manna from the heavens. But for a long time the house wasn’t accorded the celebrity or prestige that the homes of other Founding Fathers enjoy.

Moved from its original position to a site next-door to a church, on Convent Avenue, the Grange served for a while as a chapel. Starting in 1924, apparently, the Grange housed a Hamilton museum, under one aegis or another, but crammed in among other buildings as it was, it didn’t stand out, and I walked past it many times without ever noticing it.

Then somebody got the bright idea of moving the Grange once again, to St. Nicolas Park around the corner. This latest move took place in 2008, while I was in France. News coverage of the period makes clear that this was quite a spectacle, and I’m sorry to have missed it. Then yesterday I happened upon the place.

If you visit without the sort of portable device that allows you access to the Internet, and the National Park Service web pages devoted to the Grange, you will not be able to find out the open hours of the Grange museum. You will not even be able to tell which is the door you ought to use to go inside — and so you will lurk around the outside, as I did.

However, if you have the sort of portable device that allows you to take photographs with a cellular telephone — as I do now — at least you can take a few pictures. The lighting was indifferent and the photographer is of very, very limited talent and ability, but at least you’ll get an idea of the place, and of why I expect I’ll drop by again soon.

Yet I found myself glad that poor old Mr. Hamilton no longer lives in the Grange. Think of all the Jeffersonians — and Jacksonians (both the Andy and the Jesse varieties) — and the Obamites, too — who live in the neighborhood! Hamilton would probably spend all of his time on the porch there, like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, with a shotgun across his lap.


Kara said...

Watching them meticulously transferring the house onto rollers and then moving it to its new location (it took all day to go the few blocks) was surreal, in the best possible way.

Konrad said...

A modern engineering marvel? Perhaps, but the contractors were all Amish.

Is it just me, or does the house look crooked when looking at from the bottom of the hill?

Anonymous said...

I must visit this house. I never knew it was there, and something very cool to do in NYC. Olga