National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
Hamilton Grange National Memorial
A BRIEF HISTORY OF HAMILTON GRANGE
Hamilton bought 32 acres of farmland, picturesquely wooded and watered by two streams, in upper Manhattan. The 200-foot elevation offered views of the Hudson River on the west and the Harlem and East Rivers on the east.
John McComb, Jr., the leading architect in New York City, was hired to design the house. McComb had been to England and was familiar with the style developed by the Adam brothers there. When adapted to America, this became the “Federal” style. McComb and the builder, Ezra Weeks, had also completed Gracie Mansion which has some similarities to the Grange. McComb went on to design the New York City Hall.
The Hamilton family moved into their new home. Hamilton named it The Grange, a reference to his father’s ancestral home in Scotland. The cost of the land purchase and house construction left Hamilton deeply in debt. The elegant interior includes two octagonal rooms, a parlor and dining room, with tall French widows. The dining room also had mirrors on and above the doors, reflecting the view of the landscape from the windows opposite.
Hamilton was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. Hamilton’s friends and supporters created a trust fund to allow the family to remain in their home.
The Grange was sold. Elizabeth Hamilton moved to Washington D.C.
The Manhattan street grid was extended north to Harlem. West 143rd Street was to be built through the site where the Grange stood. However the congregation of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was planning to move uptown, and bought the Grange for use at the site of their new church. Front and rear porches were removed; the house was lifted off its foundation, and drawn by horses to the new site on Convent Avenue, near West 141st Street.
The American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society bought the Grange and turned it into a public museum. Furniture and decorative objects associated with the Hamilton family were displayed.
The National Park Foundation purchased the house and property and transferred it to the National Park Service. Congress authorized Hamilton Grange National Memorial, contingent upon relocating it and restoring the house as Hamilton knew it in 1802 – 1804, which is considered its period of historic significance.
1995 NPS developed a General Management Plan following extensive consultation and review. The preferred alternative was to move the house to nearby St. Nicholas Park, which would keep it on part of Hamilton’s original property, and where it could be fully restored.
2006 Hamilton Grange closed to the public for extensive and invasive
architectural research in preparation for the home’s restoration.
2008 The NPS contracts with Wolfe House and Building Movers of
Pennsylvania to move the Grange from its Convent Avenue site to
St. Nicholas Park. The Grange’s location partially behind the porch of
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church necessitates raising the home and sliding
it over the porch before returning it to street level. The process takes
approximately a month. On June 7, 2008, using a computerized system
of hydraulic dollies, Wolfe House and Building Movers transfer the
Grange from Convent Avenue onto its new site in the park.
2009 Phase I of the restoration project, which covered most of the
exterior work and landscaping, HVAC, fire suppression, alarm,
electric, water and sewer systems is well under way. Hamilton Grange
receives American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to
complete the restoration (including fabrication and installation of
exhibits on the ground and first floors). ARRA monies also allow
for the balustrade on the roof to be restored.
2010 Phase II of the restoration process. The interior restoration work is
under way. Plaster repair is being done to the fireplace in the parlor and two
centuries of paint is molding is stripped from the decorative cornice
moldings. The exhibit team goes to work on how best to tell the story of
Alexander Hamilton and the house he called his “sweet project.”
2011 Historic staircase and entryway doors and windows are re-installed.
Exterior shutters are hung. Finish work is completed and exhibits and
furnishings are moved into the building.
Hamilton Grange re-opens to the public on Sept. 17.