Want to take a day trip to a historically significant location that also has pop culture cred? How does Alexander Hamilton’s 1802 home in the Hamilton Heights section of Manhattan sound? Well, lace up your walking shoes history-buffs, because the Friends of the John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor are sponsoring a trip to the iconic house Wednesday, April 5.
The two-story Federal-style home, known as Hamilton Grange, was commissioned by John McComb Jr.—the same architect who designed the Montauk Point Lighthouse—and was completed in 1802. Diane Lewis of the Friends of Library, who knows a lot about Hamilton, pointed out that the Upper Manhattan estate was the only home he ever owned, and that he was able to enjoy it for just two years before he was killed at age 50 in the infamous duel with Aaron Burr.
It may be important to note that Hamilton was only 17—possibly only 15—when he arrived in what would become the United States. That’s right, no one tell Donald, but the beloved Founding Father and the face of the $10 bill emigrated from the small Caribbean island of Nevis in 1772; and he was only 20, serving as George Washington’s aide-de-camp, when the Revolution broke out. At only 32, Hamilton served as a delegate from New York at the Constitutional Convention advocating for a strong national government, and he was still shy of 40 when he became the first secretary of the treasury.
So what might this political wunderkind think of our current political culture? Lewis says she thinks he would be “an outspoken critic of some of the practices going on in Washington today.” She also notes that Hamilton was very outspoken and would probably be influential, and for those reasons he might accrue enemies. She continued to say that it’s an interesting comparison, our federal government at the moment and what the Founding Fathers intended and hoped it would be. But enough about politics.
Hamilton Grange, so named for his grandfather’s Ayrshire, Scotland estate, remained in Hamilton’s family for 30 year after his death, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is now part of the National Parks Service. The house has been relocated twice, once in 1889 and again in 2008—a six-hour journey one block south and another east. The Grange is still within Hamilton’s original 32-acre property. The mansion has been restored to its original splendor and includes an interactive exhibit, but you’ll probably learn all this on the tour.
And you certainly don’t have to have seen the runaway Broadway hit musical to enjoy this Hamilton-themed trip—Lewis hasn’t, though she does have tickets for a September show. But it might not be a bad idea to brush up on your Hamilton history, as you can never know too much. Lewis recommends the Hamilton soundtrack and a of couple books other than Ron Chernow’s classic biography, Alexander Hamilton. She suggests Alexander Hamilton: A Life by Willard Randall and War of Two by John Sedgwick, which is all about the aforementioned duel.
The cost of the trip is $80 and includes admission to the Hamilton Grange National Monument and a private, guided tour; lunch at Harlem’s famous Sylvia’s Restaurant; and round trip Jitney transportation from Sag Harbor. This special tour is limited to only 30 people, so book ASAP by contacting the John Jermain Library.
Can’t wait until April to get your dose of colonial or constitutional history? We understand. This Saturday, March 4 the John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor will be holding a special talk, “Understanding the Constitution” with Martha Potter, who will review the history of the document and its amendments. Listeners will take a historic tour of the Constitution and discover how it has been used in the past and developed through time. Registration is required for this event.
The John Jermain Library is located at 201 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Call 631-725-0049 or visit johnjermain.org to reserve your spot on this tour.