|Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011|
On September 17th, the National Park Service reopened Hamilton Grange National Memorial, the home of founding father Alexander Hamilton, following a five-year closure to move and restore it to its original appearance.
The Grange, believed to be the only home Hamilton ever owned, is the only memorial in the United States dedicated to Alexander Hamilton. A member of Congress and co-author of the Federalist Papers, Hamilton was indispensable in the effort to get the Constitution adopted, which is why the NPS selected September 17th, Constitution Day, to reopen his home to the public.
“I like to think, on this 224th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution, that Hamilton would look upon this project as a wonderful example the executive and legislative branches of the federal government working together for the benefit of ‘We the people’,” said Maryanne Gerbauckas, deputy director for Northeast Region.
Once cramped between St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and an apartment building, with its front and back entrances stripped away and its interior reconfigured, the Grange has regained its elegant symmetry, a hallmark of the Federal style of which it is a noteworthy example.
Located in the southeast corner of Hamilton’s original 32-acre estate, St. Nicholas Park is the third and final location of the home Hamilton helped design along with noted architect James McComb, Jr., who also designed New York City Hall. The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation granted a permanent easement in the northwest corner of St. Nicholas Park to the NPS, thereby allowing the Grange to remain on property that once belonged to Hamilton.
“When the National Park Service was given responsibility for Hamilton Grange in 1962, we were told by Congress to find a place where it could be fully restored, move it there, and recreate Hamilton’s vision of a country retreat in Harlem away from the hustle and bustle of downtown,” said Shirley McKinney, superintendent of Hamilton Grange. “That was not so easy. It took the support and encouragement of the fine community of Harlem, the City of New York and many others to find the right location.”
“Now, after a long journey, we have arrived. As you can see, the house is again in balance, with piazzas on either side of the elaborate front entrances and 13 sweet gum trees adorning its grounds just as in Hamilton’s day.”
“We are gratified to have worked with our partners in Congress and at the National Park Service to dedicate a small piece of St. Nicholas Park to Alexander Hamilton, a founding father who played such a large role in both our city’s and nation’s history,” said NYC Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe. “St. Nicholas Park’s pastoral acres, once part of Hamilton's estate, are a fitting home for the restored Grange, one that Hamilton might have recognized and visitors are sure to enjoy.”
Alexander Hamilton, in the form of living historian Ian Rose, arrived in a horse-drawn carriage and addressed McKinney. “I wish to express my gratitude to you, to the National Park Service and to all those who have labored so successfully to realize the vision of my ‘sweet project.’ In recognition of your stewardship, I hereby present you with the key. May the Grange continue to faithfully represent the reality of our nation’s past to future generations.”
Nearly 3,000 people visited Hamilton Grange on its opening weekend, which featured not only the rededication ceremony in the morning, but a full afternoon of music, dramatic performances and demonstrations of 18th-century crafts such as weaving, chocolate making and blacksmithing on Saturday. Sunday, featured a special lecture series with topics covering both Alexander Hamilton and his home as well as musical performances.