Monday, Jun 9, 2008
On Saturday, Hamilton Grange National Memorial, the home of founding father Alexander Hamilton, was moved from its current site, located on Convent Avenue in the Hamilton Heights section of Harlem, to its new home in St. Nicholas Park, about a block away off West 141st Street. The move of the home is the first phase of the long-anticipated rehabilitation and restoration of the memorial, expected to be completed in the fall of 2009.
âWe are attempting to retrieve what has been lost to the passage of time,â said Maria Burks, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor. âThe interior and exterior restoration of the Grange to its original appearance will allow visitors to experience the home as though they were a guest of Hamilton at the dawn of the 19th century, complete with its grand entrances, distinctive porches and thirteen sweet gum trees planted around the estate.â
In 1962, Congress authorized turning the home into a national memorial, with the expectation that it would eventually be moved from its current site, closed in between a church and an apartment building, to a âfitting setting.â In 2007, Congress appropriated $8.4 million to move and restore the Grange as a freestanding country estate.
âThis is a great move for the city and the nation, said Congressman Charles Rangel. âIt helps ensure that one of the past's greatest treasures stays in Harlem for all to see and enjoy.â
Located in the southeast corner of Hamiltonâs original 34-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.
âThe relocation of one of the nationâs great landmarks to a New York City park is a wonderful example of cooperation between local and federal government,â said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. âThanks to our partnership with the National Park Service, Hamilton Grange can now be enjoyed as it was once meant to be. The houseâs new location in St. Nicholas Park returns the Grange to the original bucolic setting in upper Manhattan that once surrounded it.â
Built in 1802, the Grange originally stood on what would later become W 143rd Street. In 1889, to save it from demolition as New York Cityâs street grid moved north, the home was purchased and moved by the congregation of St. Lukeâs Episcopal Church. The church and an apartment building were later built next to the original front and back entrances to the Grange, resulting in the removal of the original entrances and the addition of a new entrance through the side of the home, then facing Convent Avenue. To restore the home to its former splendor, NPS conducted detailed studies to determine how the Grange looked in Hamiltonâs time.
Stephen Spaulding, the chief of NPSâ northeast architectural preservation division, did much of the historic detective work on the Grange and has been involved with the project since 2003.
âItâs an extraordinary project and one in which a great number of people in and out of government have been passionately involved in over a number of years,â said Spaulding. âWe can only speculate of course, but I like to believe that Hamilton would be quite pleased with the delicate and respectful treatment we are giving the home he called his âsweet project.ââ
Before its first move, Hamilton Grange sat on a promontory within a 34-acre property in northern Manhattan with sweeping views to both the Hudson and East rivers. Sadly, Hamilton was only able to enjoy the home for two years before he died on July 11, 1804, the day after he was fatally wounded in a duel with his political rival, Aaron Burr. His wife, Elizabeth, continued to live at the Grange until 1833 when she moved to Washington, D.C.
The Grange, 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. The founder of the Revenue Service, which later became the United States Coast Guard, Hamilton served as the first Secretary of the Treasury (1789-1795), becoming the architect of the American financial system. After leaving office, he also founded the New York Post and the Bank of New York.
Moving the 298-ton Grange has been a massive undertaking requiring nearly three weeks of specialized work. The home was first raised nearly 40 feet in the air in order to clear the portico of St. Lukeâs Episcopal Church. Using a system of steel rails and wooden towers called cribbing, the home was then moved forward and lowered onto nine, 8-wheeled dollies for the move to St. Nicholas Park. For photos and more information about the move, please visit www.nps.gov/hagr.