A tricky move, one some see as controversial, is under way to move Alexander Hamilton's "country home" less than two blocks to a new location in New York City.
This is not the first time the home, officially known as the Hamilton Grange National Memorial, was relocated. In 1889 it was moved from its original location in upper Manhattan to Convent Avenue. The decision to relocate the home once again stemmed from the neighboring buildings that sandwiched the Grange and towered above it. The new location, in 23-acre St. Nicholas Park, will be roomier and, while not duplicating the home's original bucolic, 32-acre setting, will be more park-like than the Convent Avenue setting.
Crews earlier this week lifted the Hamilton Grange off its foundation and will use massive dollies to roll the two-story building down Convent Avenue to its new resting place in St. Nicholas Park. If things go as planned, on Saturday morning, June 7, the Grange will move south on Convent Avenue, turn east onto 141st Street and then right into the northwest corner of St. Nicholas Park, where preparations will begin to place the Grange onto its new foundation.
Mr. Hamilton, the nation's first Treasury secretary and one of the Founding Fathers, commissioned architect John McComb Jr. to design a Federal style country home on his estate in upper Manhattan. This house was completed in 1802 and named "The Grange" after the Hamilton family's ancestral home in Scotland.
However, Mr. Hamilton only lived in the home two years, as he was shot and killed on July 11, 1804, in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.
The National Park Service has been working closely with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, NYPD, FDNY, City College of New York, the Department of Transportation and others, to ensure the safety of the Grange’s valued neighbors and to minimize disruptions during the move.
Now, about the controversy. It seems that the original orientation of the Hamilton Grange had the front door facing to the southwest, but due to circumstances involving the land the home is being moved to the front door will face northeast. According to a story that ran in the New York Times,
This is a grave concern to some preservationists, who believe the government is squandering a chance to authentically restore the home of a towering founding father.
“It’s Preservation 101 that the house should be retained in its original orientation,” said Ron Melichar, president of the Harlem Heights-West Harlem Community Preservation Organization. Orientation affects not only the exterior appearance but the way that light plays within the house’s octagonal parlor and dining room.
Park Service officials, though, say it wouldn't have made sense to orient the front door to the southwest in the new location as that would have had the house facing a hillside.
Once the move is complete, Park Service crews will continue to work on restoring the home. Studies have been done to determine how the house looked in Hamilton's time, and the Park Service intends to fully restore the exterior and make it possible to view the entire Grange. The interior of the house will re-open to the public in 2009.