Alexander Hamilton's "Country Home" on the Move in New York City

The Hamilton Grange, Alexander Hamilton's home, is moving to a new location in New York City. The accompanying sketch shows how the Grange appeared in its original location. NPS photo and sketch.

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.

Comments

Thank you, Kurt, for this great story !

We have only been able to see the side of this once-beautiful building, as the front and back were pinned against adjacent buildings, and the graceful front and back porches torn away.

Hamilton is the symbol of New York and was as responsible as anyone in lifting New York from the economic devastation caused by the British attack and occupation of the City. The British attack in 1776 was followed by a fire that destroyed much of the town, and an enemy occupation that did not end until days AFTER the peace treaty was signed. For years afterward, New York did not regain its former vitality, in the same way other cities destroyed by the British, such as Providence, RI, NEVER recovered their prominence destroyed in those attacks. New York citizens were also economically destroyed by buying bonds to support the American Revolution, bonds that after victory were worth pennies on the dollar.

What Hamilton did was cut a deal with Thomas Jefferson. The U.S. Government agreed to back the bonds, to provide a flood of currency and restored credit in New York and throughout the new nation, and Jefferson extracted the agreement that the U.S. Capital would be removed from New York -- hated by Jefferson -- to the slave states of the south.

Hamilton opposed slavery and he and John Jay and even Aaron Burr collaborated with others to found an anti-slavery society to rid New York of slavery. Legislation was passed that slowly extinguished slavery from New York in timed thresholds. This compromise was a painfully slow process, but slavery was eliminated from New York long before it was eliminated from Maryland and Virginia, where Jefferson 'safely' ensconced the new capital.

As a boy of no family abandoned by his father, mother dead, Hamilton rose by sheer ability and sometimes-frightening intensity. This house, The Grange, reflected his belief that in America everyone should have the opportunity to rise by their ability, and not by the condition of their birth.

You know there no real good reason to once again to be moving the hamilton house.people need to let good things alone.Instead they need to focus on more important htings like running new york city without corruption.

Dear Anonymous - The NPS does not manage New York City and has no responsibility for city corruption. Hamilton Grange is a national park.

Here's a link to a Life photo collection including the Hamilton house December 1888, labled as Covenant Ave. Timbers supporting the foundation for the move are clearly seen. The surrounding area is being filled with stone. From the original drawing above, it is more likely the house in its original location being prepared for the 1889 move.
http://images.google.com/hosted/life/l?imgurl=64653266fb192e0f&q=1880s+Wallace+Levison+source:life&usg=__EJq_tXYdUEOth4MH-mWEJoobDSA=&prev=/images%3Fq%3D1880s%2BWallace%2BLevison%2Bsource:life%26start%3D105%26ndsp%3D21%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN

Thank You, RogerB34 for this amazing picture. I think you are on to something in implying that the location is not the 20th Century location for Hamilton's Grange, on Convent Ave. The address in the link also seems weird: "Exterior view of Alexander Hamilton's old house (it looks abandoned) at 1430 Grand Convent Ave.; the grove of 13 trees represents the 13 original colonies." Hamilton himself planted those trees at the ORIGINAL location. "1430" is no street number I know. And the second location, Convent Avenue: I had never heard of "Grand" Convent Ave. before.

The picture shows the front porch already removed, and the roof balustrade clearly in evidence. The main reason to move The Grange to its new, third location is to be able to fully restore the house, with the complete 360 of porches on all four sides and proper approaches. The historicity of the balustrade is one of the issues, as well.

As i think many have pointed out before, the house was moved in 1889 because it was going to be demolished if it stayed at the original site. A new development was going in, roads were being layed out to conform to the city's street-grid plan, and moving The Grange to Convent Ave. ameliorated the controversy the erupted over the feared destruction of the only home owned by one of the preeminent Founding Fathers.

AN UPDATE, inspired by the photo found by RogerB34, of Hamilton Grange.

I pursued the question to the National Park Service guy who is leading the restoration of Alexander Hamilton's house in Harlem, New York City. Here is a portion of this message to me on RogerB34's discovery:

"thanks for the picture. It shows details that we didn't know, like the number of treads and risers for the back porch stairs (you can see them in the forefront of the picture; louvered shutters over the rear door transom; single horizontal top panel on the rear door (we surmised the same for the "mirrored doors" inside and this confirms that. We're ordering a print of the picture to see what else we can find under the microscope. The picture looks like the one we have of the fron elevation prior to the move (same photographer?). I think the address was a typo and should read 143 and Convent Ave."

So, the picture DOES reveal the ORIGINAL (but hightly disturbed) site where Hamilton actually built his house, those are the gum trees Hamilton planted, PLUS, RogerB34 unearthed additional architectural information the national park service can use in order to restore The Grange properly !

Well done ! There was a time the NPS had the staff to thoroughly review all the photographic sources for a restoration job as part of the Historic Structures Report, so RogerB34's vigilance is obviously appreciated.

for those of you who have not yet seen the photo, go back up to RogerB34's message, and find the link, above.

I was happy to find this page. I am visiting New York for the first time in ten years, and the other day I decided to drive through the neighbourhood where I grew up. I was very disturbed when I drove past where Hamilton Grange had always stood since my boyhood. I did a search and was gratified to find out that the house still exisited and would be renovated. When I was very young I went through the house on a class trip and over the years until I left New York I watched it slowly deteriorate, closed to visitors. I will follow the pprogress of this project and hope to visit a building in much better shape when I return to the city.

I always thought it's impressive to be able to move a home from one place to another and that's not an ordinary home, is an old home with a cultural value. How many engineers did it take to finalize the action? Obviously this is not a job for regular movers... I hope there is a video too, I want to see that house moving on rails.