|Should you go?|
|Time spent||61 minutes|
|Best thing I saw or learned||Hamilton placed a marble bust of himself styled as a slightly smirking, handsome, Roman senator, in the entryway of the Grange. Looking at it now it’s like he’s thinking, “Hey, Jefferson, you may get to be president, but see if anyone composes the biggest musical in Broadway history about YOU someday.”|
How do you kick off a project like this? I decided to stick fairly close to home, and what better way to start in this Hamiltonian era than with the Harlem summer, country home of Alexander, Eliza, and family? Hamilton went into serious debt to buy the land (32 acres) and have the Grange designed and built. It’s a beautiful, Federal style home dating to 1802. Lots of symmetry, including two faux chimneys just to create balance.
The Park Service has done a good job recreating about 4 period rooms, though sadly little of the furniture in them is original to the house. Still, it gives you a feel.
Fascinatingly, the Grange was moved in 2008 — somehow I missed that as it was happening. The whole building was lifted 30 feet up in the air, rolled over a church on tracks, then lowered to the street for the move. There’s a video about the technical undertaking required, but the best part involved gently placing it on these tremendous remote controlled wheels, then the whole house slowly inching its way down the street the block and a half they moved it (from a churchyard where it was hemmed in on both sides, to a park, where it stands independent once more). I had a vision of the Grange achieving sentience and rolling off on its own through the streets of the city, striking fear into the hearts of anti-Federalists and descendants of Aaron Burr. I’d watch that show.
It’s interesting to think how things have changed for the Grange, tourist-wise, since that musical became such an improbable hit. They may have had Hamilton bobblehead dolls even before, but I bet they didn’t sell nearly as many of them as they do now.
The basement exhibit is great, lots of stuff I feel like people know about Hamilton in some form already, given his current popularity, but it’s well put together and curated, even if it’s more text and screens, less actual documents or artifacts. There’s a slightly creepy virtual Hamilton avatar (at least it’s not in VR, I guess) that talks to you about his arguments and philosophy.
Should you go? Of course you should! At least as long as Hamilton’s star is in the ascendant, the Grange should be on everyone’s list of places to visit in NYC.