Hamilton Grange National Memorial: Eliza Tour

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Hamilton Grange National Memorial preserves the mansion of Alexander Hamilton. Built in 1802 on Hamilton’s land in Harlem, Hamilton would live there with his family for only two years before his fateful duel with Aaron Burr.

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Upon his death, Hamilton’s political rivals sought to dismiss or take credit for his accomplishments. But Hamilton’s widow, Eliza, who survived Alexander by 50 years, spent the rest of her life ensuring that Alexander Hamilton’s legacy would not be forgotten. For women’s history month, we took a special tour of The Grange with the AHA society, which focused on Eliza.

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Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton was born into a wealthy family in upstate New York. Her father was general in George Washington’s army. She met Alexander Hamilton in Morristown, when the army was encamped there. They were married at her father’s home in 1780. Her marriage survived the nation’s first sex scandal (Alexander publicly admitted to adultery to clear up suspicion of financial impropriety while he was Secretary of the Treasury) and produced eight children.

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Alexander Hamilton died in debt. Eliza was able to re-purchase the Grange after it had been sold off at auction with some help from her connections and her inheritance from her father. She lived there with some of her grown children for 30 years before selling it to move into a townhouse downtown.

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Eliza sat for this portrait while the artist was in debtors prison so that he could earn some money towards his release.

She threw herself into charity work, helping to found the first orphanage in New York City and was the director of the organization for 27 years. She also, along with the widows of James Madison and John Adams, helped to raise the money for the construction of the Washington Monument.

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Eliza tirelessly promoted Alexander’s legacy after his death and persisted in having his papers organized and published as a biography. She demanded an apology from President Monroe for the accusations he’d made against Hamilton and defended Hamilton’s authorship of Washington’s Farewell Address.

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This piano was a gift from Eliza’s sister Angelica.

A week before the duel, Alexander wrote to Eliza: “With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. Adieu best of wives and best of women. Embrace all my darling children for me. Ever yours, A H.”

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Hamilton Grange Posts:

Location: 414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031

Designation: National Memorial

Date designated or established: April 27, 1962

Date of my visit: August 23, 2014

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Eliza’s father gave lumber from his Albany estate to Alexander for the Grange. These moldings are original and were hand-carved

Home of FDR National Historic Site

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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I visited the Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on a Wednesday in October. October is typically a very busy month for the Hyde Park NPS sites, but it wasn’t too bad on a week day. I stopped at the visitor center, got my ticket for the 9:30 tour and then watched the 15 minute film about FDR.

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FDR was the only president to be elected four times, though he only served three full terms. He passed away suddenly at the beginning of his fourth.

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I hadn’t ever seen the film footage from his inaugural addresses and was struck by the fact that he delivered them standing. I knew that he’d been paralyzed by polio and was the only disabled man ever to serve as president.

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Our docent explained that FDR never admitted that he couldn’t walk and had a gentleman’s agreement with the press to refrain from photographing him in the wheelchair. He had heavy steel braces made so that he could stand behind the podium.

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The original section of the house from 1800

After the film, our group walked over to Springwood, the Federal-Italianate mansion where FDR was born and lived for his whole life. Built in 1800, FDR’s father James purchased Springwood in 1866. FDR and his mother Sara expanded the house in 1915.

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FDR’s boyhood room

In 1943, Roosevelt donated the property to the USA with the stipulation that his family would be allowed to live there for the rest of their lives. He died two years later and the family relinquished their rights, transferring ownership to the National Park Service.

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FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Scottish terrier, Fala are all buried in Sara Roosevelt’s Rose Garden.

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Hyde Park posts:

  • FDR Presidential Library
  • Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site (Coming Soon)
  • Gardens at Bellefield (Coming Soon)
  • Home of FDR National Historic Site
  • Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site (Coming Soon)

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Location: 4097 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: 1/15/1944

Date of my visit: 10/3/2018

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Governors Island National Monument: Fort Jay and The Hills

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Governors Island has over 200 years of history as a military outpost. It began as a colonial militia base in 1755 and defended the harbor entrance to New York City during The War of 1812. During the Civil War, Confederate prisoners were held here. In peacetime, it was a training ground and administrative base for first the US Army and then the Coast Guard.

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While parts of the island are managed by the National Park Service, the majority of it is managed by the Trust for Governors Island and the City of New York. For ten years, the Trust developed the abandoned section of the island into a hilly park with commanding views of New York City and the harbor.

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Built on the debris of buildings that were once here, The Hills first opened in 2016. It has accessible paths to stroll up to the top, large stone block steps to climb up and in one section, you can slide down.

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After exploring The Hills, we walked back to the historic district, where we still hadn’t seen everything our guide wanted us to see.

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The South Battery was the last of the three forts built on Governor’s Island. Built during the war of 1812, it stood guard over Buttermilk Channel, which separates the island from Brooklyn. Later, it became a barracks, and then the officer’s mess hall.

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Next, we strolled through Nolan Park with its 15 pretty yellow houses. These were built between 1845 and 1902 as quarters for officers with families. Today, they are leased by non-profit organizations who keep the houses preserved.

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At the end of this row stands the Governor’s House. This is a misnomer because no governor ever lived there, but it did serve as the commanding officer’s house.

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For the final stop on our tour, we re-entered the domain of the National Park Service and toured Fort Jay. Fort Jay is the earliest of the three forts on the island and is undergoing repairs to its facade. The entrance is a medieval-looking gate over a dry moat with a sculpture of an eagle standing guard at the top…that eagle has lost a wing and the NPS is in the process of trying to reattach it.

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The largest of the three forts, Fort Jay is of the same star-shaped design as the one across the bay, upon which the Statue of Liberty now sits. We went into the cellar to see an odd display of earth borings. This cellar, had the British not been deterred by New York’s defenses during the War of 1812, would have served as a bomb shelter.

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When I visited Governors Island in the late eighties, it was a decaying Coast Guard base. It was nice to see the progress the NPS has made towards restoring some of the historic structures as well as the Trust for Governors Island’s success in turning the unused areas into a beautiful urban park.

To see my other Governors Island posts, please click below:

Location: New York Bay

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 1/19/2001

Date of my visit: 9/11/2018

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Hamilton Grange National Memorial

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Hamilton Grange National Memorial preserves the mansion of Alexander Hamilton. Built in 1802 on Hamilton’s land in Harlem, the structure has been relocated twice. In 1889, St. Luke’s acquired the home and moved it 500 feet to sit next door to the church where it functioned as a chapel. In 2008, the National Park Service restored the home to a natural setting, moving it to nearby St. Nicholas Park.

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The Grange is the only home Hamilton ever owned. Hamilton was a penniless orphan from the Caribbean. He came to America as a shipping clerk, took up the cause of the American Revolution and is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States.

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This wine cooler is a replica of the one George Washington gifted to the Hamiltons.

Hamilton was George Washington’s Aide for most of the war and a hero of the decisive Battle of Yorktown. He was instrumental in the ratification of the constitution and became our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury in George Washington’s cabinet where he founded the National Reserve, the US Mint and our currency.

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In semi-retirement from his political career, Hamilton purchased a tract of land near the Hudson River in Harlem. Back in those days, this was the countryside…it was nine miles and 90 minutes by carriage to New York City.

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Hamilton commissioned an architect to build a mansion on the property. He provided legal representation for the builders so that they could keep working on the Grange after they were arrested on suspicion of murder.

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The Grange was completed in 1802, but Hamilton would live there with his family for only two years before his fateful duel with Aaron Burr. Upon his death, Hamilton’s political rivals sought to dismiss or take credit for his accomplishments. But Hamilton’s widow, Eliza, who survived Alexander by 50 years, spent the rest of her life ensuring that Alexander Hamilton’s legacy would not be forgotten.

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Now in the midst of a public park, visitors can view a brief film on the life of Alexander Hamilton in the theater on the ground floor. There is also a small museum and gift shop on the ground floor, which is where the kitchen would have been. Tour the historic floor with a ranger or during one of the open houses…in the home’s original location, the Hamiltons could see the Hudson River from their dining room.

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Hamilton Grange Posts:

  • Hamilton Grange National Memorial
  • Hamilton Grange: Eliza Tour (Coming soon)

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Location: 414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031

Designation: National Memorial

Date designated or established: April 27, 1962

Date of my visit: August 23, 2014

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Governors Island National Monument: Liggett Hall

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Governors Island has over 200 years of history as a military outpost. It began as a colonial militia base in 1755 and defended the harbor entrance to New York City during The War of 1812. During the Civil War, Confederate prisoners were held here. In peacetime, it was a training ground and administrative base for first the US Army and then the Coast Guard.

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After exploring Castle Williams, our group explored some of the other historic structures in the park. Liggett Hall was built in 1929 as an army barracks capable of housing an entire regiment. The 16th regiment was stationed there at the time and been living in temporary wooden structures.  This was the largest structure the Army built prior to the Pentagon.

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Construction of the 400 yard Liggett Hall down the widest part of the island prevented a proposed air-strip from being placed there. LaGuardia airport was instead built out in Queens.

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In the building’s archway, we saw a sculpture by Hashimoto called Never Comes Tomorrow. It is meant to represent a time vortex between the historic side of the island and the more recent additions on the other side of the building.

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Next door to Liggett Hall is the hospital that served the Army Base. The Smothers Brothers (comedians) were born in that hospital when their father was stationed on the island.

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There is also a historic theater, built in 1939 for the island residents. We had theaters like this in Staten Island, too, that were still operational in the 70s and 80s when I grew up there. I remember seeing Mary Poppins and Disney’s Robin Hood in a theater just like this.

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Across the way from Liggett Hall is Colonel’s Row. These are six large homes, built in the 1870s for the high-ranking officers when the island became an army base. These homes were originally on the waterfront, but the island was later expanded with landfill from the excavation of the Lexington Avenue subway line. These homes are now used for art shows and non-profit organizations.

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To see my other Governors Island posts, please click below:

  • Battery Maritime Building
  • Soissons Landing and Castle Williams
  • Liggett Hall
  • Fort Jay and The Hills (Coming Soon)

Location: New York Bay

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 1/19/2001

Date of my visit: 9/11/2018

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Governors Island National Monument: Soissons Landing and Castle Williams

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Governors Island has over 200 years of history as a military outpost. It began as a colonial militia base in 1755 and defended the harbor entrance to New York City during The War of 1812. During the Civil War, Confederate prisoners were held here. In peacetime, it was a training ground and administrative base for first the US Army and then the Coast Guard.

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I visited the island with a local community school with Mario as our tour guide. We boarded the ferry at the Battery Maritime Building in lower Manhattan and disembarked eight minutes later at Soissons Landing.

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Soissons Landing was named after a town in France that was the site of a decisive battle in World War I where the combined Allied forces regained ground from the Axis powers. The American regiment that fought in that battle was stationed on Governors Island after the war and so named the landing Soissons.

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Building number 140 is on the left as you leave the ferry. Built in 1857, it used to be a munitions warehouse. Now it houses the offices of The Trust for Governors Island which manages the island along with the National Park Service.

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After disembarking, we walked over to Castle Williams. This is one of the forts built to protect New York from the British during the War of 1812. Additional Rodman Guns were placed on the fort’s roof during the Civil War to protect the city against the Confederate Army. They were never fired.

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Ranger Charles joined our group to give an impromptu talk about the different kinds of cannons found here.

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Castle Williams is made of red sandstone and was designed by Jonathan Williams, who developed a system of forts on Governors, Ellis and Liberty Islands to protect the harbor.

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In the early 1900s, Castle Williams, no longer useful as a defensive fortification, was renovated into a prison. It was abandoned as a prison in the 1960s, when the Army left the island and the Coast Guard moved in.

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To see my other Governors Island posts, please click below:

  • Battery Maritime Building
  • Soissons Landing and Castle Williams
  • Liggett Hall(Coming Soon)
  • Fort Jay and The Hills (Coming Soon)
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Mario holds up an old photo of Castle Williams. The island sure looks different now!

Location: New York Bay

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 1/19/2001

Date of my visit: 9/11/2018

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The large octagonal concrete structure to the left of Soissons Landing (seen in the video below) is the air vent for the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

 

Home of FDR National Historic Site: Gardens at Bellefield

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Bellefield is an estate that was built in 1795 by a judge and then passed through many different hands. In the late 1800s, New York Senator Thomas Newbold bought the property and expanded the house and built a formal walled garden. Bellefield remained in the Newbold family until 1975 when the last heir donated it to the National Park Service.

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The NPS incorporated Bellefield into the neighboring Home of FDR National Historic Site. The house is used for offices now, but the formal garden is open to the public. It sits behind the Wallace Visitor Center.

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The garden was designed by Beatrix Farrand in 1911. Farrand was the only female founder of the American Society of Landscape Architects and was responsible for the landscaping of many college campuses including Princeton and Yale.

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I walked over to the garden after finishing up my tours of Springwood and the FDR library. In early October, there were still some flowers blooming and there was no one else in the garden with me…a lovely, peaceful place.

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Federal funds did not allow for proper maintenance of the garden so the Beatrix Farrand Garden Association partnered with the NPS in the 1990s to restore it. The arts and crafts style gates were restored by an Eagle Scout based on Farrand’s original plans.

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Hyde Park posts:

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Location: 4079 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: Incorporated into FDR NHS in 1975

Date of my visit: 10/3/2018

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