It's been a long time since New Yorkers were this obsessed with Alexander Hamilton. The launch of Lin-Manuel Miranda's hugely successful musical, "Hamilton" kicked off the obsession so intense that there's even a SoulCycle class devoted to the musical and historical figure.
A bastard, orphan immigrant from the British West Indies, Alexander Hamilton arrived in America at the age of 15 and built from scratch his life here in New York City, where he lived and died.
Ron Chernow, author of the biography “Alexander Hamilton,” said in an interview for the New York Historical Society that Hamilton had a “tremendous identity as New Yorker.”
According to records from one of Hamilton's sons, while secretly crossing the Hudson River to his fatal duel with Aaron Burr, Hamilton looked back at the disappearing tip of Manhattan and said, “It’s going to be a great city someday.”
Here in chronological order are some of the New York City places significant to Alexander Hamilton’s life and their corresponding "Hamilton" songs.
A wood engraving of King's College, now Columbia University, in lower Manhattan. NYPL Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
After being denied an accelerated course at Princeton University, 16-year-old Alexander Hamilton enrolled in King’s College, now Columbia University, in the fall of 1773 on a scholarship. He majored in mathematics and wrote pro-patriot papers, including “A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress” and “The Farmer Refuted,” despite the fact that King's College was a bastion of Loyalist sentiment.
He stayed in King's College only two years, leaving to join an artillery company in 1775 when war broke out. After the war, Hamilton returned to the college and became a major figure, helping to revitalize the institution during its transition into Columbia University. He became one of its trustees from 1787 until his death in 1804.
Hamilton convened with others in downtown coffee houses to discuss urgent national issues.
Listen to: "The Story of Tonight"
An image of the Tontine Coffee House in lower Manhattan issued in 1859. NYPL Art and Picture Collection.
Coffee houses were essential social hubs for merchants in early America. Two popular coffee houses stood at the intersection of Wall and Water streets. Tontine, on the southwest corner, was a meeting place for merchants to talk business and strike deals. Patriots gathered at Merchants to discuss opposing British imperial policy. Hamilton held the first meeting to organize the Bank of New York there.
Hamilton founded the first bank in America in lower Manhattan.
Listen to: No relevant songs found; pick your favorite "Hamilton" song!
An image of Bank of New York, housed in merchant William Walton's mansion in lower Manhattan, in 1798. NYPL Art and Picture Collection.
Hamilton founded the country’s first bank in 1784 to grow the nation's burgeoning economy — the Bank of New York. He wrote the bank’s constitution and became one of its directors. It is now known as Bank of New York Mellon after a merger and has survived and evolved until today, making it the oldest working bank in America. It specializes in asset management and has hundreds of billions of dollars in assets.
An image of the old Federal Hall issued in 1899, NYPL Art and Picture Collection.
The building once served as New York City Hall, but was remodeled by Pierre L’Enfant as the Federal Hall in 1785 when New York City briefly became the nation's capital. The Confederation Congress — under the Articles of Confederation — convened at Federal Hall, where Hamilton served as a New York State delegate.
As Secretary of Treasury, he submitted reports to Congress in Federal Hall that would later become legislation, including the Tariff Act of 1790, which lead to the creation of the Coast Guard. Hamilton argued his cases in Federal Hall as lawyer. He took on many cases defending Loyalists after the Revolutionary War, establishing rules of due process along the way. After the nation’s capital moved down to the Potomac — a result of Hamilton’s dinner table bargain with Jefferson and Madison (listen to "The Room Where It Happens" here) — the building was destroyed in 1812. A new one was built, serving as the Customs House and U.S. Sub-Treasury. It is a now a museum and memorial under the National Park Service.
An image of Hamilton's estate, The Grange, in what is now Hamilton Heights issued in 1859. NYPL Art and Picture Collection.
After his politically ruinous affair with Maria Reynolds, Hamilton retired from government service and moved uptown with his family. He bought a 32-acre estate and commissioned architect John McComb Jr. — who designed the mayor's residence, Gracie Mansion — to build his two-story, Federal style home. “The Grange,” as he called it, was the first house Hamilton ever owned. He enjoyed it for just two years before his death. While the house was confiscated due to financial woes, his wife, Eliza, managed to buy it back and keep it in the family for decades. The house is now owned by the National Park Service and was moved to St. Nicholas Park.
Hamilton died in a West Village house belonging to a former Tory.
Listen to: "The World Was Wide Enough"
An 1801 image of the West Village house where Hamilton died after his duel with Aaron Burr. NYPL Art and Picture Collection.
After Hamilton was fatally shot by Aaron Burr in the notorious duel in Weehawken, New Jersey, he was transported to a house at 82 Jane St., the West Village home of his friend William Bayard, until he died a day later. Bayard, according to Chernow, was a former Tory and prominent New York banker who became a close friend. A plaque at 82 Jane St. commemorates the house where Hamilton died. Statues depicting the duel between Hamilton and Burr, on loan from the New-York Historical Society were on display at The Public when "Hamilton" the musical first debuted.
Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, who died 50 years later, were buried at Trinity Church cemetery.
Listen to: "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story"
An engraving of Trinity Church in lower Manhattan, where Hamilton and his wife were buried. NYPL Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Hamilton and his wife were interred in downtown Trinity Church cemetery on Broadway between Wall and Thames streets. Records show that the Hamilton family belonged to the church, but while Eliza was very pious, Hamilton did not attend regularly. Eliza, driven by Hamilton's background and her Christian faith, helped establish the New York Orphan Asylum Society, the oldest orphanage in New York City that continues today under the name of Graham Windham.