Hamilton Terrace is Harlem’s loveliest street

New York has no shortage of markers bearing Alexander Hamilton’s name: His grave is in Trinity Cemetery downtown, his statue graces Central Park, and Alexander Hamilton Bridge crosses the Harlem River.

But there’s a quiet stretch in Harlem from 141st to 144th Streets named for this founding father that feels almost like a secret passage lined with townhouse loveliness: Hamilton Terrace.

The street takes its name from Hamilton Grange, Hamilton’s former country house built in 1802 that currently sits atop a hill at West 141st Street.

(The house was actually built down the block on today’s West 143rd Street before being moved here in 1989, once part of Hamilton’s vast estate.)

Hamilton only occupied the Grange (“a sweet asylum from care and pain,” he called it) for a few years before his life ended in that infamous duel with Aaron Burr.

When urbanization came to the bucolic enclave of Harlem in the late 19th century, developers seized his name—and Hamilton Terrace was born.

“The initial construction on the north-south street—which most New Yorkers have never heard of, let alone seen—was for well-to-do owners,” wrote Christopher Gray in the New York Times in 2004.

“But Hamilton Terrace was transformed during the Depression by the expansion of the black population from central Harlem, and many of the new owners changed their buildings into rooming houses.”

Parts of Harlem don’t conform to the city street grid, and some of its streets feel like they were once isolated country lanes, like Convent Avenue on the West and St. Nicholas Avenue on the right, which surround Hamilton Terrace.

That gives the road its isolated, almost forgotten feel. The many row houses reflecting everything from traditional brownstone style to Romanesque to Gothic also make you think you’ve stumbled into some kind of turn of the century time warp.

“The isolation of Hamilton Terrace gives it a character distinctive from its surroundings,” wrote Gray. “Its 50 or so houses were almost all built in a single burst of activity, from 1895 to 1902.”

These days, Hamilton Terrace is a sought-after location once again. Now part of the Hamilton Heights Historic District, townhouses here are commanding hefty prices.

In 2017, Curbed pointed out that the corner mansion at 72 Hamilton Terrace, with a modern renovated interior, was going for more than $5 million.

[Fifth Image: New-York Tribune, 1899; sixth image: MCNY 2011.22.1336. All other images by Ephemeral New York]

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3 Responses to “Hamilton Terrace is Harlem’s loveliest street”

  1. contemplociadanca Says:

    I don’t remember walking around, and whenever I’m in New York I walked a lot and walk through various parts of the big city. I want to meet on my next visit and hope it’s not far from happening. The photos of the buildings and architecture (a bit lacking in Dutch) reminded me of the Park West in Chicago where I stayed last year. Beautiful! Lovely and mysterious place, especially under the mists of early US north winter.

  2. David H Lippman Says:

    It’s a fantastic piece of New York that nobody know about, but I do chuckle inwardly at how that neighborhood has changed yet again. From the 1920s to my youth, that was “evil Harlem,” full of those “horrible Negro people,” as my grandmother and her sisters called them. Now these buildings are going for $5 million a pop.

  3. The loveliest lamppost in New York is in Harlem | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] triangular park at West 143rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and it continues to light the way in the Hamilton Heights section of the neighborhood, with its late 19th century […]

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