Posts Tagged ‘Hamilton Heights Harlem’

Hamilton Terrace is Harlem’s loveliest street

November 19, 2018

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]

A founding father’s country home in Harlem

April 8, 2013

Today, wealthy New Yorkers boast of luxury estates upstate and in the Hamptons. But two centuries ago, prominent residents chose Upper Manhattan as the location of their grand manors.

Thegrangefromback2013

These scenic estates had names like Pinehurst, Minniesland, and Mount Morris (former home of Aaron Burr and his wife and now known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion).

Hamiltongrangeengraving1880Ex-Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, the face of the $10 bill, also had an uptown estate, which he called the Grange, after his father’s ancestral home in Scotland.

In 1802, disenchanted with Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, he “threw himself into building a house in northern Manhattan nine miles from town,” writes Richard Brookhiser in Alexander Hamilton, American.

Hamilton commissioned architect John McComb Jr. (the designer of Gracie Mansion) to build a Federal-style mansion on 32 acres near today’s 143rd Street and Convent Avenue in Harlem.

ThegrangesecondlocationIt was a simple, dignified house on a high foundation amid fields and woods.

“The bay windows had sweeping views of the Harlem River to the east and the Hudson River to the West,” writes Brookhiser.

Front and rear porticos were complemented by side piazzas. On the lawn, Hamilton planted 13 sweet gum trees (for the 13 colonies), gifts from George Washington.

Hamilton only had the house for two years. In 1804, he was fatally wounded during his infamous dual with political rival Burr.

AlexanderhamiltonportraitYet the Grange lived on. After changing owners several times, it was moved to Convent Avenue and 141st Street in 1889.

There, sandwiched between a church and an apartment building (above photo), it fell into disrepair as Harlem became urbanized.

In 2008, the Grange was trucked to its third location: inside St. Nicholas Park at the end of brownstone-lined Hamilton Terrace, with the Gothic City College campus overhead.

Maintained by the National Park Service, the Grange has been beautifully renovated and is open to the visitors.

[Second and Third photos: NYPL Digital Collection]