Monday, June 2, 2008

Building on the Move: Hamilton Grange Free at Last

Posted to Real Estate
Monday, June 2, 2008

Building on the Move: Hamilton Grange Free at Last
It's easy to forget about New York's other historic monuments at the north end of the island of Manhattan with all the attention heaped on those famous downtown spots. The locations of Revolutionary War battles and burial sites of war generals get overlooked and don't seem as exciting to those interested in the next trendy handbag.

Living in Harlem
(specifically Hamilton Heights), I get an entirely different perspective on the city and its history and, for the past few months, my friends and neighbors have been following the exciting move of the Hamilton Grange, Alexander Hamilton's New York home. You may remember him as that guy who was shot in the duel, but he was also the co-author of the Federalist Papers and was our first Secretary of the Treasury, influencing Constitutional interpretations and our banking system.

His house has been wedged between an apartment building and a church on Convent Avenue for years, and when the National Parks Service announced that they'd be moving it around the corner to St. Nicholas Park behind City College, we were all perplexed at how it would be done. First, the building was stripped of its columns and the porch was removed (as well as his bronze likeness), trees and landscaping was cut back. Then it was slowly jacked up on large timbers. Up, up, up, it was elevated 38 feet in the air above. Finally it towered above the church's porch. Then steel beams were placed in front so that it could slide into the middle of Convent Avenue.

Thursday afternoon I happened to be there as the building towered over the stately Harlem brownstones and was slowly being lowered to street level. It was incredible to see this 18th-century building elevated between the buildings. It was also shocking to know that in the 21st century, the technology was almost medieval: essentially large wood timbers wereremoved, until the building could be dragged along the ground.

Around the corner, the construction crew were busily pouring and framing the new foundation where the historic home will eventually end up. But I want to be there as they head down the VERY steep incline of West 141st Street. What antiquated means will be used to keep it from slipping down to St. Nicholas and landing as a big pile of rubble? If you want to actually tour the spot, you'll have to wait a while, the Hamilton Grange will not be open for viewing until sometime next year.

Photos by Patricio del Real (aerial photo courtesy of Friends of St Nicholas Park blog)

Posted by Jerry Portwood at 10:51 AM

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