If you’ve seen the play, you might think that Hamilton was exclusively a New York guy, but many of the pivotal moments in his career took place here in Philadelphia. A pilgrimage will take you through Old City, which is still home to many colonial and federal era buildings – walking the same streets designed by William Penn in the late 1600’s. Your walk should take in the obvious locations, like Independence Hall, where Hamilton helped design (and signed) the Constitution:
For a selfie with Hamilton and the other signers of the Constitution, head over to the National Constitution Center’s Signer’s Hall for life-size statues of all the signers. This museum has a fun movie/experience and loads of artifacts detailing both the origins, and on-going changes to the Constitution:
There are also plenty of lesser known sites including the location of his home, where he lived with Eliza, and where he carried out his affair with Maria Reynolds. Alas, all that’s left is this plaque:
Just around the corner is the First Bank of the US, which he “won” as part of the infamous closed door meeting with Jefferson. The building wasn’t completed during Hamilton’s time in Philadelphia, but he was certainly involved in monitoring its construction. There is no interior access, but the facade is gorgeous.
Walk in Hamilton’s footsteps to Carpenter’s Hall. This was the home of the federal bank during Hamilton’s tenure as Treasury Secretary. There are a few small exhibits, but most impressive is the architecture. Built in 1771, this was home to the first Continental Congress and is one of my favorite colonial buildings in Philadelphia.
In addition to setting up the federal bank, Hamilton was also responsible for creating the first US Mint. The current building has a short movie on Hamilton’s role in its creation and you can also view production of US coins (https://secretsofphiladelphia.com/2018/10/07/the-philadelphia-mint-watching-coin-production-in-action/).
For a peak inside the home of a wealthy Revolution-era power couple, check out the Powel House, home of Samuel and Elizabeth Powel. Samuel was Philadelphia Mayor, and Elizabeth was a confidant of Washington and Adams. Hamilton and Eliza attended parties in their home.
For a likeness of the man himself (lead photo), visit Hamilton’s portrait by Charles Wilson Peale. Peale was the scion of a family of Philadelphia painters and he single-handedly painted just about every important figure of the revolution, many of which are displayed here (https://secretsofphiladelphia.com/2018/09/14/putting-faces-to-the-revolution-the-portrait-gallery-at-independence-park/).
Hamilton was not in Philadelphia during the debates surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Instead, he was serving in the army, fighting in the battles of New York and Princeton. His heroics on the battlefield drew the attention of George Washington, who requested him as an aid-de-camp. Visit The Museum of the American Revolution to see Washington’s Military tent, where Hamilton worked alongside Washington in the field.
Fans of the musical can download a walking tour that links songs from the musical to many of these sites. (“Alexander Hamilton Walking Tours” on Apple apps and Google Play).
A Final Good bye: You have to travel to the New Jersey side of the Hudson River to visit the dueling grounds or NYC to visit Hamilton’s grave, but the grave of Aaron Burr is closer to Philadelphia. Burr is buried in Princeton, along with his father and grandfather (Jonathon Edwards), who were both presidents of the university. While here, you can also say hi to Grover Cleveland (https://secretsofphiladelphia.com/2018/09/27/aaron-burr-grover-cleveland-and-the-best-epitaph-ever-princetons-nassau-cemetery-dont-forget-the-ice-cream/).
Most of these sites are free, however you do need to get timed tickets to visit Independence Hall. These are available for free at the visitor center, or you can purchase them on-line for a small fee. There is admission charged for the Powel House, The Constitution Center, and The Museum of the American Revolution.
Of course, Hamilton was a NYC guy at heart, so any Hamilton pilgrimage should take you there. There are not as many revolution-era sites left in NY as there are in Philly, but there are some good ones, including Hamilton Grange National Memorial, the only known home that Hamilton actually owned. He only lived here for the last 2 years of his life (1802-04), but Eliza lived here much longer. Now run by the National Park Service, the house has been moved twice, but is still on Hamilton’s property. Tours take place on the first floor with a few original Hamilton items (books, a piano), and a small museum in the basement.
Another site in NYC related to Hamilton and the early republic is the Fraunces Tavern Museum. Although much renovated over the years, it is back to the way it looked when Hamilton and Burr met here a week before their duel. Rooms in the upstairs museum recreate with period antiques (and smells!) both the room where George Washington gave his farewell speech to his officers at the end of the war, and the office of the Departments of War and Foreign Affairs that were housed here when NY was the nation’s first capital. Dining is still available downstairs.
The site where Hamilton was brought after the duel and died is marked by this plaque on Jane Street (although the house was actually a block north).
Of course no Hamilton trip to NYC would be complete without a final farewell to him and Eliza, who are both buried in the cemetery at Trinity Church. Although the church is 19th century, the graveyard goes back to pre-revolutionary times and has some fantastic tombstones dating back to 1681.