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Secrets of New York

The ultimate insider's guide to the best-kept secrets of NYC's must-see places and buzzed-about people.

Hamilton, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, brings Alexander Hamilton,

Hamilton, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, brings Alexander Hamilton, one of the nation's founding fathers, to life. These secrets, perfect for a tour of the city, do too. (Credit: Joan Marcus)


Secrets of Alexander Hamilton's New York

414 W. 141st St., New York, NY 10031

"How does a bastard orphan … impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?"

So begins Lin-Manuel Miranda’s "Hamilton," the Broadway hit that’s sparked interest in the man on the $10 bill. (Miranda left the production in July 2016, but the show must go on.) Born in the Caribbean in 1755, Hamilton arrived in New York 18 years later and changed the course of history forever.

He was a hero of the Revolutionary War, a congressman and the first secretary of the treasury. A prominent lawyer, he helped persuade legislators to ratify the Constitution, encouraged the development of American manufacturing, and established the U.S. Mint.

He might’ve been the greatest New Yorker of all time. And you can still visit the places where he worked, fought, lived and died.

In the fall of 1773, Hamilton entered King's

Credit: Joan Marcus

Rebel with a cause

In the fall of 1773, Hamilton entered King's College, which was next to Trinity Church on lower Broadway. As its name suggests, the college was a bastion of Loyalism. Most of its students came from wealthy, prominent New York families who were happy with British rule.

The poor Caribbean orphan never quite fit in. Hamilton soon began publishing anti-British essays, and on July 6, 1774, he made his first political speech at a "liberty pole" in a downtown park, and stunned the crowd with his passion and erudition. Soon, he was regularly rallying his fellow patriots both out loud and in print.

In the song "My Shot," Lin-Manuel Miranda (pictured) captures Hamilton's brilliance by dropping a sequence of increasingly complex rhymes. It took Miranda an entire year to write. "Hamilton comes into the room and blows everyone away with his oratory," Miranda said during an interview with MSNBC. "So every couplet had to be amazing."

Credit: Google Maps

Law & order

"I have been employed for the last 10 months in ... studying the art of fleecing my neighbors," Hamilton wrote in November 1782. He meant, of course, that he was studying law.

Hamilton set up his law office -- which moved from his house at 57 Wall St., (pictured today) to 69 Stone St, to an office on what's now Exchange Place. There, as sung in the song "Non-Stop," Hamilton not only practiced law -- he practically perfected it.

To defend a newspaper publisher who had insulted President Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton argued that you can't libel someone if you're telling the truth. This idea proved so influential that the New York State Legislature wrote it into law. Hamilton also helped establish the idea that state law can't contradict federal law. Not bad for a guy who never spent a day in law school.

On Aug. 29, 1776, Hamilton found himself in

Credit: Brooklyn Historical Society

The Battle of Brooklyn

On Aug. 29, 1776, Hamilton found himself in a dreadful situation. He'd dropped out of college to join George Washington's army -- and now that army was trapped in Brooklyn Heights. A huge force of Redcoats and Hessians had them pinned down, and a British fleet was about to head upriver. If Washington's 9,000 troops were caught between them, the Revolution would be over before it began.

But the weather was on the Americans' side. Wind and rain kept the British fleet away. So Washington requisitioned every available boat in the New York area, and had them convene off Brooklyn Heights in the dead of night. His plan was to transport the entire army across the river to Manhattan.

At 10 p.m., the drenched Continental troops began leaving their posts and boarding the boats in total silence. They were helped by a dense fog that rolled in at daybreak, and prevented the British from detecting what was going on. Washington himself took the last boat across. By the time the fog lifted and the British advanced on the American positions, no one was there.

"We put a stop to the bleeding as the British take Brooklyn," Washington sings in "Hamilton" ("Right Hand Man"). "But look, we are outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, outplanned."

Things were pretty grim for Hamilton and other

Credit: Charles Eckert

All the news that fits

Things were pretty grim for Hamilton and other members of the Federalist Party in 1801. The rival Democratic-Republicans had swept a series of elections, and now controlled both the federal and New York State governments. The Constitution, Hamilton wrote, according to "The Evening Post: A Century of Journalism," by Allan Nevins, had become "a frail and worthless fabric."

So Hamilton and some friends decided to start a newspaper. It would, wrote Hamilton's friend Robert Troup, help in "restoring Federalist prestige, and attacking the triumphant Democrats."

In the fall of 1801, Hamilton and his Federalist friends met at the Upper East Side mansion of a prominent, wealthy merchant named Archibald Gracie. (Pictured, Gracie Mansion, at 88th Street and East End Avenue.) The group raised about $10,000 and founded a paper called the New York Evening Post.

The Post began publication on Nov. 16, with a promise to "diffuse among the people correct information on all interesting subjects." It's still published today, but now its mission involves covering subjects like Jacko on his backo and headless bodies in topless bars.

In 1802, Hamilton and his wife Eliza moved

Credit: Linda Rosier

Home on the Grange

In 1802, Hamilton and his wife Eliza moved into a Federal-style country house in upper Manhattan. Its long porches offered spectacular views of both the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, and Hamilton called it "the Grange," after his father's ancestral estate in Scotland.

In 1960, the house was declared a National Historic Landmark, but you couldn't tell by looking at it. The porches had been removed, and it was wedged in tightly between a St. Luke's Church and a six-story apartment house at Convent Avenue and 141st Street. A statue of Hamilton still stands there.

In 2008, the National Park Service raised the Grange up on hydraulic lifts and rolled it down a hill into St. Nicholas Park.

Visitors started arriving in droves after "Hamilton" premiered on Broadway in August 2015. "Some months we had double, even triple, the usual number of visitors," said John Warren, a public affairs officer for the National Parks of New York Harbor. 

Levi Weeks was in trouble. The body of

Credit: Joan Marcus

Manhattan murder mystery

Levi Weeks was in trouble. The body of his fiancee, Elma Sands, had been recovered from a well. Sands' body was displayed in front of her house for days, and the public was clamoring for justice. In March 1800, Weeks appeared in court for what Miranda describes as "the first murder trial of our brand new nation."

But Weeks' family had money, and hired a 19th century "Dream Team." He was represented by both Alexander Hamilton and his famous rival, Aaron Burr.

In the musical, Burr tells the loquacious Hamilton to sit down and shut up, but this didn't happen in real life. The two attorneys took two full days -- an incredibly long time back then -- to dismantle the prosecution's case. They did such a thorough job that the jury took just five minutes to return a not-guilty verdict.

You can actually visit the well where Sands' body was found. It's in the men's department of a clothing store at 129 Spring St. Legend has it that Sands' ghost occasionally rises out of the well like the creepy little girl from "The Ring."

Pictured: Carleigh Bettiol as Eliza Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr and Anthony Ramos, who played both John Lauren and Phillip Hamilton, in "Hamilton."

Alexander Hamilton did not want to duel Aaron

Credit: Google Maps

Duel in New Jersey

Alexander Hamilton did not want to duel Aaron Burr. In 1801, his 19-year-old son Philip was killed in a duel, and the stress caused his daughter to suffer a nervous breakdown. Hamilton had been challenged to duels 10 times before, Joanne B. Freeman wrote in "Dueling as Politics: The Burr-Hamilton Duel," but always managed to negotiate a settlement before shots were fired.

In "Hamilton," the founding father agrees that "duels are dumb and immature" ("Ten Duel Commandments"). In real life, he wrote that he was "strongly opposed to the practice." But Hamilton believed that if he declined Burr's challenge, he would lose his honor -- and, thus, his standing as one of the nation's leading public figures.

As Miranda put it, "I don't wanna fight, but I won't apologize for doing what's right."

So Hamilton accepted Burr's terms, and agreed to meet him on a dueling ground in Weehawken, New Jersey, on July 11 -- the exact same place where his son was shot. (Why Weehawken? "Everything is legal in New Jersey," according to "Hamilton's" "Blow Us All Away"). Beforehand, he promised that he'd miss Burr on purpose.

Of course, he missed. And of course, Burr didn't.

The site of the duel is now a private home. Located at 8 Hamilton Ave. in Weehawken, it sold for $6.2 million in 2014, so the owners probably won't let you in. That's OK, though, because across the street, you can visit a rock where Hamilton supposedly laid his head after he was shot. It's right next to a 14-foot marble pillar with a bust of Hamilton on top.

After the duel, Hamilton was rowed across the

A painful death

After the duel, Hamilton was rowed across the Hudson. He went to the home of his friend William Bayard, in the West Village. Hamilton suffered excruciating pain, and it took him a full day to die.

Reverend Benjamin Moore visited Hamilton on his deathbed, and gave him Communion. Later, Moore wrote that Hamilton said, "I have no ill will against Col. Burr. I met him with a fixed resolution to do him no harm -- I forgive all that happened."

In 1936, a plaque was placed at 82 Jane St. commemorating the location of Hamilton's death. But in this case, X doesn't mark the spot. Historian Terry Miller, author of "Greenwich Village and How It Got That Way," reported that Bayard's house was actually farther north. "But this hardly mattered to the 1936 owner of 82 Jane St., who installed this plaque, thereby slipping his building into half a century's worth of books about the Village," Miller wrote.

Hamilton's funeral was held on July 14, 1804,

Credit: Jim Melchiorre / Trinity Wall Street

Funeral arrangements

Hamilton's funeral was held on July 14, 1804, at Trinity Church, 75 Broadway at Wall Street. A band played as the coffin moved from Robinson Street, on the current World Trade Center site.

Gouverneur Morris, Hamilton's friend and fellow founding father, gave the eulogy. Remarking on Hamilton's meteoric rise, he said that "it seemed as if God had called him suddenly into existence, that he might assist to save a world."

Hamilton was buried in the churchyard; you can visit his grave on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Numerous tourists "have mentioned seeing the musical and decided to come downtown for a visit," says Trinity communications officer Lynn Goswick. "We've also noticed an increased number of visitors leaving flowers and stones at the grave site, something that hadn't occurred so frequently before the musical."

Pictured: The Rev. Dr. Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones attends a 2014 celebration of Alexander Hamilton's birthday at the churchyard.


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