Welcome to the greatest city in the world! My name is Rachel, Professional History Nerd, and I’m excited to share Hamiltion’s New York with you! Our tour begins here in Battery Park, at the Southern tip of Manhattan. With State Street behind, and the Hudson River ahead of you in the distance, let’s begin. Walk the path toward the river. I’ll meet you along the way, near the Sea Glass Carousel.
What a view! Manhattan is bound by the Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers. We’re looking where the Hudson empties to the Upper New York Bay. The island to your left is Governors Island, and to your right, just across the river, is New Jersey. You can see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from here, too.
New York is a fantastic natural harbor, and as such, has been inhabited since the last ice age. The Lenape and Munsee people used this harbor and the land around this park, to hunt and fish. They established a trading path, used for generations, that leads north up the island. This wide roadway continues today as the modern avenue, Broadway.
The first documented European visitation to this harbor was in 1524, when Florentine explorer Verrazzano sailed through. In 1607 and 1608 Henry Hudson made trips searching here for a rumored northwest passage—to no avail. And then, in 1626, an often-mythicized transaction between the Dutch and the Lenape Nation, where the island then known as Manhattan was sold for 60 guilders, set the stage for the birth of a city, and eventually, the birth of a nation.
Now as we leave this end of Battery Park, did you notice large granite slabs? That's the East Coast War Memorial, dedicated to the US servicemen who lost their lives in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. This park is home to dozens of memorials and statuary.
Take in the memorial and take in the view. When you’re ready to continue, please follow the path along the water, keeping the river on your left and the park on your right. I’ll meet you again near the ferry loading dock.
Turn right here and use the walkway to re-enter the park. As you walk, you’ll see a red colored fort-like structure on your left and a heroic sized bronze statue on your right. Check out the statue first and then we’ll head over to the fort, Castle Clinton.
As you approach the statue, you’ll see it depicts a number of diverse figures, a range of ages and backgrounds, a mother and child, an enslaved African seizing freedom, and a Jewish person. Sculptured by Luis Sanguino, the piece is called “The Immigrants” and was created to celebrate the diversity of New York City and recognize the immigrant experience.
The sculpture is positioned near Castle Clinton, which served as a processing facility for newly arrived immigrants from 1855 to 1890, when construction began on a larger, more remote facility at nearby Ellis Island.
In 1772, when a 16-year-old boy from the West Indian Island of Nevis landed here, he was an immigrant. Hamilton made this city home for the rest of his life. While his life was cut short, Hamilton did more in his years to promote and champion the interests of New York in the time that he had, than any other founder. The city has changed drastically over the hundreds of years since Hamilton called it home, but we can still trace the footsteps of his remarkable life.
Back to Castle Clinton. You can walk over and take a look while I’m talking if you’d like. This wasn’t constructed until the War of 1812, so it wasn’t around when Hamilton was. Built to prevent British invasion, this fortification has transformed over the years and been everything from an aquarium to an immigrant processing station, and now, the structure welcomes millions of visitors to New York Harbor. Castle Clinton, run by the National Parks Service, is home to the ticket kiosk for ferry rides to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, right here in Battery Park!
So how did this area get its name, Battery Park? The southern tip of Manhattan has been the Battery since the Dutch colonized this area in the 17th century. Fort Amsterdam, as it was then known, was home to the artillery batteries that protected the merchant settlement. It wasn't in this exact location. It stood where the U.S Custom House now stands. The fort changed hands and changed names over time, before meeting its eventual destruction at the hands of a young American government in 1790.
Hamilton knew the battery best as Fort George. On a fateful summer night in 1775, Hamilton and some of his buddies from King’s College made their way down to the Battery with Continental Army artillery captain John Lamb and his militia. When they arrived, the men seized the fort’s guns. The British were not entirely unprepared for midnight plunder, and had left a ship right off the coastline to attack the thieves. Hamilton, Hercules Mulligan and other volunteers were using ropes to secure and drag the cannons, when the redcoats began shooting at them from offshore! The rebels fired back, killing one of the British troops. Undeterred, the Royal Navy circled their ship in closer to take another shot. They missed the ragtag group, but did manage to get a bullet in the roof of nearby Fraunces Tavern. Hamilton and his friends made off with 2 dozen cannons that night.
When Fort George was demolished, its materials were used as landfill that built what is now Battery Park, where we are now standing. So in a way, we are standing on the fort where Hamilton stole the British guns.
We will now head north and make our exit. Follow the path, leaving Castle Clinton and the Hudson River behind you. Meet me at The Netherlands Monument. It’s a flagpole with a large stone base. See you there!
This is the Netherlands Memorial, gifted from the Netherlands in 1926. The memorial commemorates “New Amsterdam,” the Dutch trading post established at the mouth of the Hudson in 1624. When we think about the character of modern New York City, a financial titan in a global economy, it’s hard not to see the connection to the city’s roots. Most of the early American colonies were settled on the wings of Utopian dreams and religious zeal, not New York. The pilgrims landed in Plymouth, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, …etc.
While colonization began with the Dutch, the city was surrendered to the English in 1664, and remained a British colony until the American Revolution…which we will be talking a lot about on our walk together today!
Let’s make our way to the next stop. Follow the path to exit the park and use the crosswalk to cross State Street.
As you continue on State St, you’ll notice a large stone church ahead on the left, topped with a golden cross. Pause when you've reached St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church and I’ll tell you more.
St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, also called Our Lady of the Rosary, is best known as being home to the Seton Shrine. The Seton Shrine is named for Elizabeth Seton and guess who Elizabeth Seton rubbed shoulders with? Our boy Alexander!
Elizabeth was born to a prominent New York family in 1774. Her father was a doctor, and her mother came from a family deeply connected to the powerful Church of England. At age 20, Elizabeth married William Seton, a merchant and financier. William’s father was also in the financial business; incidentally, William Seton Sr. was Hamilton’s pick for the cashier at the newly created Bank of New York in 1784.
That wasn’t their only connection. Manhattan was the heartbeat of Colonial America, but it’s never been very big, and the elite social circle made it even smaller. The young couple Elizabeth and William Seton lived in one of the many glamorous homes on Wall Street and were neighbors to Eliza and Alexander Hamilton. The two households were close contemporaries on the budding social scene. The Setons also hosted a 65th birthday party ball for none other than George Washington!
Now as we know, Hamilton’s story did not end with ball gowns and banquets, but with tragedy; Elizabeth Seton wrote that his death was “really too bad to think of.” She grieved alongside the rest of the city on that fatal day, when bells tolled throughout Manhattan and all the city’s inhabitants were ordered to suspend business.
And though her life began charmed, she quickly entered her own period of tragedy: in short order, her family lost their fortune, her father died of yellow fever, and her husband died of tuberculosis. She also converted to Catholicism, which socially ostracized her from her former peers and Anglican family members. Elizabeth demonstrated the strength of her will, and instead of crumbling, became incredibly self-reliant. She accepted an invitation to travel to Maryland, and there established the first parochial school system in American history. Today there are more than 6,000 Catholic schools across the nation that enroll nearly 2 million students as her legacy. She also founded the first society of women Catholics in America, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. In 1975, Pope Paul the 6th canonized her as the very first American born Saint.
The church and shrine occupy two adjacent colonial homes, the home of the would-be saint and the home of James Watson. Watson was the first Speaker of the New York State Assembly and a Federalist member of first the New York and then the United States Senator. That’s right I said Federalist. Safe to say Watson knew our main character, too! When these showy homes became a church in 1884, the city had grown, and the well-to-do tenants had already made their way uptown. St Peter's parish made its home here in the battery in direct response to Irish immigration. A bad harvest in Ireland in 1879, combined with Irish political turmoil, led to much emigration to America. Between 1856 and 1921, 3.6 million people left Ireland for North America; a majority of them were women. For every eight Irishmen who left between 1871 and 1951, ten Irishwomen emigrated. Eighty-nine percent of those women were single and younger than twenty-four. This church took them in.
Today in addition to being a place for special devotion, the Shrine has educational material about Seton’s life and the lrish-American immigrant experience. Now let’s head from the church to the tavern, it’s time we raise a glass to Freedom
Continue on State Street and cross Whitelaw. You’ll notice the street name changes to Water Street here, a reminder that the buildings here were once waterfront property.
You’re looking at New York’s oldest and most historic bar and restaurant, Fraunces Tavern. The building, now a National Landmark, was a favorite watering hole for many of the Founding Fathers, including Hamilton. The structure was built in 1719 as a fancy waterfront home, but was sold to Samuel Fraunces in 1762, and he converted the mansion into a tavern.
Taverns were centers of community in the 18th century, and Fraunces was a place where travelers and locals would exchange news and ideas. It was a popular eatery, too, and one of the first take-out restaurants. The tavern boasted 2 kitchens, one for sweet, and one for savory food. But how did he package take-out without styrofoam carry out trays you ask? He would seal the dishes with a layer of liquid fat, which would then harden to create an (almost) airtight to-go box!
This tavern was originally named the Queens Head, honoring Queen Charlotte—but the name changed when local sentiments shifted. This became the meeting place for the New York chapter of the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty was a loosely organized, sometimes violent, political organization active in the Thirteen American Colonies. They were founded to advance the rights of the colonists and to fight taxation by the British government. Once the group began to assemble here, the tavern's name changed. The plots planned, and ideas discussed, here at Fraunces Tavern played a major role in the local revolt against the Stamp Act in 1765. On the day the Stamp Act was set to go into effect, an angry mob gathered on the town commons and marched to Bowling Green. There they hanged and burned in effigy the royal governor and set his carriage on fire. The Act was quickly repealed, and a grateful city erected a statue of King George III, affirming their loyalty to the crown…for the time being. We’ll talk more about that statue when we visit Bowling Green later in this tour.
The Sons of Liberty disbanded after the repeal of the Stamp Act, but another group, The Society of Cincinnati, the nation's oldest patriotic organization, also met here at Fraunces. The group was founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army who served together in the American Revolution. Hamilton and Burr are on record as attending at least one of the Cincinnati gatherings here.
This was also a favorite haunt of Hercules Mulligan, who lived right around the corner on Pearl Street. Mulligan was an American spy and played an important role in the American victory. And following that victory, it was here, in 1783, that George Washington bid an emotional and inspirational farewell to his command of the Continental Army.
From 1785 to 1788, between the end of the American Revolution and the ratification of the United States Constitution, the Congress of the Confederation rented rooms at Fraunces Tavern and ran the interim government from here. The Department of Foreign Affairs, the War Department, and the Treasury all operated in this building, as they grappled with the diplomatic, military, and financial challenges of forging a new nation.
The building has gone up in flames on multiple occasions, but was saved from demolition each time. There is a museum devoted to the tavern’s history on the second and third floors, with collections ranging from period rooms to exhibition galleries. They even have a lock of George Washington’s hair! Fun fact: the general's dentures are on display at his plantation in Virginia if you’re ever curious to see those.
The historic tavern is still a restaurant today! The multiple bars and multiple dining rooms, the oak-paneled walls, solid, old-world furnishings and high eighteenth century windows invite guests to remember the history that happened here in Manhattan.
Tickets for the museum are available for purchase at the front desk, located on the 2nd floor. Feel free to pop in and raise a glass to Freedom at Independence Bar. You can rejoin the tour route whenever you’re ready.
From here, turn right and head down Pearl Street. When you reach the crosswalk, go ahead and cross to enter the alley. I'll meet you there.
Alexander Hamilton walked these very cobblestones. Here in this city he thrived professionally. His writing prowess and military skills earned him a position as Washington’s aide-de-camp and built his reputation in Revolution-era society.
He also flourished personally. In 1780, he married Elizabeth Schuyler, the daughter of a wealthy and influential New York landowner and military officer. They would go on to have eight children, and she remained a key source of loyalty and stability for him throughout the tumultuous years to come. The family he married into, and life he created, was the home life he never had as a child.
A structure that stood on this block, at 69 Stone Street to be exact, was one of the many places in lower Manhattan where Hamilton practiced law. He kept an office here, ever writing as though he were running out of time.
When you reach the end of Stone Street turn left.
Welcome to Bowling Green. I want to first direct your attention to the opulent building south of the subway station. This seven story beaux arts beauty is the old custom house, now a branch of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, and the site of that original Dutch defense, Fort Amsterdam. So this is actually closer to where Hamilton helped steal the big British guns with Hercules and friends.
If you'd like to get a better look at the building before you continue the tour, stay here for story time, as we will head away from the building to get to our next stop. Otherwise you can enter the park in front of you and head toward the fountain in the middle while I share the history of Bowling Green.
The small oval shaped green space is one of the oldest public spaces in New York City. In the 1630’s this was a cattle market and parade ground for troops. It was also the site of the city's first public well. Fast forward a century and to 1733, and it became a public park, the oldest surviving park in the city today. Surrounded by lavish homes of the wealthy elite, it was designed to add value to the developing neighborhood’s allure. It became a very popular spot for a game then known as “Nine Pin” ...or lawn bowling, hence the name.
However, the park would soon transition from a recreational area, to a revolutionary hotspot. As we mentioned at Fraunces Tavern, the colonial governor was burned in effigy right here in protest to the Stamp Act in 1765.
In 1770, a gilded equestrian statue of King George III was cast in England and shipped across the Atlantic and erected here in the middle of this park. But public opinion of the King and his rule was on a steady decline, and more and more colonists were flexing revolutionary muscles. The statue became a rallying point for Patriots, and the city passed laws condemning graffiti and vandalism on the statue, and even built this rod iron fence that you see before you, to protect the bronze King George and his horse.
But to no avail. On the evening of July 9th, 1776, after the news of the Declaration of Independence reached New York, a mob of colonists toppled the statue of the British king George III in an act of “symbolic regicide.” According to legend, the pieces of the statue were then sent to Connecticut, where they were melted down and made into 40,000 bullets for the Continental Army.
And the Patriots would need musket balls. They agreed to declare their Independence, but there were still 7 years of war between them, and the conclusion of their fight for freedom from the Crown. Loyalists salvaged the heavy head of King George and shipped it right back to Mother England. The little cast iron crowns that once decorated the fence were removed.
Our next stop is the Charging Bull of Wall Street. Exit the park and meet me near the statue of the bull.
This is the Charging Bull, sometimes referred to as the Bull of Wall Street. The 7,100-pound (3,200 kg) bronze sculpture is a symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity, also the “bullish” attitude of investors in New York’s financial district. The Statue is a popular tourist destination that draws thousands of people a day. Its sculptor, Arturo Di Modica, and some of his pals, illegally dropped the completed bull in front of New York’s Stock Exchange in 1989. It became famous overnight, and the city agreed to permanently install it where you see it today.
Hamilton is the father of our modern financial system. He was alive to see the establishment of the New York Stock Exchange, and the success of his pride and joy, the Bank of New York.
If you're still looking at the bull's backside, that's enough! Look to the right and notice the large stone building with gold accents, and the inscriptions denoting the address. It says 26 Broadway. The building doesn't date back to colonial times, but the plot of land beneath it does. Hamilton and his family lived in a series of rented townhomes here in lower Manhattan, and the footprint of building 26 is where one of those homes once stood. This was actually the last home the Hamiltons kept before moving uptown…where it was quiet.
After retiring from government service in 1795, Hamilton purchased a 32-acre parcel of land in modern-day Harlem which he dubbed “The Grange”, named in honor of his father’s ancestral home in Scotland. At the time, Harlem was a rural suburb of the city. The house was completed in 1802—nearly bankrupting the family in the process—and was the only home Hamilton ever owned.
Many of the key moments in Hamilton’s life took place when Hamilton lived right here near Bowling Green.
Let’s continue. Head up Broadway and make your next right on Exchange Place. I’ll see you there!
This is it, the New York Stock Exchange. In 1790 the first investment markets in the new United States began. The federal government issued $80 million worth of government bonds to help pay for Revolutionary War debts. Later, stock in the First Bank of the United States would also be traded. You’re looking at Hamilton’s legacy.
Today, the New York Stock Exchange, or the "big board", is the largest securities exchange in the world, boasting market capitalization of nearly $20 trillion, with roughly $170 billion traded daily.
Here, in the Financial District, New York’s modern reputation as the cultural, financial, and entertainment capital of the world was born. With many thanks to Hamilton, author and advocate of the very structure of the American financial system.
With the New York Stock Exchange on your left, head north on Broad Street toward Wall Street. That's where we are going next. Meet me on the steps of Federal Hall and I’ll meet you at the base of the statue in the center of the steps.
Welcome to Federal Hall. Oh hey George Washington! It was here, on April 30th, 1789, Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States. Cannons boomed from the battery, and over 10,000 onlookers watched as he took the oath of office, hand upon a Bible borrowed from the nearby masonic temple, wearing a plain American made suit. Hamilton watched the ceremony from the balcony of his home at 58 (now 57) Wall Street, just several yards away. The original hall was destroyed in 1812. The structure before you now was built in 1842.
This original structure erected in 1703 was the colonial city hall…where prisoners were held, and trials were conducted. In fact, the murder trial of Levi Weeks happened here, defended by Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, mentioned in the song “Non-stop”. It also hosted the debates regarding debt plan that we hear about in the song “Capital Battle 1”, and more than likely where TJ and JM interacted when Jefferson asked “What did I miss?”
In a moment, we’ll continue down Wall Street. Wall Street is so named because there was once an actual wall here…you can see the location of the since destroyed wall marked with wooden markers running parallel to the front of Federal Hall. In 1653, the Dutch West India Company was keen to protect their strategic position and monopoly on local commerce and shipping and began construction. It was constructed largely by enslaved labor, and a large slave market was operating here by the 1700’s.
With the Stock Exchange and Federal Hall behind you, let’s make our way down Wall Street. Cross William Street at the end of this block.
This building, now the Museum of American Finance, was once home to the Bank of New York & Trust Company, founded by the star of our show, Alexander Hamilton. The Museum of American Finance is home to many artifacts relating to Hamilton and his experiences, including documents signed by Hamilton, copies of his published works, and replicas of the dueling pistols that Aaron Burr fatally fired at him. (Hamilton’s pistols are on private display at the JPMorgan Chase building here in Manhattan.)
Head north up William Street when you’re ready. Cross Pine Street, cross Cedar Street and I’ll meet you at the intersection of William Street and Liberty.
Cross Liberty Street and pause in the park across the street. From the park, notice the street sign, Maiden Lane.
It was here that Thomas Jefferson arranged “the meeting, the venue, the menu, the seating” that led to an important early compromise for the young nation. In the song “The Room where it happens” we learn that Jefferson (then Secretary of State), Madison (a highly influential member in the House of Representatives) and our favorite New Yorker and patriot, Alexander Hamilton met to discuss and negotiate his twice failed debt plan.
Two political foes, Madison and Hamilton, diametrically opposed, reached a compromise regarding individual state's Revolutionary War debts and the permanent location of the Federal capital.
The room where it happened no longer exists...but this plaza is roughly where Jefferson’s New York residence stood.
The result of this meeting, however it went down, was an agreement that Madison would drop his opposition to Hamilton’s debt plan, and in return the United States capital would move temporarily to Philadelphia, before a permanent relocation to the sleepy southern banks of the Potomac River, now Washington DC.
Exit the park and turn left on Maiden Lane.
This was roughly the location of a townhouse that Hamilton kept in lower Manhattan, even after he built his family home uptown at the Grange. This is where he wrote his final letter to Eliza. He spent the night here before taking an early morning ferry to New Jersey on July 11th, 1804.
The duel between Burr and Hamilton was the culmination of one of the most famous personal conflicts in American history. In 1804, Burr was the Vice President of the United States, but the bitter rivalry between the two high-profile politicians had been brewing for years, beginning in 1791 when Burr won a United States Senate seat from Philip Schuyler, Hamilton's father-in-law, who would have supported Federalist policies (Hamilton was the Secretary of the Treasury at the time).
On that fateful morning in July, Burr fatally shot Hamilton. Hamilton fired his shot into a tree branch above and behind Burr's head. The mortally wounded Hamilton was taken to a private home on this side of the river, and he received communion. Eliza and their children surrounded him, and more than 20 friends and family members gathered there to see him through his transition. After he passed, Alexander Hamilton was buried in the Trinity Churchyard. We will make our way there now.
Continue down Nassau and turn right on Pine Street. I'll meet you at about halfway down the next block on Pine St.
The church in front of you was built in 1846, but there were two previous churches in this spot, dating back to 1696. When the Anglicans decided to build a church in the colony, they rented the land from the Crown at the rate of “one peppercorn a year” ...it was a symbolic way to make the deal official, without really charging the colonists. We stopped paying rent in 1776…so when Queen Elizabeth II visited this church in 1976, she was presented with 279 peppercorns as “back rent” as specified in the original charter.
In 1754, Columbia University opened right next door. Back then Columbia was known as King's College, where Hamilton received his education, even after he punched the purser.
Off to the side of the church, we find the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton. The Trinity Church graveyard is a tranquil place, tucked into an otherwise bustling commercial corner of Lower Manhattan. Inside its gates, weatherworn headstones stand in the shadows of skyscrapers. These burial grounds have been the final resting place for many historic figures.
Continue on Broadway, making your next right on Rector Street.
Here lies Alexander Hamilton, Continental Army officer and aide de camp to General George Washington. The first secretary of the treasury, primary author of the Federalist Papers, Founder of the bank of NY and tireless advocate for the city of New York and the United States of America.
Next to him, Elizabeth Schyler Hamilton, founder of New York's private orphanage, who spent 50 years after her husband's death advocating for their shared passions.
And their son Philip, who also died in a duel defending his father's honor, just a few years before Alexander was killed.
Here we remember the legacy of Alexander Hamilton. I hope the final track of Hamilton is playing in your head right now.
This is the end of our walking tour. Thank you for nerding out in Hamilton's stomping grounds with me.
This audio tour is a Historic America and UCPlaces production. To learn more about our trip planning services, public & private tours and digital content make sure to visit us at www.historicamerica.org and to find more audio tours, go to historicamerica.org and UCPlaces.com.