Hamilton’s Shining House on a Hill

IT WAS BREATHTAKING to watch a team of practiced craftsmen coolly jack up Alexander Hamilton’s yellow villa in Harlem in June 2008, lift it over the neighboring church, and wheel it around the corner to a new site commanding an oak-clad hillside in St. Nicholas Park on West 141st Street, still on Hamilton’s original 35 acres. It was more breathtaking still to preview last week the National Park Service’s impeccable restoration, which opens to the public Saturday.

Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2011, by MYRON MAGNET

This was Hamilton Grange’s second move; in 1889, a developer offered it free for the taking, and the nearby church, after razing the house’s portico and piazzas, rolled it two blocks down from the top of Harlem Heights, where it overlooked both Long Island Sound and the Hudson River, and shoehorned it in endwise to serve as a rectory.

Now restorers have rebuilt its verandahs, put back its light-filled staircase and front door where John McComb (best known for New York’s City Hall) designed them to be, and painted its octagonal drawing and dining rooms their original pale yellow. Once again the dining room’s three rediscovered, mirrored doors are reflecting the bay window’s shape and view at the other end. The 1802 house, an architectural marvel despite its modest size, at long last is a fitting monument to one of America’s greatest Founding Fathers.

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