3.26.2015

Nerd Trip 2015: New York City (PART 2)

Welcome back! This is PART 2 of my epic Nerd Trip 2015 to New York City. This will also be the nerdier half of the recap because a lot more historic sites come into play + I finally visit Hamilton Grange and everything is awesome. (Back-story below.)

Before we continue, I should mention (in case you don't know) that I love U.S. History, particularly the Revolutionary War period and the Critical Period following - so all the stuff involving the founding and establishment of the U.S. as an independent state. (Hence, I suppose, the obsession with Hamilton, but more on that later...)

DAY 4: Late mornings, 9-11 Memorial, Trinity Church/Wall Street, and SURPRISE history!

The Sis and I headed all the way downtown to the new WTC1 and 9-11 Memorial. The last time we'd been in NYC, the memorial was still under construction, so we hadn't had a chance to visit at all. The day was clear and sharply brisk despite the sunshine, but it was nice weather for looking at the plaza and the reflecting pools.
We didn't plan to spend too long inside the Memorial Museum, but we ended up lingering because there was just so much, and to be honest, it was all a little overwhelming. I'm not a particularly emotional person, but the museum got to me.


It's a beautiful and elegantly designed space that I think is informative and respectful while encouraging remembrance and reflection. Definitely worth the visit - at least once. Oh and for some of the exhibits, tissues are provided.

The new 1WTC behind the Survivor Tree.
Projected guestbook messages behind bent tower beam.
Since the memorial visit took longer than anticipated, we changed our plans with Sarah and decided to see Hamilton Grange on Saturday morning instead. That done, we went to Trinity Church at Wall Street to see Hamilton's resting place (Alexander and his wife Eliza are both in Trinity Cemetery). This visit has become a thing for me when I'm in NYC, not to mention Trinity Church is one of my favorite churches; the church itself and the surrounding cemetery are such tranquil, lovely places.


Next, we headed down Wall St. to Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated back when NYC was the nation's Capitol.


Since we'd never been inside, we went in to see the inauguration-related exhibits, and it was SUPER COOL - like souvenir handkerchiefs and pamphlets and the stone on which he stood!!


Our best discovery though was the actual BIBLE that George Washington was sworn in on. LIKE HIS HAND TOUCHED THIS!!!

This has been used in 4 other presidential inaugurations!

So yeah, if you've never visited inside Federal Hall, you should. It's run by the National Park Service and it's free!

After this, we went back uptown to try to make it to the New York Historical Society to see their Chinese American: Inclusion/Exclusion exhibit. Alas, our time was cut very short because we took the wrong train up, missed our stop, and had to double-back down. The nice thing was the NY Historical Society people didn't charge us for the tickets - probably since they were closing in 40-ish minutes.

Our time with the exhibit was even shorter though because we were distracted by the gorgeous Wall of Awesome American History in their lobby.


I stopped short specifically because I spotted a pair of pistols in a glass case and immediately freaked out because the plaque underneath them was once used to commemorate the spot where Hamilton and Burr dueled. So yes, those are dueling pistols, but no, they aren't the dueling pistols. They're replicas of the ones used in that most famous of duels.


Other cool things? From left to right: a draft of Federalist No. 64 written by John Jay, Washington's inaugural chair, and part of Hamilton's "intent to duel" letter (look at his hand-writing!!!).


The Sis freaked out at the other side of the lobby because Paul Revere's famous Boston Massacre engraving was on display there, and all the Boston Revolutionary War stuff is her favorite.



Anyway, we did finally make it into the Chinese American exhibit, and it was very nicely designed. It covered a long chunk of time from the first Chinese immigrants to the states, through the Exclusion Act, to the present. We didn't really have time to do more than walk through and skim a few things here and there, but we liked the look of it all. We hoped to come back before the end of our trip, but we didn't have time.



We had obligatory Shake Shack for dinner, went back to Sarah's apartment, and stayed up late chatting with her - despite our early morning date with the Hamilton Grange.


DAY 5: Hamilton Grange visit (I've waited 4 years for this!!!)

So we did actually miss our intended 10am tour at Hamilton Grange thanks to the late night chatting, but it worked out great! Sarah, the Sis, and I trekked uptown to Hamilton Heights, over icy patches of sidewalk and suspicious-looking slush, until we arrived at Hamilton's lovely yellow house in St. Nicolas Park. We went into the Visitor's Center on the bottom floor to see about the next tour (11am) and the Park Ranger put in a video about Hamilton for us while we waited.



It was the best thing because we were the only people there and could make commentary aloud to each other - like how the portrayal of dueling seemed very...inaccurate (though dramatic!) and how Sarah could not hear Alexander Hamilton's name without hearing it sung because of the musical. We also LOVED the (accurate) line from the video: "Alexander Hamilton only had one speed: full speed ahead." After the video, we explored the rest of the media room and the info exhibits in the other room.



The Sis really enjoyed the Hamilton head cut-out, and she learned that A. Ham knew how to throw some serious shade ("growing some shady acres at the Grange") and how to, metaphorically, drop a mic - specifically, he did such a great job as Treasury Secretary that when Thomas Jefferson became President and told his Treasury Secretary to look for Hamilton's mistakes, none were found. As the Sis put it, "I want to be so badass that my work is basically perfect."


I took pictures of everything and couldn't stop smiling (and obviously pics with all the Hamiltons).

I'd like to pause here to recount 1 of the reasons I was flailing so much over this visit. This visit has been like 4 years in the making. The first time in recent years I was in NYC, the Grange was closed for renovation due to its astounding move from its old location to its current one (more on this later). It was scheduled to re-open the next year. I went back to NYC that next year, and the site re-opened literally the day after my departure from the city. I went up to the park the morning I was leaving to gaze at it mournfully from the outside; they were still putting the finishing touches on the landscaping.

TBT to 2011: short hair, bangs, old phone, not freezing!
Also, I may be smiling here but am crying on the inside.
Flash forward to 2015, I FINALLY MADE IT INSIDE. YAY!

Our tour guide Elizabeth led us upstairs at 11am to tour the furnished rooms. Upstairs, we first watched another video about how they moved the house to its current location - by literally lifting the entire house and rolling it down the street. IT IS NUTS. It's like that scene in Pixar's UP where the house is rising above its neighbors.

Check out the pictures (and video!) at the Hamilton Grange site: The Grange Move

Then, we went to see the rooms: the parlor, the dining room, the front entry, and Hamilton's office. The rooms were painted and decorated based on accounts and documents from the time period, and the furniture was a mix of original pieces, period pieces, and replicas. For example, in the parlor (below), 2 of the chairs at the table were from the time period and 2 were replicas (as was the couch), but the pianoforte is an original - as in Hamilton family owned and played by AH's daughter!


There's also a reproduction of the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington once owned by the Hamiltons (the Constable-Hamilton Portrait), and our guide told us that the original is currently in a private collection. Fun fact I discovered later: the Sis and I had actually seen the original portrait last February...in France at the Louvre for a special exhibition of American Revolutionary era portraits!

Reproduced portrait at the Grange in the parlor.
Me and the real thing at the Louvre last year!!
Next, we went into his very green office. Our guide explained that his office was indeed green and that back then, green was the hardest color to mix. So the paint choice was deliberate on Hamilton's part. As the Sis put it, "It's the color of MONEY." Fitting for the first Treasury Secretary.

Inside is a replica of his desk, his portable desk (the "laptops" of the time), and this cardboard stand-up. The books on the table are originals from the Hamilton personal library, and our guide showed us Elizabeth Hamilton's name written on the inside of one of them. SO COOL!


From there, we moved to the entry hall, where there's a reproduction of the full-length John Trumbull portrait of Hamilton (that is usually at the Met when it's not on loan, which I must make it my mission to find next time). As our guide put it, Hamilton might have been a bit ostentatious but not enough to hang a 6-foot portrait of himself right by the front door. The Washington portrait was probably displayed there instead. There is, however, a bust of Hamilton that greets you as you enter. The bust is particularly special because it was treasured by Elizabeth Hamilton because it looked so much like her husband.

(I'm sorrynotsorry there are a lot of pictures of me in this section for obvious reasons.)


Tangential to all the site-specific coolness, our guide Elizabeth told us about things she's seen/handled while doing archival work - like a letter written by Aaron Burr post-infamous duel that starts off innocuously enough before suddenly switching to secret code (which essentially said something about being on the run) and Revolutionary War-era booze ("If you drink it, you'll die."). We also talked about geeky T-Shirts since I was wearing the Swagilton tee.

Also, loved the highlighting of Eliza Hamilton's legacy as well. We learned so much, especially all the incredible work Eliza Hamilton did - preserving her husband's legacy, establishing the first NY orphanage, getting the building of the Washington Monument funded. And she like met a young Abraham Lincoln!

Basically, Elizabeth was an awesome guide and made our tour really fun. Thanks, Hamilton Grange and Elizabeth!!!

After a brief looksie at the souvenirs (I left with only a book rec - my current read Duel with the Devil and a NPS Hamilton Grange stamp in my moleskine), we went outside to take pictures and watch puppies play in the snow. We then went up the block to the church to see the empty space where the Grange had once been. The statue of Hamilton is still there to mark the house's former location.


We took our leave and made our way back towards Sarah's apartment and the subway stop where the Sis and I would take the train downtown for our matinee at the Public. BUT THAT IS FOR NEXT TIME. :)


Tune in next week for the post where I will attempt not to type completely in ALL CAPS as I talk about the brilliant HAMILTON musical - the crowning jewel of my entire trip to the East Coast!

P.S. Here's my NYC Trip Recap: Part 1 if you're interested!

P.P.S. I don't know how I remember all these facts. My brain soaks up this stuff like a sponge.

2 comments:

B said...

I love how excited you get over history! I'm not an overly emotional person either but anything 9-11 related really gets to me.

Connie Keller said...

What an amazing visit! I've never been to Hamilton Grange. I always end up at the Met or the Cloisters and never get away. :)

I'd love to visit the 9/11 memorial. When it happened, we lived in Connecticut and I remember driving to the shore and watching the smoke rising into the sky. So, so sad.