Broadway show sends more visitors to Hamilton sites
Historic sites connected to Alexander Hamilton are getting a lot more visitors than they used to. This is thanks to a Broadway show. You might have heard of it.
Fans of the musical "Hamilton" are hunting down every Hamilton spot they can think of. The hit show recently won 11 Tony Awards.
The spots fans are visiting include his home in New York's Harlem. They also include his burial site in Lower Manhattan and Hamilton Park in Weehawken, New Jersey. The latter is near the dueling grounds where he was shot by Aaron Burr.
Kerissa Bearce is an instructional technology coach. She is from Fort Worth, Texas. Bearce visited all those sites and many more when she came to New York to see the show with two friends.
"I pretty much don't remember anything about the founding of my country. But now I'm learning all of it," Bearce said.
Bearce is among thousands of "Hamilton" fans. They have boosted visitor numbers at historic sites that in the past were barely on tourists' radars. Hamilton Grange is Hamilton's Harlem home. It is also a National Park site. It has had as many visitors in the first five months of this year, 35,000, as it did in all of 2015. Compare that to the 21,000 who toured the Grange in 2014. That was the year before "Hamilton" opened. Artifacts at the site include a piano. Hamilton's daughter Angelica played it. A replica of the instrument is featured in the show.
But fans are also finding their way to more obscure spots. One example is the Schuyler-Hamilton House. It is in Morristown, New Jersey. That's where Hamilton courted his wife Eliza.
"We have 5-year-olds, 16-year-olds, 30-year-olds coming here now," said Pat Sanftner. She gives tours of the Schuyler-Hamilton House. "We did not have that audience in our museum before. We had 60-year-olds. It's wonderful to have these conversations now with visitors. We're not just teaching. They're questioning us and they're thinking."
Tourists have always visited Hamilton's tomb. It is in the graveyard at Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan. But now, there are more people paying their respects. They're also looking for the graves of Hamilton's wife, sister-in-law, son and his buddy Hercules Mulligan. "Visitors also now leave flowers, stones, coins, notes, even a potted plant, at Hamilton's monument and on Eliza's stone just in front of it," said Trinity spokeswoman Lynn Goswick.
The show's star and creator is Lin-Manuel Miranda. He wrote part of "Hamilton" at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. It is in Manhattan's Washington Heights. The mansion's executive director is Carol Ward. She estimates that half of their visitors now come because of the show. "We've been riding the wave," Ward said. "The show has gotten people interested in history in a completely new, fresh way."
The Morris-Jumel Mansion is known for a dinner party. It was hosted there by President George Washington. The party was for his cabinet. The party was attended by Hamilton, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. (A different dinner party depicted in the show's song "The Room Where It Happens" took place at Jefferson's residence. It is marked with a plaque at 57 Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan.) But the mansion has a Burr connection, too. Burr married the rich widow who owned the house. She later divorced Burr. Her lawyer was Hamilton's son.
A truly obscure spot on the Hamilton trail is a well. It is where a woman's body was found in 1800. The well is in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood. Hamilton and Burr defended the woman's lover against a murder charge. While the well isn't mentioned in the musical, the trial is referenced in one song. That was enough to send Bearce and her friends looking for the well. It is now located inside the COS clothing store on Spring Street.
"We were in pursuit of that well," said Bearce.
Other pilgrimage sites include Hamilton statues. They can be found in Central Park and at Columbia University. A sign outside 82 Jane St. in Greenwich Village marks the site where Hamilton was taken to die. This was after the duel left him mortally wounded.
Some destinations are buying advertising in the Broadway Playbill for "Hamilton." One is the Caribbean island of Nevis. It is where Hamilton was born. The Museum of American Finance on Wall Street also advertises in the Playbill. It's where Hamilton founded the Bank of New York. The museum has an Alexander Hamilton Room.