Marlene Wagman-Geller

"As far back as I can remember, it was always on my bucket list, even before the term bucket list was coined,
to be a writer. It was a natural progression to want to go from reading books to writing one."

The Other Hamilton

Mar 14, 2024 by Marlene Wagman-Geller


“No lapse of time, no nearness to the grave, makes any difference.”

–Eliza Hamilton on her refusal to forgive President James Monroe


Hamilton Grange (opened 1924)

414 West 141st Street, New York, New York 10031

(646) 548-2310


            At the conclusion of the megahit musical, Hamilton, Eliza Hamilton lets out a gasp, followed by the chorus breaking into the haunting lyrics, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” A way to discover Eliza’s story is to visit the Hamilton Grange house-museum.

            Traditional weddings echo the words of the biblical Mark, “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” When Eliza recited her vows, she never fathomed a vice-president would separate her from her beloved. The woman behind her great man was born in 1757, the daughter of senator and Revolutionary War leader Major General Philip Schuyler. Through the death of a childless uncle, Philip became the third richest man in the Upper Hudson region. Coffers further overflowed, as her mother, Catherine, (Kitty), van Rensselaer, was a descendent of the elite Dutch settlers. Eight of her fifteen children died young.

            When Eliza was eight, Philip purchased thirty-two acres on which he built the Pastures, perched on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. Eliza and siblings Angelica and Margarita, (Peggy), strung wampum, a Native American tradition to record agreements. The Pastures did not prove the same idyll for its enslaved.

            The Schuyler sisters shared commonalities with the Bennet sisters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: they fussed over their finery, attended balls, and longed for a Mr. Darcy. Eminent visitors were Benjamin Franklin–who taught Eliza how to play backgammon–his wife, Martha, and James Madison. Another guest was Alexander Hamilton who arrived on horseback to deliver a letter. 

             Gertrude Cochran invited her twenty-two-year-old niece, Eliza, to her home in Morristown, New Jersey, to find a suitor amongst the 10,000 soldiers of the Continental Army. Hamilton was also in Morristown serving as an aide-de-camp for General Washington who referred to his assistant as “my boy.” At an officer’s ball, Eliza experienced a “coup de foudre–” love at first sight. Cynics held Hamilton was courting Eliza due to her wealth and connections; however, a love letter paints a different picture, “You not only employ my mind all day, but you intrude upon my sleep–I meet you in every dream…” In a letter far different from one a Bennet sister would have penned, Angelica wrote Eliza regarding her swain, “I love him very much and if you were as generous as the Old Romans you would lend him to me for a while.” Angelica did not pursue Hamilton due to his poverty and roots as an illegitimate West Indian orphan. The Schuyler-Hamilton nuptials took place in 1780 in the living room at the Pastures. The bride sported a gold double-band wedding ring, (currently in the Columbia University Library). Her parents were pleased with the wedding as Angelica and Peggy had eloped.

            The Hamiltons purchased their forever home that Alexander named The Grange after his aunt’s plantation in St. Croix or his ancestral home in Scotland, where they raised their six sons and two daughters, as well as Fanny Antill, an orphaned toddler of a Revolutionary War colonel. Eliza assisted as Hamilton worked on “Washington’s Farewell Address.” Upon Philip’s passing, his children freed the Schuyler slaves. 

            While his family was vacationing in Albany, Hamilton was in Philadelphia canoodling with the twenty-three-year-old blonde Maria Reynolds. His paramour had likely seduced Hamilton for financial gain rather than for passion. Exploiting his wife’s adultery, James demanded $1,000 in exchange for his silence, a sum Hamilton paid. After his arrest for forgery, James turned to Hamilton for help, and when none was forthcoming, he dished the dirt. Aware his enemies would claim he had financed his affair with taxpayer’s funds, a fact that would have repercussions on his career as Secretary of the Treasury as well as the fledging nation’s economy, Hamilton confessed. When the truth outed, Hamilton’s ninety-five-page booklet, “The Reynolds Pamphlet” stated that his only crime had been an “irregular and indelicate amour.” He admitted that trysts had occurred in the Hamilton home, that he had encouraged his wife to remain in Albany. The sordid situation cost Hamilton any chance at the presidency. Another part of the pamphlet was a mea culpa to Eliza, “I can never cease to condemn myself for the pang which this confession may inflict in a bosom eminently entitled to all my gratitude.” Eliza was pregnant with her sixth child when the infidelity became public. The wronged wife never publicly commented on the affair, though privately she mourned that her husband had broken the covenant of the wampum. Hamilton blamed Monroe for leaking the scandal and challenged him to a duel. Maria sued James for divorce: her attorney was Aaron Burr.

            The Hamiltons found contentment in The Grange–whose architect also worked on New York’s City Hall–until their chorus delivered another tragic lyric. Their nineteen-year-old son Philip died in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. His pregnant mother honored his memory by giving her baby his sibling’s name. Her daughter, Angelica, suffered a breakdown requiring life-long care, and only communicated with her brother’s ghost. Three years later, Eliza lost her husband in the same place, in the same fashion, in a duel with Vice-President Aaron Burr. (The pistols are on display at the New York Historical Society). Hamilton’s farewell letter explained he had not told Eliza of his intention in advance, as that would “unman” him. Eliza never remarried and kept a lock of her husband’s hair. Her necklace was a bag that held two pages: a sonnet Hamilton had composed during their courtship and a hymn he left her on the fateful morning.

            While Hamilton participated in the duel to save his honor, his death left his family without means of support. Had it not been for the help of her family and friends, his widow would have lost the Grange. Her final years were spent in New York and Washington where she socialized with presidents Tyler, Polk, Pierce, and Fillmore. A chief executive with whom she never spoke was Monroe. The founding mother spent her long life resurrecting Hamilton’s reputation that included buying back reprints of “The Reynolds Pamphlet.” She instituted New York’s Orphan Asylum Society, currently known as Graham Windham. Eliza Schuyler Hamilton passed away at age ninety-seven.

             Hamilton Grange: The Grange was the embodiment of Hamilton’s American Dream. When his home was a twinkle in his eye, he teased his wife about a secret “sweet project,” and in a letter wrote, “You may guess and guess and guess again/Your guessing will be still in vain.” Ironically, the Founding Father only lived there for two years before his death. The house, like its owner, has had a dramatic past. Originally, the two-story structure occupied thirty-two acres that afforded views of both the Hudson and Harlem Rivers. The Grange has had two prior locations. A developer donated the residence to St. Luke’s Church that moved it 250 feet where it became a house of worship. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy authorized the Interior Department to assume ownership of the house on the condition it be transported to a suitable location. The house found its final address in 2008 in St. Nicholas Park.

            The foyer of the Grange holds a white marble bust of Hamilton when he was Treasury secretary, sculpted by the Italian Giuseppe Ceracchi who fashioned his image in the likeness of a Roman senator. (The sculpture is a replica).  A Grange guest recalled that the window  “always paused before it in her tour of the rooms, and leaning on her cane, gazed and gazed and remembered her husband as ‘My Hamilton.’” Gazing from the dining-room walls are the portraits of Eliza and Alexander. The room sports yellow walls and mirrored doors; the table is elegantly set, awaiting eminent visitors. A four-bottle, silver wine cooler was a gift from Washington to Eliza after her husband’s affair went public. The parlor holds Angelica’s Clemennti fortepiano, a present from her namesake aunt. A gold mantel clock bears the relief of an ancient god. Reproductions include Hamilton’s desk; the original resides at the Museum of the City of New York. Hamilton’s study sports green walls. The basement has an exhibition that explores Hamilton’s biography that includes an interactive video display in which questions are answered by an avatar using Hamilton’s own words. The garden has been reproduced according to Hamilton’s written instructions. In 1802, he wrote, “A garden, you know, is a very usual refuge of a disappointed politician.” The Grange explains the story of the man on the $10 bill.

            Lin-Manuel Miranda, by ending his musical with Eliza, makes the audience realize the play is also about the other Hamilton.

A View from Her Window

When Eliza gazed from her window, she saw the thirteen gum trees her husband had planted in a symbolic nod to the 13 colonies.

Nearby Attraction: Trinity Church

The graveyard holds the remains of Eliza and Alexander Hamilton. Her grave is a plain white marble slab at the foot of the far grander monument of her husband.