Hi everyone! With the current popularity of Alexander Hamilton, the founding father who died from injuries he suffered during a duel with Aaron Burr, it’s not surprising that the historic site in Albany where he married and lived for a time would take advantage of that fact. By now, most of us have heard of the wildly popular, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway show named after him. Several months ago Schuyler Mansion began offering Hamilton-oriented tours that have far exceeded their expectations, drawing all kinds of visitors to the site. In fact, I had to book our tickets a few weeks in advance. My sweet husband, sister, and brother-in-law recently took the tour together and enjoyed every minute of it.
The house, built in the Georgian style by Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler in 1763, remained in the family until 1804. Strategic meetings of all kinds took place at the site, and famous visitors enjoyed its comforts, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and General Burgoyne (an English “prisoner-guest”). Built high on a bluff, it once commanded a stunning view of the Hudson. Alas, the city has grown up around it and obliterated that view. But the museum trustees have come up with a clever antidote that you’ll see below.
We arrived a bit before our 2 pm start time and so had the chance to walk the grounds and enjoy the pretty gardens. What was once a 80 acre farm is now a few acre site on the southern edge of the city.
Because of the extreme heat that day, we happily filed into the mansion with our fellow tour-takers. The brick exterior keeps the temperature inside quite pleasant.
In 1880, Alexander Hamilton (portrait) married Philip’s daughter Elizabeth in this first floor parlor. Our excellent tour guide took a few moments to remind us of Hamilton’s importance as a Founding Father, joint author of the Federalist Papers, Washington’s Treasury Secretary, and formulator of our nation’s financial system.
After they married, “Betsey” and Alexander visited Albany frequently for political, family, and work-related reasons, staying at the mansion when they did. In fact, at one point, they lived there for two years. [Note: This spacious parlor, with its fine furniture, is also where [former] President Filmore married his second wife (then owner of the mansion) in 1858.]
The dentil molding and mantel piece in this parlor are quite spectacular.
Also on the first floor you will find the dining room, dressed with period wall paper and some fine furniture.
We proceeded to the second floor via this graceful staircase with barley twist balusters.
The curators recently hung this 18th century style wallpaper, a replica of what originally hung in the house.
It’s quite beautiful.
This large second floor window would once have claimed the “best view in the house” overlooking the Hudson River. As I mentioned, that’s no longer the case. However, the museum had transparencies made to reflect the view that the Schuyler family would have enjoyed in the 18th century. Quite clever, I think.
General Schuyler’s four boys claimed this bedroom, which perhaps explains its simplicity. I’m sure some of Alexander’s eight children (six boys) piled into this room when they were in town visiting.
It is possible that on this desk, in one of the upstairs bedrooms, Hamilton penned one or more of his letters to Aaron Burr, with whom he fought the famous duel that led to his death in 1804. Their relationship was surely an odd one. At one point in time, they served as co-counsel for a murder suspect, but they were almost always at odds over politics.
After an Albany newspaper reported some of Hamilton’s derisive comments about [then Vice President] Burr, it was apparently the last straw for Burr. He decided he had had enough and challenged Hamilton to the [illegal] duel. Hamilton, who publicly opposed duels, and ironically lost a son to a duel three years prior, is said to have purposely “thrown” his shot.
Burr’s shot hit home and Hamilton died the next day at the age of 49. He left Betsey and his children almost destitute, but friends collected money for her support. She spent much of her life establishing and directing charities for widows and orphans, and collecting her husband’s papers and preserving his legacy. Her father died the following year and Schuyler Mansion left the family; the state of New York bought and opened it to the public in 1911.
Thanks so much for stopping by today to tour Schuyler Mansion with me.
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Some interesting articles:
Spotlight: Alexander Hamilton (Albany Institute of History & Art)
8 Places to Celebrate Alexander Hamilton in New York and Beyond
Bye for now,
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