Alexander Hamilton’s Life at Schuyler Mansion

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.

Schuyler Mansion photo: Matt H. Wade wikipedia

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.

schuyler-manion-gardens-630x1024We 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.

doorway-inside-schuyler-mansion-678x1024Because 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.

the-parlor-with-portrait-of-hamilton2In 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.

grandfather-clock-in-parlorAfter 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-parlor-at-schuyler-mansion-758x1024The dentil molding and mantel piece in this parlor are quite spectacular.

dining-roomAlso on the first floor you will find the dining room, dressed with period wall paper and some fine furniture.

hand-railing-in-schuyler-mansion-albany-new-york-683x1024We proceeded to the second floor via this graceful staircase with barley twist balusters.

staircase-down-to-first-floor727x1024The curators recently hung this 18th century style wallpaper, a replica of what originally hung in the house.

wallpaper-in-schuyler-mansion-albany-ny-1024x659It’s quite beautiful.

hudson-river-view-painted-on-windows-1024x683This 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.

bedroom1024x683General 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.

desk-at-schuyler-mansionIt 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.

writing-table-at-schuyler-mansion-1024x654After 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.

bedroom-at-schuyler-mansion-1024x683Burr’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.
If you enjoyed  your visit, I hope you follow me by email.
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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

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  1. What a beautiful mansion and piece of history. Just loved your post. Was sorry when it ended! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Diana thank you for this tour. Loved it. The house is gorgeous and the history oh my. I love to tour homes with that kind of history. If those walls could talk!!! Thanks sharing this. You are a great tour guide I felt like I was right there with you. Have a super week end.

  3. Very interesting tour! That woodwork where the mantel was…oh spectacular! There must be lots of history in NY State. Of course, there is in Alabama too…not all bad either.

    1. Thanks Florence–yes, we’re a pretty old state. Henry Hudson “discovered” the Hudson in 1609 while sailing for the Dutch, before the Mayflower landed on Plymouth Rock. We have a very long Dutch history that’s fascinating. The Schuyler’s were an old Dutch family. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. I love to tour historical homes and this one is lovely and I would love to see it in person. Thank you for taking me along.

  5. My book club read “Hamilton” by Ron Chernow last spring. Quite a tome. Now I know what his wife’s home looked like.

    1. I love it when life “overlaps” like that–you learn a bit here and then over there another piece of the puzzle is added. I’ve been reading a lot about Chernow’s book; guess it’s time to read it 🙂

  6. Thank you for the lovely tour. I grew up back there (San Diego now) and spent a huge part of my childhood hanging out there and in the “real” museum. Today I am 70 and I still call the Cohoes Mastadon my friend. Early American history runs in my veins as richly as blood and sites like the Schuyler Mansion, the Stockade area of Schenectady, Fort Crailo in Rensselaer and dozens of places in the Schoharie Valley are rich in memories for me. Have you ever toured through Rensselaerville? It’s a little town that time forgot. I think you would love it!

    1. So wonderful to meet a fellow Albanian, Kathy! I’ve written posts on all of the places you’ve mentioned(!) except for Rensselaerville. I went once years ago, but haven’t been since I started blogging. I’ve added it to my list 🙂

  7. I love that they put transparencies in the windows to make it look more in tune with the period. Not everyone thinks of that. And, the mural on the stairs was gorgeous! Thank you for the tour.

  8. What a wonderful walk through time and in the footsteps of one of our more controversial forefathers. The scenic backdrop is a great way to disguise a view. I can imagine the fresh air streaming through those windows along with the beautiful view. I have viewed this house marked on old Albany maps, and I really hope to visit soon as the beginning of my second historical novel begins in Albany. Have pinned almost every photo as your eye sees the room as an historian as well as woman, who would have loved to have lived there. Thank-you again, Sandi

    1. I hadn’t realized you were an author, Sandi!! You must tell us the name of your book. So fascinating that the next one starts in little old Albany, of all places. You must let me know if you are ever in town and perhaps we could have a coffee. So glad my photos might be of some inspiration to you 🙂

  9. I LOVE these posts of yours. They are my absolute favorites posts. Beautiful pictures as well. You definitely have an eye with a good camera shot. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. I’m SO glad you enjoy them Amanda. For a while I thought I might stop them since they aren’t technically “vintage,” but of course they are in so many ways, including the design and contents of the homes. You are very kind about by photos–thank you 🙂

  10. I love it Diana. I would love to be able to tour it some day! Hubby and I both are big fans of history. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

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