Alexander Hamilton Playground
This playground, bounded by Hamilton Place, West 140th Street, and West 141st Street, takes its name from Hamilton Place, which is named for the most distinguished resident of Harlem Heights, Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804). Born on the island of Nevis in the British West Indies in 1755, Hamilton moved to New York City in 1772 and attended King’s College (now Columbia University). With the outbreak of war in 1776, Hamilton volunteered for service in a New York artillery company. A year later, he came to the attention of General George Washington (1732-1799), who later made Hamilton his aide and secretary.
In 1780, Hamilton cemented his rising position by marrying Elizabeth Schuyler (1757-1854), a member of one of New York’s most prominent families. Two years later, he was admitted to the New York State Bar, and was selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In 1787, he attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and helped develop our current federal constitution. Although he remained critical of the final document, he nevertheless argued vigorously for the Constitution’s ratification in a series of articles co-authored with James Madison (1751-1836) and John Jay (1745-1829), known today as The Federalist Papers (1787-1788). In 1789, President George Washington appointed Hamilton the first Secretary of the Treasury.
In 1795, after developing many of nation’s financial institutions and fiscal practices, Hamilton retired from national government. He settled in New York City, where he continued to remain active in public life. He resumed his law practice, and became an important political advisor to state and national politicians. In 1801, he helped to found the New York Evening Post, known today as the New York Post, as a platform for expressing his views. He soon, however, came into conflict with Aaron Burr (1756-1836), another New York lawyer and politician. After Hamilton supported Jefferson for the presidency over Burr in 1800, and then supposedly slandered Burr, Burr challenged Hamilton to duel. Although Hamilton had lost his eldest son Philip (1782-1801) in a duel in 1801, he nevertheless accepted the challenge. At Weehawken, New Jersey, on July 11, 1804, Hamilton was fatally shot by Burr. He is buried at Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan.
In 1895, the College of the City of New York first acquired this parkland for use as part of their campus. Under the jurisdiction of the City of New York, the property was assigned to Parks in 1923 for use as a playground. The southern section of Harlem Heights where this property is located is popularly referred to as Hamilton Heights for its proximity to Hamilton’s country estate, known as the Grange. Designed by the same man who designed City Hall, John McComb, Jr. (1762-1853), the Grange today is located at 287 Convent Avenue between West 141st Street and West 142nd Streets. Named in recognition of the neighborhood’s history, the playground officially opened for public use as Hamilton Place Playground in 1924. It features included basketball and handball courts, a comfort station, and children’s play equipment. In 2000, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern shortened the name of the park to Hamilton Playground.
In August 1995, the playground was redesigned through a $600,000 capital project funded by Council Member Stanley E. Michaels and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as a part of the Neighborhood Parks Improvement Program. The renovation included updating the play equipment, installing safety surfacing, and planting new flowerbeds. Also as part of the project, elephant animal art was chosen for the playground. Together with Parks, the West Harlem Art Fund (WHAF), the Hamilton Place Block Association and local volunteers, including Isabelle Montell, the Founder and Chair of the Park Committee of Hamilton Place, have helped to maintain this playground as a place for rest, relaxation, and recreation.