Alexander Hamilton Playground
One of the most eminent statesmen of the Colonial Days, Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) was also the most distinguished resident of the neighborhood that has become known as Harlem Heights. Born in the British West Indies, Hamilton moved to New York in 1772 for his formal education, attending King’s College (now Columbia University). While still a teenager, he volunteered for service in the Revolutionary War in a New York artillery company, where he rose to the rank of captain. From 1777-1781, Hamilton served as an aide-de-camp to General George Washington at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
After the war, Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler in 1780, connecting him to one of New York’s most powerful families. Hamilton was admitted to the bar in 1782 and began to practice law in New York. He also served as a delegate in the Continental Congress and served in the New York State Legislature, playing an important role in the ratification of the United States Constitution in New York. A supporter of strong federal government, when the new government was set up in New York City, Hamilton was appointed the first Secretary of the Treasury by President Washington in 1789, the position for which he is best-known. While holding this position, Hamilton laid out his legacy in fiscal policy, giving the new nation both a circulating medium and financial machinery. His concentration on business aided the growth and development of New York City as a financial center. He also provided public credit and developed plans for a congressional charter for the first Bank of the United States.
A lesser-known aspect of Hamilton’s influence on our developing nation was his innovative proposals to create the Revenue Marine, which is now the United States Coast Guard. He also played an important role in both the creation of the United States Navy and Naval Academy through the Naval Act of 1784. Hamilton retired from his cabinet position in 1795 but stayed active in public life. He resumed his law career and remained an important political advisor, starting the New York Evening Post in 1801 to present his opinions. In 1800, he began construction of his country home in Harlem. The estate, known as the Grange, is located on Convent Avenue and 141st Street in Harlem Heights and was completed shortly after his death in 1804, when Hamilton was fatally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr.
The property on Hamilton Place and West 140th Street to West 141st Street was originally acquired as part of the College of the City of New York in 1895. Under the jurisdiction of the City of New York, the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund assigned the property to NYC Parks on May 10, 1923 for playground purposes. The southern section of Harlem Heights where this property is located is popularly referred to as Hamilton Heights, located just outside the borders of the historic Hamilton Grange. The playground was named to reflect the history of the neighborhood and it was officially opened for public use in September 1924, featuring basketball and handball courts, a comfort station, and children’s play equipment.
In August 1995, the playground was redesigned with updated play equipment, safety surfacing, new flowerbeds, and a climbing sculpture in the shape of an elephant. In the summer of 2017, the organization CityArts installed Following in the Footsteps of Alexander Hamilton, an 80-foot-tall mural of a tree with inspirational words, on building overlooking the park.