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11.14.2007
New Home for the Grange
Hamilton's house to find greener surroundings
Courtesy National Parks Service

Over a century after discussions to move Alexander Hamilton’s 1802 country house to a more pastoral location began, Hamilton Grange will be relocated from its current site at Convent Avenue and 141st Street to nearby St. Nicholas Park this spring. 

This is not the first time the Grange will be moved. Designed by John McComb Jr., one of the architects of the Manhattan Municipal Building, the Grange was built on Hamilton’s sixteen-acre farm, approximately three blocks north of its current location. In 1889, the house was threatened by real estate development and was “temporarily” moved to its current site. 
 
For nearly thirty years St. Luke’s used the building as a rectory and parish house. In 1924, the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society purchased the house and turned it into a public museum. The National Parks Service (NPS) acquired the house in 1962 and has since pushed for its relocation. Now with $8.4 million in funding allocated for its restoration, the Grange will be moved to a more wooded setting still within the original Hamilton tract. 
 
“The move of the Grange is long overdue. It deserves a more dignified placement than its current site,” said Manhattan borough historian Michael Miscione. The building is currently sandwiched between St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and a six-story apartment house. 
 
In order to maintain the integrity of the house, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which is working with John G. Waite Associates on the restoration project, has recommended that the Grange be moved in one piece up and over the church, which hems the building in on the south side. To do this, the building must be raised approximately 35 feet, a job made difficult by the fact that the church is in an urban environment where the constraints of the city streets prevent the use of a crane, said Stephen Spaulding of the NPS. The contract for the move has been awarded, but specific details have yet to be finalized. 
 
Once moved, the Grange will be “restored to the original design to the extent possible,” said Nazila Shabestari, an architect at SOM. The original facade, now inaccessible because of its placement against the north wall of St. Luke’s, will again function as the main entrance. The back and front portico, front hall entryway, and missing historic staircase from the basement to the 2nd floor will also be reconstructed. 
 
The move is supported by local neighborhood groups, including the Friends of St. Nicholas Park. William Mullin, a spokesperson for the group, said, “We feel it will add an important historic monument to an already revitalized park.” He noted, though, that the group is “saddened by the amount of trees that will have to be taken down to make room for the house.” 
 
Liz McEnaney