Guide to General Grant and Hamilton Grange National Memorials

Guide to General Grant and Hamilton Grange National Memorials

Unable to get tickets to the Broadway musical sensation Hamilton? Instead you can visit his home, the Grange, located in Harlem.

My trip to Manhattan took me on a journey to Morningside Heights and Harlem where I toured the sites of two American icons — President Ulysses S. Grant and Alexander Hamilton.

After a whirlwind of a day visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and the Ground Zero Memorial, my mom, sister and I spent a more leisurely paced day in Morningside Heights and Harlem, in Upper Manhattan. We toured the final resting place of the 18th U.S. President, Ulysses Grant, and the home of Alexander Hamilton. Both sites are maintained by the U.S. National Park Service.

Morningside Heights

Hugging the banks of the Hudson River to the northwest of Central Park, lies the Morningside Heights neighborhood.

Our tour of the neighborhood began with a walk around the neighborhood and park in the heart of the neighborhood.

St. John’s the Divine Cathedral

Near the park we found St. John’s the Divine Cathedral. The Episcopal church is the fifth largest church in the world (in terms of area) and a delightful example of Gothic Revival architecture.

Upper Manhattan - St. John's the Divine Cathedral
A look at St. John’s the Divine Cathedral, including the heavy bronze entrance doors

I especially enjoyed the courtyard to the right of the cathedral entrance. In the courtyard we found the Peace Fountain, a sculpture celebrating the victory of good over evil. The 40-foot tall bronze sculpture in topped with the archangel Michael embracing a giraffe after his defeat of Satan.

Upper Manhattan - Peace Fountain
The Peace Fountain at St. John’s the Divine

General Grant National Memorial

On the bank of the Hudson River, General Grant National Memorial is a marble mausoleum holding the remains of President Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia.

Upper Manhattan General Grant Tomb
The Mausoleum of Ulysses Grant. the 18th President of the U.S.

The General Grant National Memorial not only holds the remains of the President and Union General, but also tells his storied career, from the battles in which he fought, to his Army uniform and other memorabilia.

Of course, walking around the rotunda of the mausoleum is a somber and awe-inspiring experience. One is left with the distinct impression that Grant was a man worthy of great respect and honor. While this impression can be debated, it is clear that those who built the dome wanted to pay homage and respect to this American icon.

Upper Manhattan Grant's Tomb
The tombs of Ulysses and Julia Grant at General Grant National Memorial

Walking around the rotunda, you hear every foot step that falls and whispering voice. The alabaster marble accentuates every fleck of light cascading from the windows and glass of the dome. Golden hues pervade the building, where yellow glass decorates the building and creates a solemn ambiance.

Light filters in from the dome of the General Grant rotunda

As you walk around, you see artwork of an austere general, highlighting his successful military campaigns during the U.S. Civil War. The white sculptures gracing the walls gently whisper that you are in the presence of greatness. Few military leaders, we are reminded by the extravagance of artwork and hushed footfalls, are deserving of such a place for a final rest.

Upper Manhattan Grants Tomb
Artwork depicting General Grant’s life and flags overlook the tombs.

The flags representing the United States stand at attention, overlooking the tomb of the General.

Upper Manhattan General Grant Flags
Flags in the mausoleum at General Grant National Memorial

Across the street and down a grassy embankment, you find a visitor’s center for the National Memorial. It is tucked away in the riverside embankment and is quiet pedestrian compared to the extravagant marble edifice lying a couple hundred feet away.

Upper Manhattan General Grant Uniform
Army Uniform worn by Ulysses Grant

In the visitor’s center, we got a less heralded, more accurate representation of the life and legacy of Grant. While the mausoleum leaves you with the impression that you are in the presence of divinity, the center shows a humbler, more nitty-gritty reality with artifacts from the General’s early life and home. It was fun to see this contrast and have the opportunity to consider how we can raise fallible men and women on a pedestal that is impossible to uphold.

Upper Manhattan General Grant artifacts
Memorabilia and artifacts from Grant’s life displayed at the visitors center

As with most National Park sites, kids can complete a Junior Ranger book and earn a Junior Ranger badge. Since my kids were not with me on this trip, I collected the books for them to complete at home. I also stamped our National Parks Passport at the memorial.

Heading Into Harlem

After our visit to General Grant National Memorial we took a bus ride a few blocks over to Harlem.

City College

On our way to Hamilton’s Grange, we walked around City College, the first free public institution for higher learning in the United States. The college was founded in 1847, and has 10 Nobel Prize alumni.

Upper Manhattan City College
The buildings of City College reminded us of something out of a fairy tale.

What we loved about City College, however, was walking through the campus, admiring the buildings that look like something from the board game Candyland.

Upper Manhattan City College
One of the buildings of City College

The architecture is stunning. the college is a stark contrast with the more non-descript low rise buildings of the neighboring Harlem neighborhood.

Upper Manhattan City College
I think we could have taken pictures all day of City College

Hamilton Grange National Memorial

in the shadows of City College lies the home of Alexander Hamilton. The American Founding Father is amazingly popular given the success of the Broadway musical about his life. We did look at getting Hamilton tickets, but they were out of our price range. We tried our hand at the daily lottery to win $10 day of tickets, to no avail.

A visit to the man’s New York home seemed an appropriate alternative to the musical.

Upper Manhattan Hamilton Grange
Hamilton’s home is maintained by the U.S. National Park Service

The Hamilton Grange National Memorial lies on property owned by Hamilton, but the home has been moved a couple of times to its current location. In fact, we got to watch a video about the last move 10 years ago, which was highly entertaining. The entire structure was hoisted 30 feet in the air, over nearby buildings, and moved to its present position.

Although Hamilton spent many years in New York City, he lived in the Grange only two years before his duel with Aaron Burr. The duel killed Hamilton, leaving his widow and children behind.

Upper Manhattan Grange
The home lies of some of the land that was part of the Hamilton’s property.

It is amazing to me how tranquil the grounds are, even though you are in the middle of a booming metropolis. I was able to sit outside the home before our tour of the premises, and heard nary a sound. While relaxing in the yard, I saw birds and squirrels.

Upper Manhattan Hamilton Grange
A bird flies through my shot of the yard at Hamilton Grange

Inside the Grange, we found a confined seating area where we could watch a video about the life of the first U.S. Treasury Secretary, born illegitimately on the Caribbean island of Nevis. The lower lever of the home also has displays revealing Hamilton’s time as a soldier, as a writer of the Constitution, and other events. There was not a lot of space on this level to roam around, and there was a large number of visitors.

Upper Manhattan Grange Interior
Among the artifacts original to the home are some of these chairs.

We also took a tour of the second floor of the residence. The crowded tour made it difficult to maneuver through the stairways and the rooms. However, it was a great opportunity to see the rooms which includes pieces original to the home.

Upper Manhattan Grange FIreplace
A fireplace at the Grange

As with most wealthy Americans, the Hamiltons decorated the home in opulent extravagance in order to show off their wealth. Romanesque busts, pigmented paint, Grecian columns, drapery, silver, and fireplaces all illustrated the family’s privilege.

Upper Manhattan Dining Room
The dining room at the Grange

I recommend signing up for the tour of the home. Without taking the tour, you can visit the lower floor of the Grange, but you don’t get a good sense of the lifestyle or the home’s residents. And the tour is free, so why not take time to learn about Colonial U.S. History and more about one of the American icons that shaped the country into what it is today. It is a great opportunity for kids to learn Colonial history and see an actual home from that era.

The Grange tells the story of an immigrant who succeeded in a young America. It is fitting that the home is in New York City, home of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The city represents a true melting pot, a place where immigrants from all nations come together for an opportunity to be successful and start fresh. Hamilton proved that this is possible.

Have you been to General Grant National Memorial or Hamilton Grange? Tell us what you think. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

You Might Also Enjoy:

What to do on a tour of New York’s Ground Zero.

A guide to visiting The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Upper Manhattan Pin


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26 thoughts on “Guide to General Grant and Hamilton Grange National Memorials”

  • Oh my goodness! I would love to see Hamilton’s Grange home. (Although, I would love to see Hamilton the Musical as well!! #BucketList ) I’ve read so much about Hamilton’s life and his various homes throughout New York… it would be fascinating to see the Grange in person. Loved all of your pictures!

    • Thank you. And if you do get to visit the Grange, do take the Ranger tour upstairs to see some of the rooms of the home.

  • Wow great photos! I love the architecture of the college and think it is amazing that it has produced 10 Nobel prize winners! As a brit, I had never heard of Hamilton before so thank you for educating me!

  • Love this post and didnt know much about the history. Also its amazing to see the USA to have some pretty and old buildings. Love the looks of the cathedral.

  • I think this is your best post yet. I love the photography and the pacing of your story. It reminds me of the story – who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb. This looks like a fascinating slice of Americana.

  • I was not knowing that Harlem has interesting and worth visiting places. I missed them during my New York trip. I loved the grand building of City College.

    • I did not have time this trip, but I would love to go back to Harlem and explore some of the locales that established the Harlem Renaissance.

  • Born and raised New Yorker and still haven’t been to Hamilton’s house yet – great tip! City College is a beautiful campus and always loved Grant’s Tomb. Glad you branched out to explore Morningside and Harlem on your visit!

  • I actually saw Hamilton on my last trip to NYC in February and LOVED it. I also went by his grave which I didn’t know was in NYC (until researching for my trip). I would love to tour his house! I would also love to see St John’s The Divine Cathedral. I love gothic architecture and it reminds me of Notre Dame! I also wasn’t aware that this is where the final resting places of Ulysses S Grant and his wife were. The rotunda is beautiful! City College does look like something out of a fairytale! I thoroughly enjoyed this article!

  • Since I’m not a musical fan at all, I didn’t even know there was a Hamilton musical. Actually, I find your alternative much better and more interesting. I used to stay in Harlem the last time I was in NY and I think it was even close to Morningside Heights. There were all these beautiful row houses – you really felt how posh it must have been long ago.

  • Seeing Hamilton (the musical) is on our list next time we visit NYC … we do love Broadway. 😉 But double-dipping and visiting the Hamilton Grange National Memorial would be the perfect tandem in my opinion. Read so much about Hamilton growing up. And also on our list, thanks to your post, will be a visit to City College. What a magnificent building!!!

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