Alexander Hamilton’s Garden State Legacy

As "Hamilton" explodes on Broadway, we explore some of the famous spots where the founding father once tread.

Alexander Hamilton is at home on Broadway, but the man who authored the Federalist Papers and established the US Treasury lived first – and last – in the Garden State.  While Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical Hamilton is reviving interest in the “ten-dollar Founding Father,” the Garden State has long been loyal to his memory: four communities, dozens of schools, and at least 100 streets are named for Hamilton.

Hamilton traveled New Jersey widely, from his arrival in the colonies, through Revolutionary battlegrounds, to his fatal duel with Aaron Burr. While wintering in Morristown in 1777, Martha Washington named a favorite tomcat after Hamilton.  These 13 Alexander Hamilton sites suggest a man who was, like his namesake, always on the prowl.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Wally Gobetz

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Wally Gobetz

The Academy at Elizabethtown, Elizabeth
When 15-year-old Alexander Hamilton arrived from the Caribbean to make his way in the colonies, he attended the Academy at Elizabethtown – as Elizabeth was then known –  in the winter of 1772 and the spring of 1773.   School alumni included Aaron Burr, future Vice President, who later shot Hamilton fatally in a Weehawken duel. Francis Barber, school headmaster, later served under Alexander Hamilton during the Battle of Yorktown.

Liberty Hall Museum in Union. Photo courtesy of Liberty Hall Museum.

Liberty Hall Museum in Union. Photo courtesy of Liberty Hall Museum.

Liberty Hall, Union
While attending Elizabethtown Academy, Hamilton lodged with William Livingston’s family at Liberty Hall.  Livingston, a lawyer, later became a member of the First and Second Continental Congress, a founding father, a signatory of the Constitution, and the first Governor of the State of New Jersey. Now in Union, the property was then part of Elizabethtown. Liberty Hall is a museum on the campus of Kean University.

"Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutze.

“Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze.

Crossing the Delaware, Trenton
As captain of the New York Provincial Artillery Company, Hamilton retreated with George Washington’s troops from New York through New Jersey into Pennsylvania in the autumn of 1776. On Christmas night Hamilton crossed the Delaware back into New Jersey to participate in Washington’s successful attack on the Hessians at Trenton (December 26, 1776). Two future Presidents of the United States, James Madison and James Monroe, crossed the river that night, along with John Marshall, a future Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and Aaron Burr.  Hamilton’s troops exchanged  cannon fire with the enemy, bringing about the Hessian troops’ surrender.

Nassau Hall, Princeton University in 1903. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Nassau Hall, Princeton University in 1903. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Nassau Hall, Princeton
When he arrived in the colonies, Hamilton hoped to attend Princeton University, then called The College of New Jersey.  Founded and led by Aaron Burr, Sr., father of Aaron Burr, the college declined to admit Hamilton.  (He went to Columbia instead.) When Washington’s army — including Hamilton’s artillery — surprised British forces at Princeton (January 3, 1777),  legend says Hamilton deliberately fired a cannonball into the college’s main building, Nassau Hall.

Photo courtesy of Pilsener Haus.

Photo courtesy of Pilsener Haus.

Arnold Tavern, Morristown
George Washington headquartered at Arnold Tavern in 1777.  During the winter months of the American Revolution, little fighting took place. Instead, both sides strategized.  When, on March 1, 1777, Washington announced, “Alexander Hamilton Esquire is appointed Aide-De-Camp to the Commander in Chief; and is to be respected and obeyed as such,” Hamilton moved into the tavern.  Hamilton and Washington occupied the second floor of the tavern until they left in May to begin the spring campaign.

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  1. Bergen County Historical Socie

    You missed including the Steuben House at Historic New Bridge Landing in River Edge. Hamilton wrote a letter in 1780 from New Bridge during the Steenrapie Encampment. The emotional letter (NY Public Library digital collections), transcription and context is on the Bergen County Historical Society’s website.