In Search of Alexander Hamilton: Trinity Church

Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler Hamilton are interred in Trinity Church cemetery in lower Manhattan

In Search of Alexander Hamilton: Trinity Church

When we walked into Trinity Church Wall Street and asked the greeter at the door, "Where do  we find Alexander Hamilton's grave?", he immediately replied, "You know we have Angelica as well!"

Welcome to Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" tour of lower Manhattan. Little did anyone know that a Broadway play would bring so many tourists to a graveyard in the heart of Manhattan's tallest and densest real estate. Surrounded on all sides by skyscrapers and underneath One World Trade Center, it really is one of the last places you would expect to find a cemetery.

The first Trinity Church was built on the site in 1698 after receiving a charter the year prior from King William III of England. The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1776. The second church, which stood when Hamilton was interred, was torn down in 1839 after snowstorms severely damaged it. The third, and current church, was completed in 1846.

Alexander's pyramid shaped monument is one of the grandest tombstones in the cemetery with words still legible on its base stating:

The Patriot of incorruptible integrity.
The soldier of approved valour.
The statesman of consummate wisdom.
Whose talents and virtues will be admired
Long after this marble shall have mouldered into dust.

 

The tribute to our first Treasury Secretary and Founding Father in Trinity Church cemetery

 

The words are definitely not in Lin-Manuel Miranda's cadence. The first verse of Miranda's homage to the Founding Father is quite different:

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a
Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a
Forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence
Impoverished, in squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

                   "Alexander Hamilton" on "Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)"

Hamilton and his wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, are buried side-by-side on the south side of the church. Eliza outlived her husband by fifty years, and in death, is still overshadowed by Alexander. We never would have realized her greatness without a Broadway play. In Hamilton's final song, Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story, we learn about Eliza and what she did over those ensuing years....

"I interview every soldier who fought by your side. I try to make sense of your thousands of pages of writings. I raise funds in D.C. for the Washington Monument. I speak out against slavery."

And in the greatest homage to her husband's beginnings, she states her greatest accomplishment.

"Oh. Can I show you what I’m proudest of? I established the first private orphanage in New York City. I help to raise hundreds of children. I get to see them growing up. In their eyes I see you, Alexander."

If it had not been for Hamilton on Broadway, Hamilton would have stayed as the mysterious founder of the New York Post and that guy who got into a duel with Aaron Burr and died. His story, along with Eliza, has captivated our imagination. And Trinity Church serves as a great start to rediscovering this portion of American history.

As we headed away from Hamilton's another grave caught our eye, Hercules Mulligan.

For those of us who have yet to see the play in person but listen to the sound track on an almost constant basis, Mulligan is one of the greatest supporting characters in a true historical drama. And seeing him just feet away from Alexander for eternity, links them together even more.

We already knew that Angelica Schuyler was buried here as well. Eliza told us so with the words, "She is buried in Trinity Church.....Near you."

Angelica Schuyler Church, Eliza's older sister, has a very modest gravesite separated from her sister, Eliza, and brother-in-law by the church building, in the north side of the cemetery. If not for the historical marker, we would have passed right by it.

Does anyone know where Burr is buried? Lin-Manuel didn't tell us that. I googled it. The next time I'm in Princeton I will have to look for it.....

Hercules Mulligan, the original Tailor Spy, interred in Trinity Church Wall Street cemetery. ©Mark D Phillips
Hercules Mulligan, the original Tailor Spy, interred in Trinity Church Wall Street cemetery. ©Mark D Phillips