6. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Saved the Building from Destruction

Hamilton Grange

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton sold Hamilton Grange in 1833. As author Davida Siwisa James writes in her book Hamilton Heights and Sugar Hill: Alexander Hamilton’s Old Harlem Neighborhood Through the Centuries, the home changed hands multiple times. In 1845, the Ward family purchased the property, but lost it to foreclosure in the Panis of 1873. “In 1879 the bank sold the Grange to Anthony Mowbray, an architect and real estate speculator, who then sold the Hamilton property and house to his business associate William H. De Forest. Hamilton’s former lands thus came into the hands of a descendant of the original Dutch seventeenth-century colonist Isaac De Forest. Mowbray and De Forest would build some of the first landmark townhouses in the neighborhood,” James explains. She continues:

When St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was forced to leave its Greenwich Village location in 1888, they purchased land on the newly paved Convent Avenue. The street grid had reached Harlem by this time and the Grange was in danger of being demolished to make room for the newly paved sidewalks and streets. The current Grange owner, Amos Cotting, met with Reverend Isaac Tuttle of St. Luke’s and deeded the Grange to the church to be used as a temporary sanctuary while the church was being constructed. It was lifted and moved a short distance down to Convent Avenue, drawn by horses. When St Luke’s was completed in 1892, the Grange continued to be used for various church purposes until the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society purchased it for $50,000 in 1924. After a much-needed renovation, the Grange opened in 1933 as a museum for the first time. It was about this time that the
the neighborhood started being called Hamilton Heights.

The Grange was designated a national landmark in 1962. Though still a museum, it was closed at times due to deterioration. In 2008, it was moved once again to its current location – still on former Hamilton property – around the corner to St. Nicholas Park and reopened in 2011 after a $14 million renovation. The federal landmark is open to the public as a museum and managed by the National Park Service. Learn more about Hamilton Heights from Davida Siwisa James by watching the virtual book talk she hosted for our Untapped New York Insiders, now available to watch in our on-demand archive.