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Retracing Alexander Hamilton's Historic Steps Through NYC

No show in recent memory has taken Broadway by storm with quite the speed or spirit of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda's game-changing hip-hop musical about the life and death of the titular Founding Father. (The official cast recording is out today.) Alexander Hamilton's story is a classically American one; an immigrant kid who rose from nothing to become one of the most influential figures in Western history, his life reads like the American Dream before America even existed.

It's also a quintessentially New York story: Hamilton forged his life and fortune in a Manhattan that, even in those early days of the nation's history, was the place to be for an ambitious scrapper on the rise. "In New York, you can be a new man," the company sings in Hamilton's opening number. And many of Hamilton's former stomping grounds are places you can still visit today. Here's a brief rundown of the first Secretary of the Treasury's life in and around Gotham, from his arrival to his untimely death at the business end of a dueling pistol.

Hamilton Hall, Columbia University
Following a rough childhood—he was born out of wedlock in the Caribbean and later orphaned—a young Hamilton arrived in the colonies in 1772. He came to New York to study at King's College, an institution that would later be known as Columbia University. It was here that Hamilton became involved in the burgeoning revolutionary cause and made his first public speeches. Today's campus doesn't bear much of a resemblance to the 18th-century model (much of the original was destroyed in the Revolutionary War), but you can visit Hamilton Hall, a 1907 structure designed by McKim, Mead & White, with a statue of the famous student standing outside the front entrance.

Hamilton Grange
Hamilton only had two years to live in this Harlem estate before he died, but it remains his most enduring physical legacy in the city. Erected in 1802 by early American architect John McComb Jr., the Federalist-style house originally sat on 32 acres of land. The edifice has been moved twice over the years as the city grew up around it, first a few blocks away in the late 19th century, and then to St. Nicholas Park in 2008. The Grange is now owned by the National Parks Service, and features re-creations of the interior rooms and an interactive exhibit.

Museum of American Finance
Perhaps no other person has had so much influence on the American economic system as Hamilton. Not only was the guy the very first Secretary of the Treasury, he also was instrumental in establishing the United States Mint. His contributions are honored with a dedicated room at the Museum of American Finance, in the very same building that once housed the Hamilton-established Bank of New York. The space includes documents bearing Hamilton's John Hancock (no pun intended) and customized currency.

Exchange Place between Broadway and Hanover Street
After serving as George Washington's right-hand man on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War and then as a representative in the Congress of Confederation, Hamilton returned to the city in 1783. He reinvented himself as a prominent attorney, establishing a law office located at 12 Garden Street downtown. Garden Street is long gone, but it's now Exchange Place in the center of the Financial District.

Fraunces Tavern Museum
The storied Fraunces Tavern holds a prominent place in Revolutionary-era history for a variety of reasons: It was where the Sons of Liberty gathered to hash out their plans, where Washington said a fond farewell to his officers and where several branches of the fledgling Federal government had their offices before relocating to Philadelphia and, eventually, Washington, D.C. It's also where Hamilton and his nemisis, Vice President Aaron Burr, shared a civil but tense supper on July 4, 1804—only a week before the two would fight their infamous duel.

Weehawken Dueling Grounds
Just across the Hudson River from midtown Manhattan laid the Weehawken Dueling Grounds, a notorious spot where opponents settled their differences at gunpoint. Hamilton and Burr's duel here in 1804 sprang from decades of animosity between the two, brought to the boiling point when Hamilton publicly slandered Burr doing his bid for the governorship of New York. The two weren't the first to duke it out here (Hamilton's own son, Philip, had been killed in a duel on the site three years earlier), but they were certainly the most famous. Burr's bullet hit Hamilton in the side, mortally wounding him. The original site has been covered by train tracks, but there's an odd monument you can visit nearby: a plaque detailing the history of the grounds, a bust of Hamilton and a boulder upon which the Founding Father supposedly collapsed.

William Bayard House, 82 Jane Street
Partially paralyzed but still alive, a dying Hamilton was brought back across the Hudson to the house of his friend William Bayard, a banker residing in what is now the West Village. Hamilton perished from his injuries a day after the duel on July 12, 1804. A plaque at 82 Jane Street, posted in 1936, marks the site of Bayard's house where Hamilton passed his final hours. But here's the weird thing: The plaque is in the wrong place. The edifice really would have stood a block north on Horatio Street. So much for historical accuracy.

Trinity Church Cemetery
It should come as no surprise that one of the most elaborate grave markers in Manhattan belongs to Hamilton, who in his brief 47 years had a monumental impact on the newborn nation. He was laid to rest at Trinity Church Cemetery under a towering tombstone, with an inscription honoring him as "the PATRIOT of incorruptible INTEGRITY."



—Jenna Scherer is a writer, editor and culture critic whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, Mental Floss, Condé Nast Traveler, The Boston Herald and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn.