You know all the lyrics to Hamilton: An American Musical, and now you can make them come to life in a whole new way.
Hamilton: An American Musical
The epic hip-hop musical by the famed Lin-Manuel Miranda needs no introduction. You’ve likely watched and rewatched (now thanks to Disney+), if not live in New York City, and you delight in reciting your favorite lyrics.
But have you taken yourself on a virtual journey back in time to walk the same streets Hamilton and his compatriots would have walked? Dined at the same establishments, and eaten the same sort of foods he would have eaten? This portrait (along Part 2: Uptown + Weehawken) helps you dive into the story and lyrics of Hamilton,
All Hamilton, All Day
You already have this on, correct? No? Don’t wait for it! Press play immediately.
The playlist begins (of course) with the Original Broadway Cast recording of the soundtrack which is nothing short of epic. You have likely listened so much that you’ve memorized all the words, so have you challenged yourself to sing karaoke-style over the instrumental version of the album? And have you graduated to the The Hamilton Mixtape album featuring a star-studded plethora of other artists leaving their mark on the famed soundtrack?
Also included here is the Billie Holiday version of “Yankee Doodle” which we were told about on our tour of Morris-Jumel. Our guide enlightened us that while most of us know it as a bit of a cooky children’s song, it was first sung by British troops as a way to insult the American Soldiers. The “stuck a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni.” does not refer directly to the pasta of the same name, but was instead a term akin to metrosexual or hipster; a term for a high-fashion English male fond of a top-heavy wig. Then of course the feather refers to taking on the traditions of the native Americans rather than the high-fashion of Italy. Billie Holidays version is a bit of a comical refutation on this story.
A Meal at Fraunces Tavern
Fraunces Tavern is the scene of several songs in Hamilton: An American Musical: Aaron Burr, Sir,” “My Shot,” “Story of Tonight,” “The Story of Tonight (Reprise),” and of course “Wait For It.” It is also believed that Hamilton and Burr Aaron Burr shared a meal together at the tavern just a week before their infamous duel.
It is great to sit in Fraunces Tavern and walk through the Fraunces Tavern Museum, imagining the Founding Fathers and wealthy merchants of the time enjoying themselves and planning the Sons of Liberty exploits (and cavorting as we are made to imagine à la “four sets of corsets“).
The building was originally built as a private residence and has been rebuilt and reimagined a few times as a result of fire. The details can be found on their site along with a great gallery of photos. It is perhaps most known for being the spot where on Evacuation Day (December 4, 1783, when the last of the British soldiers left for England), General George Washington thanked his loyal officers for their service before returning to their homes.
In the Long Room of the Fraunces Tavern Museum (see that section below for more details), you can read about what food Samuel Fraunces would have served in his tavern in the late 1700s. This is why I chose steak!
Downtown Hamilton Sites
Trinity Church Cemetery
Head to the Trinity Churchyard at Broadway and Wall Street to find the graves not only of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton (who outlived him more than 50 years, dying at 97), but also many other characters in the musical including Aaron Burr, Phillip Hamilton, Hercules Mulligan and Angelica Schuyler Church.
They have this handy self-guided tour when it reopens.
And as you gaze out over the headstones, you can ponder, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?“
Where Hamilton Died (Observed): 82 Jane Street
Hamilton died the day following his duel with Aaron Burr, July 12, 1804. Many sources claim he died at the home of his friend William Bayard (82 Jane Street in Manhattan), in a neighborhood now know as the West Village.
While there is a plaque at 82 Jane Street, a 1990 book “Greenwich Village and How It Got That Way.” by Terry Miller claims this not to be true, based on map data.
Still, we can use our imagination as we walk around the cobblestoned, old townhome-lined blocks seeking the spirit of Hamilton and what life was like in those days. It would the be setting for the Hamilton portion of “The World Was Wide Enough,” and we also associate “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” with this site. though Eliza would have sung her part back at home, and the others elsewhere, of course.
What we know today as Columbia University actually began in the vestry hall of Trinity Church, then moved to a campus near present day New York City Hall. You can visit beautiful City Hall Park and see New York City Hall from the outside. Fun fact: it is the oldest institution of higher education in New York, and the 5th oldest in the United States.
This spot comes into play in the musical in two places: first, when Hamilton references his scholarship to Kings College in “My Shot,” and second in “Blow us All Away” when Phillip had just graduated from the school, not long before his duel.
Referred to as “The Birthplace of the American Government,” Federal Hall initially held all three branches of the Federal government. It is the imagined scene of three songs in Hamilton, the most memorable of which is probably “Cabinet Battle #1,” but also includes “Non-stop” and “What’d I Miss?“
The Room Where it Happens
You say you want to be in “The Room Where it Happens?” Where THomas Jefferson hosted Hamilton, James Madison to find a compromise around Hamilton’s idea to have the federal government assume states’ debts? Then head to Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan.
This song refers to the room Thomas Jefferson was renting a place at 57 Maiden Lane, which no longer exists. Today, a much larger building stands there- 59 Maiden Lane – having usurped the area of 57 Maiden Lane. That said, there is a plaque commemorating 57 Maiden Lane for its place in history.
Fraunces Tavern Museum
The Fraunces Tavern Museum is a great way to step into history, both the timeframe in which Hamilton took place, and over time since it’s founding (and rebuilding/reinvention after fires). The Long Room was probably our favorite, but photos aren’t allowed there so you have to go see for yourself. We enjoyed imagining the characters of Hamiton sitting around the tables, talking, drinking, eating and playing games (they have a few displayed, like checkers and cards).
According to the placard in the Long room, Samuel Fraunces was known for his desserts, which likely included flavors of cinnamon or cardamom. These desserts included cakes, tarts, jellies, syllabubs and blaumage (links provided because I had not heard of them either!) The placard also mentioned sweetmeats, though I assume that was mis-categorized as a dessert? For savory items, the menu would have included beef steak, mutton or pork chops, veal cutlets, soups and fried or pickled oysters.
The main meal of the day would have been served around 1:30pm, and would have consisted of several courses. And apparently, to compete with other taverns in the area, Fraunces offered take out (thought it sounds more like delivery on the placard) which even included a dessert for those who “lived a convenient distance.”
We also enjoyed seeing the very many takes on portraits of Washington.
Check their site for details in planning your visit, particularly during pandemic times.
Known today as City Hall Park, this is setting for two songs in Hamilton. “A Farmer Refuted” memorializes Hamilton’s first major public speech, and “The Schuyler Sisters” where Angelica, Eliza and Peggy Schuyler meet Burr, while looking to be part of the revolution, and husbands.
The Hamilton-Holly House can be found at 4 St Marks Streeet townhouse where taking the proceeds from her sale of their uptown Estate The Grange, Eliza purchased the townhouse at 4 St Marks, where she lived with her two grown and married children, for 9 years before moving to Washington, DC.
DIY Encore: Ham-Jam
Your musical encore! Borrowing the name for our family jam sessions that we call, Fam-Jam, try your hands/voices at a “Ham-Jam!”
Someday I’ll add more here but in the meantime, we have had great luck with what people have posted on Ultimate Guitar (pro tip: the best way to pull up all the songs is just to search “Hamilton”). We recommend you start with “Wait for it,” “Helpless” and “You’ll Be Back.”
Note: The book Where Was The Room Where It Happened?is a great pocket companion for this! Somehow we only came across it after compiling these outings and composing the posts ourselves, but by the time I went back to Fraunces a second time for better photos I took it along and was not only great reading material for my solo lunch, it provided great additional detail and context. It also has it’s own tours ready for you!