One great thing about attending the public school system in NYC as I grew up was all the museum trips I took. The Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium were annual stops. Yet none of my school trips had taken me to Hamilton Grange even though it was designated a national historic landmark in 1960 and put on the national register of historic places in 1966. I didn’t discover the Grange until I did an internship year in seminary in 1982.
Coming from a seminarians’ meeting at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, I decided to visit my aunt who lived on 141st Street and Eighth Avenue. Instead of going down 145th, I walked along Convent to 141st. A sad-looking house caught my eye. It sat behind a locked black gate nestled between an apartment building and an imposing church. On my right was a statue of Alexander Hamilton. I later learned the house had been where he lived from 1802 until his death in 1804.
All I knew about Hamilton—he was on the ten-dollar bill, had founded the New York Post, and was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr. Decades later, thanks to Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, I’d learn the sad circumstances of the song, “It’s Quiet Uptown.” That day, however, only the house and not its owner’s history intrigued me. It looked so out of place with the Harlem I knew: cracked concrete sidewalks, bus exhaust, fish frying from a small hole-in-the-wall shop on St. Nicholas Avenue, my aunt’s Drew-Hamilton housing projects down the hill. Yet the Grange was part of the original Harlem Heights, the suburb to which the New York swells retreated from the hustle and bustle of lower Manhattan. Why had the school system never taken me there?
Fast forward to 2012. I now worked with St. James Presbyterian Church two blocks down the hill from the Grange. On my strolls along Convent, I stopped and peered through those gates. No longer troubled by the holes in my public school education, I enlisted my history-inspired romance-loving writer’s muse. I drafted an erotic ghostly encounter with Hamilton entitled Permission. Was I channeling the ghost of Maria Reynolds three years before Lin Manuel Miranda penned “Show Me How To Say No To This”?
When the Grange was relocated to St. Nicholas Park, I snapped a picture of the vacant site. In my writer’s eye, I continued to see the house fading in and out Brigadoon-like in that location and penned an equally erotic ghost story entitled “10,000 Midnights Ago”. In 2018 I got to visit the Grange, read the placards the National Parks Department created, snapped pictures, took notes, fed my muse and revived my ghost stories. Both will now have a home in my Haunted Harlem series of novellas.
Uptown was never quiet for me, but for Alexander Hamilton, it was. In the quiet of those rooms, I heard for the first time how quiet uptown could be.
All the women in Anora Madison’s family have lived as “Poor Butterflies:” women still longing for – but deserted by – the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, she fled Harlem for Brooklyn, severing ties with both her mother and with the man who broke her heart, Winston Emerson, the father of her child.
Six years later, Anora returns to make peace, but a malignant spirit manifests itself during the homecoming, targeting her mother, her aunt, Winston and their little girl. Determined to stop the evil now trying to destroy all she loves, Anora must finally turn to Winston for help. But will their efforts be too little too late?
I unlocked my apartment door and gestured toward the bedroom. He carried Cammie inside, laid her down on the bed then stepped back and watched while I helped her into her pajamas. She blinked awake.
“I didn’t brush my teeth or say my prayers.”
I kissed her temple. “Missing one night won’t hurt.”
She pouted. “Promise?”
She looked at Winston from beneath half-lidded eyes and smiled at him.
“You pick me up tomorrow, okay Daddy?”
He shook his head. “No, baby. Mommy will bring you to Grammie Angela’s straight from school. I’ve got to go get our pumpkins.”
“Oh, okay. Pumpkins and party and Sammy,” she whispered and turned over, already asleep.
“Night, night, baby,” he said then kissed her.
I walked him to the door, resolved to say good night and for once not mean goodbye. I didn’t want him to go.
“Stay.” I laid my head against his chest. “We can sleep on the Castro.”
His shudder was rewarding.
“If you only knew how long I’ve wanted to hear you ask me. Jesus.” He laughed, a shy embarrassed sound that gladdened my heart. “I can’t believe I’m about to say this.” He took a deep breath. “We shouldn’t. Not tonight.”
“Because I’m not sure we’d be doing it out of love.” He looked at me with a question in his gaze. “I don’t want us to make love because we’re afraid.”
I frowned, my heart heavy, my spirit desperate to disagree, but unable to.
“Okay.” I sighed, but still clung to him. “Not tonight. But soon. And for the rest of our lives.”
“Soon. And for the rest of our lives.”
He cupped my face in both his hands then kissed me in our mutual agreement. Equal parts of nervousness and desire quivered in my belly. I liked the sensation, felt warmed as I imagined what soon would be like.
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Thanks again for hosting me, Delilah. As always it’s a pleasure to share what’s on my writing heart.
Thank you so much for your fascinating post. Intriguing about Hamilton Grange. I can see why you were drawn to Alexander Hamilton’s home and the location fed your muse. Take care, I’m so proud of you! *Hugs*
What an interesting story. D. V.
I love history and found this interesting! I can understand your fascination with the Grange. Best of luck with the book.
Very interesting post, Anna. Thank you!
My pictures aren’t as good as yours, but I’m glad they showed why the house inspires me. : )
Thanks for stopping by, D.V.
Glad you found it interesting, Jana. Thanks for stopping by.
The period rooms of the different museums that I go to in NYC are always my first stop. Thanks for stopping by.
Love touring Manhatten
You know as a native New Yorker I didn’t appreciate the sights of NYC that were around me all the time until I moved away. Do you have any particular favorite spots? Thanks for stopping by.
Good luck and God’s blessings
Thanks, Pam. : )
Great post. Your excerpts are pulling me in! I loved seeing the Grange too. Made it a stop the last time I went to the Cloisters. Hamillton, Chernow, Miranda – all geniuses. I also loved another cool historical space – Gracie Mansion. These old homes, so incongruous now, always set my imagination alight.
The Cloisters — YES! Totally agree with your list of geniuses. Ooo, I’ve lived in NYC my whole life and never did a Gracie Mansion tour. I love the old rooms. My favorite in the Met is the Frank Lloyd Wright room and in the Brooklyn museum I love the old dutch kitchen. So glad the excerpts have pulled you in. Thanks for stopping by.