On Sunday, June 1, 2008, I took a walk down Convent Avenue to check out preparations for the imminent transfer of the Hamilton Grange to St. Nicholas Park.
Within a chainlink fence enclosure, the statue of Alexander Hamilton was in the middle of the sidewalk, flanked between an apartment building and a portable toilet.
I'd never seen the statue at eye level. It was easier now to see the details of the bronze work...the delicacy of the hands...
...the elegance of the tailoring...
...and the eloquence of the gestures.
Late afternoon shadows crept around the idle house...
I looked east from where the Grange had been deftly drawn out of its old lot...
...and I looked west towards the skeletal cribwork by which the house had been lifted up and slid out...
....to its temporary, but fascinating, resting place in the middle of the street.
Over in St. Nicholas Park, the new foundation for the Grange neared completion.
Everything was poised to precede on schedule.
Saturday, June 7, 2008, 7 a.m.: Journalist and historian Richard Brookhiser, author of the biographyy "Alexander Hamilton, American", was among the hundreds of onlookers on the morning of the move.
From a distance I'd thought at first that the clutch of bonneted women were period reenactors. But I soon learned they were among the wives and children of some of the work crew.
The German Baptist Brethren were a distinctive component of the workforce. Based in Pennsylvania, the Brethren, who are often confused with the Amish or Menonites, were critical specialists to the house-moving project.
According to a National Parks Service spokeswoman, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) allowed the Brethren workers a variance on religious grounds to its usually rigid hard hat rule.
The obligatory hard hat notwithstanding, NY1 reporter Stephanie Simon still donned a pair of unsensible shoes and an unwieldy load of camera gear to get up close and personal with Stephen Spaulding, the NPS's northeast architectural preservation division chief.
Preservation architect Stephen Spaulding made the first of his periodic inspections of the Grange's interior after the house was set in motion.
Spaulding was probably making a mental note to self: "Doorstep gone, remember ladder."
The Grange rounded the corner east from Convent Avenue to 141st Street. Nine hydraulic lifts, operated by remote control, ensured measured precision.
The Grange began its descent down the steep incline of 141st Street, tethered to vehicles from behind.
Dude, don't try this at home, even if your home's an RV.
Meanwhile, back at the now-vacated lot...
...the loggia of St. Luke's Episcopal Church showed a new profile.
The crowd built up in 141st Street as the Grange inched down the hill.
The Grange reached St. Nicholas Park at about 9:50 a.m., over two hours ahead of schedule...and before temperatures rose into the mid-90s.
Inside St. Nicholas Park, the grass and trees assumed the greensward backdrop to the new site of the Hamilton Grange.
Through a break in the trees, the Grange apppeared like a country house at the edge of a wood.
Still on wheels, the Grange loomed over its new foundation, steeped in controversy. A group of community advocates had just filed a federal lawsuit contesting the National Park Service's intention to position the house in a northerly direction towards the street, contrary to its original southerly orientation towards the distant vista of lower Manhattan.
A fait accompli, capped off by a reception.
Back at the vacated Convent Avenue lot, the enshrouded statue of Alexander Hamilton seemed to anticipate a fate in storage. Sculptor William Ordway Partridge created this statue--a model of which he debuted at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago--for the Hamilton Club in Brooklyn Heights. The club offered the statue to the Grange in 1936. But the statue was not included in the contract to move the Grange.