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Take Philip Schuyler: The Man Is Loaded …

August 19, 2016

Friday was the last day of our trip, but before going home we had a couple of important stops to make.

We started our collection of state capitol buildings quite accidentally. The first two or three we happened to pass by while touring the city, but once we saw a few we decided we should always stop by the capitol every time we were in a capital city. We’ve probably been to somewhere around 30 now. Iowa’s is easily the ugliest, Utah’s is the most surprisingly large, and a few of them (Boston and Vermont come to mind) truly fit their home state. But we had never been to our own state capital, which is roughly a three-hour drive from home. Until today.

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We were both surprised by New York’s capitol building. It’s huge and gorgeous and stately, but, unlike the vast majority of capitol buildings we’ve seen, there’s no dome. The architecture is more Dutch than British or French, which makes sense considering that it was the Dutch who first settled New York City and most of the rest of the state.

I know I’m biased, but I honestly think that New York’s capitol is the most beautiful of all the ones we’ve seen.

With that out of the way, we had only one place left to go, and it was something Sam’s been excited for since I first told him about it a month ago: the mansion where Revolutionary War general and New York Senator Philip Schuyler lived.

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Schuyler’s current claim to fame, and the reason Sam was so excited to take a guided tour of a historic pre-Revolution brick house, is that he is mentioned repeatedly in the musical Hamilton as the father of Alexander Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth and her sisters. In fact, Alexander and Elizabeth were married here and lived here for a few years immediately following the war.

Sam has been absolutely obsessed with Hamilton ever since I bought the show’s soundtrack last year and started playing it in the car while I took him or his sister on errands. Eventually my wife and I took them to see the show in June, and that only cemented his affection for all things Hamilton. He knows every word to every song, he knows everything about every actor in the show, and he uses just about any sentence in his presence as an excuse to quote lyrics. It was endearing at first but it’s become so annoying that we’ve put a few temporary bans on any mention of Hamilton just so that he can breathe for a second or two.

I’ve always been a history buff, especially American history, so I knew a fair amount of Hamilton’s story before the show ever came out. As a writer and English teacher, and a fan of hip-hop, I love what playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda did with the story, and I, too, can sing most of the soundtrack by heart.

Needless to say, we loved the tour. The tour is very heavy on the history of the extended family and would have been monstrously boring for both of us if we didn’t care so much about all the characters. The house is beautifully ornate (Schuyler was indeed loaded, as the song says, and owned huge tracts of land throughout the state, as did his wife’s even richer family) but nowhere near as impressive as some of the other mansions we’ve toured on various road trips–especially coming just days after visiting Casa Loma. I do want to show you the wallpaper, though.

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Family room

 

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Dining room

 

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Boys’ bedroom

 

 

I should mention that the wallpaper is not merely intricately detailed, it’s also multidimensional, with the darker parts being raised and made of a material that has a felt-like texture. Here’s a close-up of the dining room so you can better see what I mean:

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We learned all sorts of interesting background about the Schuyler sisters and the rest of the brood. For example, the three sisters featured in the musical were the oldest of eight surviving Schuyler children, with another seven dying as babies.

When, as the song says, the Schuyler sisters stole into the city just to watch all the guys at work, it was relatively easy for them to do so, as the Schuyler mansion was directly on the Hudson River. But it still took about a week to sail down the Hudson to New York City, so Philips definitely would have noticed they were gone.

Angelica, the eldest, did marry a British man as the show mentions, but what it doesn’t mention is that he was in America under an alias due to extensive debts he owed in England and France, and Philip disapproved of their union and kicked Angelica out of the house, so they eloped. The husband ended up getting rich by selling supplies to both armies during the Revolution, and lived with Angelica in France for a while to settle his debts. It was there that she met and befriended Thomas Jefferson, sharing Hamilton’s writings with Jefferson and vice versa.

And Elizabeth’s younger sister, Peggy, was actually named Margaret (Peggy was her nickname), and one of the reasons we hear so little about her in the musical is that she died relatively young, at 42.

We were excited to see Schuyler’s study/library, where he kept a massive library that included a suite of legal volumes not found even in public libraries. As such, Hamilton and Aaron Burr both used the Schuyler library to study for the New York Bar Exam before going into politics.

The room we really came to see, though, was the parlor just to the left of the entryway when you first walk into the house. It’s the room where Alexander and Elizabeth got married (at Schuyler’s insistence), which was especially exciting because there’s a scene and a couple of songs in the show that take place at the wedding.

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The large portrait between the windows is of Hamilton, and the smaller one to the right is Elizabeth

 

 

In this room, the tour guide talked about how Elizabeth and Alexander met, but we already knew the whole story–it’s in a song, after all.

So yes, we were in the room where it happened. And we were was satisfied.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Michaelle Zerykier permalink
    August 20, 2016 9:45 pm

    Actually – there is a name for that type of wallpaper – it’s called “flocked”. See if Sarah remembers – we had it in our dining room on Hards Lane. Abe and I have enjoyed reading your posts daily w/morning coffee – you really could be the one to pen the Great American Novel – you are so talented! I hope you enjoyed Sam’s birthday and having the family together again. Shavua Tov

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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