Freedom fighter, statesman, financial genius, adulterer. These are the impressions Alexander Hamilton has left on his Broadway-based fans. But the sites and exhibits in Philadelphia’s Historic District prove there’s plenty more to the real Hamilton. The National Constitution Center’s new exhibit highlights the competing ideas of Hamilton and his rivals. At benches in the district, Once Upon A Nation storytellers reenact the legendary Hamilton-Washington bromance and the Hamilton-Burr rivalry. This fall, the Museum of the American Revolution will debut an interactive playscape about how Philadelphia and Hamilton combined forces to found the nation. Just beyond the district in 2019, the multi-Tony-winner will enjoy a three-month run at the Forrest Theatre.
Here are the Philadelphia sites where Hamilton shaped his—and America’s—legacy:
The Sites Of Hamilton’s Philadelphia Life:
- Carpenters’ Hall – In creating the Bank of the United States, Hamilton did what had never been done before: He created the first central bank not owned by a monarch. While construction of the First Bank building was underway, the newly created federal bank was housed in Carpenters’ Hall, from 1794 to 1797. 320 Chestnut Street, (215) 925-0167 carpentershall.org
- First Bank – Built in 1795 to 1797, when Philadelphia was the U.S. capital, the First Bank was Hamilton’s solution for the nation’s enormous war debt. As Treasury Secretary, Hamilton also developed a standard currency to be used by all the states. Although the First Bank is not open for visitation, the classic architecture makes for stunning photos. 116 S. 3rd Street
- Franklin Print Shop – There was no love lost between Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache. At The Aurora Print Shop, now the Franklin Print Shop, Bache railed against Hamilton and the other Federalists in his publications. 320 Market Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
- Hamilton House – Although the home where Hamilton, his wife Eliza and their children lived is gone, a plaque marks the location where they rented a house from 1790 to 1795. When Eliza was out of town, it was here that Hamilton engaged in a scandalous, career-ending affair with the very married Maria Reynolds. 226 Walnut Street
- Independence Hall – When delegates gathered at Independence Hall for the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Hamilton was the only one of New York’s three delegates who signed the U.S. Constitution. Discussions were contentious but Hamilton, who co-authored the Federalist Papers, ultimately helped convince other delegates to support the Constitution. 6th & Chestnut Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
- Powel House – Living at 3rd and Walnut Streets, Hamilton spent time up the street at the home of colonial power couple Elizabeth and Samuel Powel, a popular gathering place for Philadelphia elite. Tours mention a letter Hamilton wrote to wife Eliza, in which he asked her if she had been taking her medicine, and suggested she think of the advice that Mrs. Powel once gave her regarding her health. 244 S. 3rd Street, (215) 627-0364, philalandmarks.org
- Second Bank of the United States – Beyond the imposing, Corinthian-columned façade, this building served as the second federally authorized Hamiltonian national bank, 1816 to 1836. Today, it’s a portrait gallery of prominent 18th– and 19th-century Americans, including a standout painting of Hamilton by Charles Willson Peale. 420 Chestnut Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov
- U.S. Mint – In 1792, Congress approved plans for the first U.S. Mint, Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton’s brainchild. The modern descendant of the original Mint building features a video that outlines Hamilton’s role in creating the money-making facility. Free, self-guided tours take about 45 minutes to complete. 151 Independence Mall East, (215) 408-0112, usmint.gov
Exhibits, Events & More Hamilton:
- Museum of the American Revolution – A young Captain Hamilton was a rising star in George Washington’s army and a key player in the revolution. Here, visitors view Washington’s authentic Headquarters Tent, where Washington, Hamilton and others plotted military strategies throughout the war. 101 S. 3rd Street, (215) 253-6731, amrevmuseum.org
- Hamilton Was Here: Building a Nation in Revolutionary Philadelphia – This fall will see the debut of playful interactives, scenic environments and facilitated games—all part of a new, hands-on exhibit revealing how Hamilton and the city of Philadelphia itself combined to help found a nation. October 27, 2018-March 17, 2019. 101 S. 3rd Street, (215) 253-6731, amrevmuseum.org
- National Constitution Center – A life-size bronze in Signers’ Hall pays homage to the critical role Hamilton played in the country’s founding and framing. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6600, constitutioncenter.org
- Hamilton: The Constitutional Clashes That Shaped a Nation – Created by and on display at the National Constitution Center, this exhibit explores Hamilton’s fraught relationships with James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Aaron Burr through rare documents and artifacts. Through December 31.
- Once Upon A Nation – Visitors can witness true tales of U.S. history—free of charge, and throughout each day—at 12 family-friendly Once Upon A Nation benches throughout the Historic District, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The bench outside the National Constitution Center reveals the fascinating story of Washington’s and Hamilton’s collaboration to shape the U.S. presidency. In this reenactor interaction, Hamilton persuades Washington to be the first U.S. president, then helps Washington become the first president to step down in the world’s first peaceful transition of power between rulers. The bench outside the Museum of the American Revolution hosts a retelling of the jealous and dramatic relationship between Hamilton and Aaron Burr, from Washington’s encampment at Valley Forge to the fatal duel that ended Hamilton’s life.
- Hamilton – The Tony-winning and Broadway sensation comes to the Forrest Theatre as part of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ Broadway Philadelphia series. Based on Ron Chernow’s biography, Hamilton has a book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. August 27, 2019-November 17, 2019. 1114 Walnut Street, (215) 893-1999, kimmelcenter.org
- City Tavern – Hamilton fans can eat, drink and make merry at the recreation of the original tavern where Hamilton, Washington and the gang often gathered after hard days of debating the S. Constitution. Modern-day patrons can sip a colonial-style shrub or quaff Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Ale, a crisp, hoppy brew. 138 S. 2nd Street, (215) 413-1443, citytavern.com
- Alexander Hamilton Walking Tours – For fans of the blockbuster musical who can’t get enough Hamilton, a downloadable app, created by Philadelphia writer Catherine Price, connects some of the hit songs to Philadelphia landmarks where it all happened. The app is available in the Apple App store or Google Play.
Philadelphia’s Historic District campaign, from VISIT PHILADELPHIA®, showcases the city’s incomparable place in early American history and the still vibrant neighborhoods of Old City, Society Hill and the Delaware River Waterfront. The campaign celebrates America’s most historic square mile in the country’s first World Heritage City, as designated by the Organization of World Heritage Cities. Funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development and H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, the initiative runs through September 2018.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, visitors can engage with costumed history makers, hear stories of the real people of independence and take part in colonial reenactments. And every day of the year, they can tour, shop, dine and drink in the area just like the founding fathers and mothers once did. For more information about all there is to see and do in Philadelphia’s Historic District, go to visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com.