Elizabeth Schuyler (later Hamilton) was born on August 9, 1757 in Albany NY. While she was a young girl, her father, General Philip Schuyler, began to build a magnificent family house just outside the city. General Schuyler was influenced by the Georgian country seats of wealthy and titled gentlemen in England, and he spared no expense to make his new house the showplace of the region. The house was called "The Pastures" on account of its then-rural location, near the public grounds for the city's grazing animals. The growing Schuyler family moved in around 1765.
General Schuyler had chosen his new home's site well. Standing high on a hill overlooking the Hudson River and nearly 3/4 of a mile outside the stockaded city walls, The Pastures was the first Albany building seen by visitors traveling north from New York City, and that first glimpse of the imposing brick mansion left a lasting impression on many of them. Most of the year, the river was also the quickest way between Albany and New York (about 150 miles) took roughly a week, depending on winds and weather. The general also operated the ferry that that crossed from one side of the Hudson to the other, and departed from the Schuyler-owned dock not far from the house.
The view from within the house was equally impressive. The watercolor, above, has been attributed to British military officer and topographical artist Lieutenant Thomas Davies, who visited the area in 1766. The painting shows the Hudson River flanked by green hills and fields, and lit by some spectacular sunbeams. (It's believed that Davies included himself in the scene, as one of the men lounging with a dog to the left.)
The Pastures remained a special place to Eliza throughout her life, and she returned frequently. She came to visit her parents, siblings, and extended family in the Albany area, and she also brought her children here in the summer to escape the unhealthy city air of New York City and Philadelphia. But I think she also came because she loved the peace of the country. The Pastures provided a respite from her city-life, and also from the hectic pace of being Alexander Hamilton's wife. Certainly gazing out at scene such as this must have been restful indeed.
Alas, this bucolic scene did not survive for long. Shortly after the general's death in 1804, the house and the surrounding property were sold by the surviving family. The city was already pushing beyond its 18thc limits, and developers soon carved up the green pastures for streets, houses, and other buildings. While the old house still stands today, the view is long gone, and from the house's windows it's now impossible to see even the river itself, let alone green fields.
Today known as the Schuyler Mansion, the house will soon be celebrating its one hundredth anniversary as a New York State Historic Site on October 17. It's open to the public for tours, and well worth a visit. See here for more information.
Above: "A View of Green Bush on the Hudsons River near Albany in the Province of New York in North America" by Lt. Thomas Davies, c1766. Detroit Institute of Art; image courtesy of Schuyler Mansion.
I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott will be published September 26, 2017, by Kensington Books. Pre-order now.