overview

Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history.

Alexander Hamilton Playground, in Manhattan, inadvertently honors an LGBT individual.

Header Photo
Courtesy of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.

History

Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history. The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project compiled a list of 13 public parks and playgrounds named after gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals, several of which intentionally honor an LGBT individual. This list includes Alexander Hamilton Playground, in Manhattan.

This playground was named in 1924 for neighborhood resident Alexander Hamilton, thus inadvertently honoring an LGBT individual. Although known as something of a womanizer, during the Revolutionary War, while both served as aides-de-camp to George Washington, Hamilton (1755 or 1757-1804) had a highly eroticized relationship with John Laurens (1754-1782) of South Carolina. This is evident primarily from a series of passionate letters written by Hamilton between 1779 and 1782. And later that year, he refers to himself as “a jealous lover” when Laurens fails to answer his letters. These letters have been dismissed as no more than literary flourish, although Hamilton’s executor saw fit to censor portions of them. As William Benemann states in his book Male-Male Intimacy in Early America, “There is no irrefutable proof that Laurens and Hamilton were lovers, but there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to render indefensible any unqualified pronouncement that they were not.”

This property was originally acquired in 1895 by the College of the City of New York, but it was re-assigned to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation in 1923 for a playground. Opened in 1924, the playground is just three blocks away from Hamilton’s residence, Hamilton Grange, which was relocated in St. Nicholas Park.

Sources

  1. “Alexander Hamilton Playground,” NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, on.nyc.gov/2XFrti0.

  2. Linda Rapp, “Hamilton, Alexander (1757-1804),” GLBTQ Archive, bit.ly/2ffDp3c.

  3. “NYC Parks Celebrates 51st Black Solidarity Day with Namings in Honor of the Black Experience in New York City,” press release, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, November 2, 2020.

  4. Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (New York: Penguin Books, 2005).

  5. William Benemann, Male-Male Intimacy in Early America (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2006).

Other Sites in the Neighborhood

St. Nicholas Park
James Baldwin Lawn
Public Spaces
515 West 182nd Street
Eleanor Roosevelt Junior High School 143
Cultural & Educational Institutions