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Academy at Elizabethtown

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1917 parish house elizabeth

What happened here:

Place Name: Academy at Elizabethtown

Location: Elizabeth, New Jersey

Event in Hamilton's life:
Alexander Hamilton attended the Academy at Elizabethtown, New Jersey in the winter of 1772 and the spring of 1773 to prepare for college. 

Get the details:
15-year-old Alexander Hamilton moved from St. Croix in the Caribbean to the American mainland in October of 1772 to attend college. Since he had had little if any formal schooling prior to his move, he first enrolled in a preparatory school - the Academy at Elizabethtown, located in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

The school was run by the First Presbyterian Church, and the building in which Hamilton attended classes was located across the churchyard. Among the subjects that Hamilton studied were English, mathematics, geography, Latin, and Greek.The academy was considered "one of the most celebrated in the Colonies;"¹ its other alumni included Aaron Burr (future Vice-President), Jonathan Dayton (youngest signer of the US Constitution and future Speaker of the House), and Brockholst Livingston (future justice of the Supreme Court).  The reverend of the First Presbyterian Church at the time was Rev. James Caldwell, an active patriot and was later killed during the Revolutionary War. The headmaster of the school, Francis Barber, also fought during the war, serving under Alexander Hamilton during the Battle of Yorktown.

It is believed that Hamilton attended two semesters at the school in the winter of 1772 and the spring of 1773. While he was in Elizabethtown, Hamilton lodged with the family of William Livingston, who soon after became New Jersey's first governor. He also spent a great deal of time with the family of Elias Boudinot, who later served as President of the Continental Congress. Hamilton would go on to attend King's College, today Columbia University, in New York City, but he maintained friendships with his Elizabethtown friends for the rest of his life.  

¹Robert Troup, Narrative.

Links to Related Websites:

academy of elizabethtown

How to visit:

The building in which Hamilton attended school was burned by the British in 1780 during the Revolutionary War. Though the original Academy building no longer stands, an academy building dating to 1917 stands on the same site. At its entrance is a sign that reads "Site of the Old Academy/ Attended by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr / Col. Francis Barber was Principal at the outbreak of the Revolution."

Today the 1917 building, also known as the Parish House, has been reopened as the Snyder Academy, a community center dedicated to history, the arts, and education. Plans to open a museum and visitors center inside the building are currently underway. Visitors can also tour the First Presbyterian Church to learn more about its history, particularly during the city's founding and the Revolutionary War.

Address: 42 Broad Street, Elizabeth, New Jersey

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