The tiny island where Alexander Hamilton was born is receiving a welcome boost – and businesses are cashing in on their most famous son, Edward Helmore reports for London’s Guardian.
The tiny Caribbean island of Nevis is receiving a boost from an unexpected source: fans of the hit Broadway show Hamilton, who have been drawn to the birthplace of the US founding father.
Alexander Hamilton – who went on to establish the nation’s financial system, the Federalist party, and the United States Coast Guard – was born on Nevis in 1757 and lived in Charlestown until he was eight, when the family moved to the nearby island of St Croix.
A small museum dedicated to Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers, stands on what is believed to be the original site where the family lived, and hoteliers have now started to leverage the connection to make more people aware of the island.
Richard Lupinacci, owner of the Hermitage hotel – one of the oldest buildings on the island, which Hamilton would certainly have known – said the Hamilton connection is helping Nevis, a former UK territory dominated by a single volcano and known for its rich soil and population of feral donkeys.
“People are coming to the island because they want to see the places that he knew and because they want to know more about such an extraordinary individual,” Lupinacci said.
Several hotels are now offering Hamilton-themed packages. Lupinacci’s offer includes a specially curated island history tour; a copy of Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow’s book that inspired the play; an afternoon at sea to view Nevis by boat; and a donation to the Graham Wyndham Foundation, the orphanage founded by Hamilton’s widow, Eliza.
Some Nevis institutions, including the tiny museum dedicated to Horatio Nelson, the British admiral who defeated Napoleon’s fleet at Trafalgar and who met and married Fanny Nesbit on the island, are reporting a 30% increase in traffic.
“We’ve seen a real transformation in understanding about Hamilton and Nevis,” said Rand Scholet, president of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, which donates to the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS).
Scholet said that the society was created to address mischaracterizations that Alexander Hamilton was overbearing and egotistical. “What we found was just the opposite. His humanity was incredible, he founded the abolition of slavery, founded the first African free school, fought for American Indian rights.”
George Washington, Scholet added, “would never have surrounded himself with someone of poor quality. He called Hamilton “his principal and most confidential aide’.”
According to Lupinacci, Nevis was not in fact a happy place for Hamilton. His mother, Rachel Faucette, had married a much older man, who imprisoned her on nearby St Croix when she attempted to leave him.
After her release, Faucette fled back to Nevis, where, in time, she met an itinerant Scotsman, James A Hamilton, the fourth son of a Scottish laird, who came with “no money and no luck”.
She had several children with him, including Alexander. Though divorced, she was not permitted to remarry and therefore neither she, nor her new family, were accepted in high social circles.
“That’s what Hamilton remembers,” said Lupinacci. “I’d say he was embarrassed by his time in Nevis.”
When Faucette died, her former husband claimed her property on Nevis on behalf of her legitimate son. Hamilton received nothing, and was bound to serve as an apprentice. His intelligence and abilities were soon recognized, however, and with the help of wealthy benefactors, was sent to King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York City.