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Chasing Hamilton from New York City to Nevis
Learn how to plan a "Hamilton"-inspired trip in the birthplace of our Founding Father.
Love Alexander Hamilton? Retrace his footsteps on a history-fueled journey in the West Indies. (Getty Images).
One of the hottest Broadway shows to ever hit the New York City stage, "Hamilton," a hip-hop musical by composer-lyricist Lin-Manual Miranda, has been captivating audiences since its debut in 2015. Opening with a startling commentary on Hamilton's illegitimacy at birth, this brilliant musical sets the stage about one of our country's best-known Founding Fathers. The show's edgy style puts a new spin on the life and times of Alexander Hamilton and is based on the book, "Alexander Hamilton," by Ron Chernow, one of many biographies written about Hamilton, with a unique point of view and story to tell, particularly surrounding his birth and early years. With all the hype surrounding the musical, there's been a growing interest among history buffs and travelers alike to learn more about Hamilton and how his early life began on a tiny island in the Caribbean. If "Hamilton" has you yearning to embark on a pilgrimage to Nevis, here's what you need to know to plan an enriching trip to remember.
Hamilton's Early Years in Nevis
Born on Nevis in the West Indies in 1757 to Rachel Fawcett and John Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton was immediately shamed as an illegitimate child. According to Evelyn Henville, the former executive director of the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society, Hamilton's mother and maternal grandmother, Mary Uppington, were smart, strong-willed and opinionated women and were the inspiration for Hamilton's driven personality and problem-solving capabilities. He was scorned by the Anglican Church school, located just 100 feet from his home in the town of Charlestown and was instead educated by a local Jewish woman. The slave market was a block from Hamilton's home and he walked by it every day. He would also watch as the ships carrying the slaves pulled into port. In fact, he grew up with three slaves that were owned by his family whom he considered friends. Because of his early and personal exposure to slavery, his thoughts and opinions about the institution were already formed by the time he left the island for St. Croix in 1765.
Known as the "jewel of the Caribbean" in the 18th century, Nevis was wealthy and prosperous thanks to its 100 sugar plantations. The small Caribbean isle was embattled several times by the Spanish, English and French seeking the riches of "white gold," as sugar was known. There's a rich history on Nevis with the oldest church, the first-known hotel and the oldest wooden structure in the Caribbean, all of which are still standing today. And, of course, the ruins of many sugar plantations, one of which belonged to Hamilton's family until the 1950s, is located just outside of Charlestown.
Nevisians are proud of their heritage and embrace ties to this famous man who did so much for America and also left a legacy for the Caribbean. "When people ask me 'What has he (Hamilton) done for Nevis?' I say look at America. He wrote such a masterful document and created a democratic country right next door. The freedom in America is why the Caribbean is free and safe today. He created the Coast Guard to keep us safe and the treasury to manage the country's revenue," Henville says. "When Haiti became a free nation, they asked him to write their constitution. Just because he didn't come back and build a house here or have a street with his name on it, we need to remember him and bring him home. He's a national hero," she explains.
Apart from offering the perfect setting to learn about Hamilton's early years, Nevis offers plenty of rich cultural and history-filled attractions worth visiting. Henville suggests taking the walk that young Hamilton would have taken from his family home to the Jewish synagogue and cemetery, along the harbor where the ships would come in and past the slave market in the historic area of Charlestown.
In addition to the island's unique history, Nevis is breathtakingly beautiful. A volcanic island that's lush and green with a large rain forest, Nevis Peak, at an elevation of 3,232 feet, is visible from almost every vantage point around the island. Wild goats, donkeys, pigs and even cows roam the island freely along with Nevisian sheep (that look more like goats due to the lack of wool) and then there's the Green Monkey. Islanders have a love-hate relationship with this cute, but pesky creature.
The mango, one of the island's most prolific fruits, comes in over 40 varieties and grows all over the island in the summer. The island even hosts a Nevis Mango and Food Festival each July to celebrate the many creative ways Nevisians integrate mangoes in meals and drinks.
Where to Stay in Nevis
Four resort properties on Nevis are offering immersive Hamilton packages through December, along with Paradise Beach, a villa property. Each lodging option features a unique Hamilton experience.
At the Four Seasons Resort Nevis – a stunning luxury resort located directly on Pinney's Beach – you'll find spectacular views of the rainforest and Nevis Peak. The resort's "Hamilton's Perfect Union Package," offers a combination of history, romance and relaxation. Two of the highlights are a private candlelit dinner on the beach with a historic storyteller and colonial era menu, along with a private tour of the former Hamilton Estate.
Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, a plantation-style boutique hotel, is set amid 30 acres of green grass and swaying palm trees, and is located directly on the beach. The Great House, which dates back to around 1776, sits at the front of the property, just behind the remains of one of the island's former sugar plantations. The property's "Take it to the Bank Package" features an island tour, a trip to the home where Hamilton was born and a candlelit dinner for two along the beach.
Montpelier Plantation & Beach Hotel, a beautiful Relais & Châteaux property, is built on a former sugar plantation. The hotel's Hamilton package includes a four-night stay with a half-day excursion to Charlestown, an outdoor couples massage and a signature cocktail named in honor of the patriot, a Brandy Alexander Hamilton.
If you want to stay at one of the oldest wooden buildings in the Caribbean, check into the Hermitage Plantation Inn, a quaint plantation retreat that offers a "Full Hamilton History Package." The package includes a specially curated island tour and an afternoon sail around the island. Make sure to try one of their famous rum punches, one of the best on the island.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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