Located in the heart of Albany, New York’s South End, Schuyler Mansion State Historic was constructed between 1761 and 1765 in the Georgian style for Major General Philip J. Schuyler (1733-1804) and Catharine van Rensselaer Schuyler (1734-1803), who called it home until their deaths. They raised eight children to adulthood and hosted many famous visitors, including George and Martha Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison, in their home. The Schuyler Mansion is also the site of Elizabeth Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton’s December 1780 wedding.
The Schuyler Mansion survived tumultuous times. Philip Schuyler served as Major General directly under George Washington and commanded the Northern Department from 1775-1777. He also operated a vast intelligence network and served as a personal advisor to Washington. When the war ended, Schuyler served in various political positions, including that of New York State Senator and United States Senator.
Catharine was the social face of the home, welcoming visitors and ensuring their stay at the mansion was nothing but pleasant. She extended this sense of hospitality even to British General John Burgoyne, who was taken as a “prisoner-guest” after his defeat at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. Burgoyne stayed in the Master Bedchamber and was served elaborate meals during his ten-day stay. While hosting Burgoyne was a huge undertaking for Catharine, she did not do it alone. There were eight to fourteen people enslaved by the Schuylers, on call to perform much of the actual labor behind making their guests’ stays a success. Overall, there are believed to have been over thirty people of African descent enslaved by the Schuylers during their forty-year-long residency at this house and their farm estate in Saratoga.
Many of the spaces commonly associated with the men, women, and children enslaved by the Schuylers did not survive the 19th century. After the Schuyler children sold the home in 1806, it was occupied by various owners who altered the network of outbuildings located behind the house—where the kitchen, office, nursery, and necessary were located—as best suited them. The original outbuildings were gone by 1914, when New York State purchased the home and turned it into a museum. The changes the mansion has gone through, the Schuylers, the people they enslaved, the family’s many famous guests, and Alexander Hamilton are all discussed on the museum tour.
General tours of the house are offered from mid-May through the end of October, Wednesday-Sunday from 11-5, with the last tour leaving at 4. These tours fill up quickly during the summer months, so visitors are encouraged to arrive early. Special events and group tours may alter this schedule. Calling ahead of your visit is strongly recommended. Focus tours about Alexander Hamilton and the Women of the Schuyler Mansion are offered during the regular tour season and the off-season of November-April. Focus tours are by reservation only. For information about scheduling a focus tour or general questions, visitors can call the site at 518-434-0834. They can also find information about upcoming events on the Facebook page (Schuyler Mansion) or site Twitter (@SchuylerMansion).
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Jessie Serfilippi is a writer and an interpreter at Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site. She specializes in the Schuyler women, Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton, and the lives of the people enslaved by the Schuylers and Hamiltons.