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Alexander Hamilton on his old perch atop the Death Rock.
Alexander Hamilton on his old perch atop the Death Rock.

Death Rock of Alexander Hamilton

Field review by the editors.

Weehawken, New Jersey

Before the hit Broadway musical Hamilton!, recollections of America's most famous duel of honor weakly rattled around only in the hindbrain of those who stayed awake during grade school history classes. Who were those two guys again?

It was Aaron Burr vs. Alexander Hamilton -- and someone got killed.

Near a picturesque cliff along the Hudson River, overlooking the island of Manhattan, Burr did battle with Hamilton. The date was July 12, 1804.

It all started when the presidential election of 1800 got gummed up, Bush vs. Gore-style, and Burr eventually landed in the VP seat. Like a whiny talk radio commentator, Hamilton sought to undermine Burr with rumors and alleged slander. The two politicians, after a long skirmish of words, finally met on the riverbank below the cliffs and worked it out with pistols.

The actual rock "on which rested the head of Alexander Hamilton" after he was mortally wounded is now a monument. It turns out that while Hamilton was (as noted on the rock) a "Patriot, Soldier, Statesman, and Jurist," Burr was a guy with better aim.

Death Rock behind the Alexander Hamilton bust.
Death Rock behind the Alexander Hamilton bust.

In 1870 a set of railroad tracks was run through the old dueling grounds, so the rock was moved to its current lofty perch on Hamilton Avenue (a dead end street). On July 12, 1935, the current bronze head of Hamilton was symbolically perched atop the rock. In the 1990s symbolism was abandoned and the head was moved off of the rock and onto a tall pedestal where it's easier to see. Whoever did this should have put the rock up there, too, but it now sits behind the pedestal as an afterthought.

Just down the street from the Rock of Death is the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, named for another famous 19th century American politician who got shot.

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Death Rock of Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton Ave., Weehawken, NJ
On tiny Hamilton Ave., which is just off of Boulevard E, on the south tip of Weehawken, just north of the Lincoln Tunnel.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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