by Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Millions of people have fallen in love with the musical “Hamilton,” with no hope of ever getting tickets. But Philadelphians, take heart: You’re closer than you think to the events the play depicts.
Hamilton lived in Philadelphia for the five years that saw the greatest achievement and worst mistake of his life.
Catherine Price, a free-lance journalist and former teacher who lives in the Fairmount section, thought a lot of other local residents, like her, would like to see the spots where they occurred, walk the path Hamilton himself took, from the sublime to the sordid, so she designed the Hamilton walking tour app.
“It takes people through 13 locations that have a connection to Alexander Hamilton, tells the story of those places, gives a bit of historical context and then also associates them with a song from the musical,” said Price. “So right now we are sitting outside of the First Bank of the United States and for this location, I feature ‘Cabinet Battle #1’.”
Hamilton’s debate with Thomas Jefferson, imagined as a rap battle in the musical, led to the creation of the First Bank, the pillar of the US financial system that Hamilton created.
The site is already attracting fans of the musical.
When I met Catherine there, we ran into three teenage tourists, drawn by the Hamilton connection.
Julia, 13, and Ella, 14, of New Orleans and Zoey, 13, of New York had done their research to find the spot.
“Philadelphia isn’t mentioned in any of the songs,” Julia notes.
They wore flowers in their hair, like the Schuyler sisters, one of whom, Eliza, became Hamilton’s wife.
They were disappointed the Bank is closed to visitors but were delighted when Catherine told them they were just around the corner from where Hamilton’s house once stood.
“The sites that are involved in Alexander Hamilton’s life are so close together that it’s actually easy to imagine him walking around the city between his home and his office and the bank,” says Price.
They’re also very close to the home of Maria Reynolds.
Hamilton’s affair with Reynolds devastated his family and ruined his career.
Price finds that part of the power of the play.
“The show represents the founding fathers as flawed individuals who are nonetheless trying to do their best.”
And part of its resonance with the current election season.
“Politics have always been nasty. I think right now we get so disheartened because things get so nasty we feel like we’re going to just throw it all away or not vote or whatever. But that’s not the message to take away from this. It’s ‘people are flawed and you can disengage and walk away or you can engage with the system and try to make it better,” she says.
In fact, she says she’d like the candidates to take the tour.
“Congress Hall is where the first peaceful transfer of power between presidents happened. That is where John Adams was inaugurated as the second president of the United States. I think it’s really important to remember that is something our democracy is based on. It’s very moving to think that George Washington, who could have been president for life, decided that he was going to step down and transfer the power of the country to another person and realized this was going to set a precedent that was going to create what we have today,” says Price.
Price is donating 20% of any proceeds from the app to Friends of Independence Historic Park, for a fund to restore the First Bank as a tourist attraction.
“It’s pretty exciting to have found a way to take the inspiration and admiration I have for the musical and do my part to further the educational connection. And also maybe do something for Philadelphia,” said Price.