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Alexander Hamilton and Son
Alexander Hamilton was born a slave, circa 1840, likely in either Georgia or North Carolina. He served in the Union army during the Civil War (1861-65) and married Martha "Mattie" Ann Coker. Their son Alexander Daniel Hamilton was born on November 24, 1870, in Eufaula, Alabama. The couple also had four other sons before Martha Hamilton's death.
While in Alabama, the senior Hamilton served for two years in the state legislature and was also elected to the Eufaula city council. In 1877 the Hamiltons moved to Atlanta, where the senior Hamilton married Katie Grant and became a respected contractor. In 1894 he moved into a house, which he built for himself, on Hilliard Street in the Sweet Auburn district of Atlanta, and lived there until his death on May 26, 1911. Other residences for which Hamilton served as contractor likely exist in the neighborhood as well.
The younger Hamilton attended Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University) for three years before joining his father's contracting firm in 1890. Two years later he married Nellie Marie Cook, and the couple had seven children: Alexander D. Jr., Eunice Evelyn, Theron Bertram, Henry Cooke, Marion Murphy, Nellie Marie, and Joseph Thomas. In 1930 Henry Cooke Hamilton married Grace Towns, who in 1965 became the first African American woman elected to the Georgia state legislature. (The family also claims a connection to Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. secretary of the treasury and coauthor of the Federalist Papers.)
In 1923 Hamilton was called on as builder to help reconstruct the Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, after a fire extensively damaged the building. Construction on the church, for which the original architect is unknown, began in 1891 and had just been completed by architect John A. Lankford in 1922, the year before the fire. Hamilton and Lankford, who was married to the granddaughter of well-known African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister Henry McNeal Turner, worked together on the
Hamilton was associated with two prominent educational projects in Atlanta just before and after World War I (1917-18). The listed contractor for Robert Hall (1916) at Morehouse College is Alexander Hamilton and Son, and Hamilton, working with Henry White Jr., was the architect in 1920 for Leete Hall, which was renovated in 1946 to become George Washington Carver High School. An ornate Tudoresque Gothic revival tower dominates Leete Hall, which was originally part of Gammon Theological Seminary (later the Interdenominational Theological Center). Carver Vocational School also utilized a portion of the property, which included seven buildings when the Atlanta Board of Education purchased it in 1946.
Hamilton died in January 1944.
The Hamiltons, craftsmen and artisans responsible for the construction of noteworthy buildings throughout the city, remain among the best-known builders of early twentieth-century Atlanta.
Atlanta Urban Design Commission, Atlanta's Lasting Landmarks (Atlanta: privately printed, 1987).
Robert M. Craig, Georgia Institute of Technology
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.