Not Your Typical 18th Century Gentleman

The Woodlands Trust for Historic Preservation



The Woodlands grounds during a summer event. Photo by Molly Dixon.


Benjamin West, Portrait of William Hamilton and Ann Hamilton Lyle, 1812, oil on canvas. This is the only known portrait of William Hamilton, depicted here with his niece. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Art and Artifact collection.


The Woodlands Trust for Historic Preservation, view of the Hamilton Mansion from the Northwest, 1887.


Interior view of the Saloon, the largest first floor room in the Hamilton Mansion. Photo by Ryan Collard.

The Woodlands Trust for Historic Preservation will examine the unknown biography of aristocrat and eminent botanist William Hamilton and his role as a "bachelor gentleman" in 18th-century Philadelphia, in a research project to support the creation of new interpretive programs. Living at The Woodlands without a wife and children, apart from the social norms of the day, Hamilton's bachelor life and personal relationships have remained mysterious and open to visitor speculation based on contemporary stereotypes. The Woodlands will engage in its first-ever commissioned research project to investigate the lives of Hamilton, his mother, a life-long African American servant and gardener, and other key members of the household in an effort to craft a well-rounded portrait of this intriguing figure. Through archival research, and academic and interpretive public workshops, the project will point to new interpretive methods, enabling visitors to connect historic material with contemporary discourse on family, class, gender, and race.

Additional unrestricted funds are added to each grant for general operating support.