The city is named for Sir Henry Hamilton, the Bermuda governor (1788-94) who advocated for the building of a town in the central part of Bermuda in order to have a settlement convenient to all islanders. The new town adopted the motto Hamilton Sparsa Collegit ('Hamilton has brought together the scattered'), which can still be seen scrolled across the town's coat of arms.
In 1790 the grand design of Hamilton was laid out, with 50ft-wide streets in a neat grid pattern that covered an area of about 150 acres and spread north half a dozen blocks from a new commercial harbor. By 1795 the town had taken shape and the first municipal elections were held in the new town hall.
The idea of a central town caught on like wildfire. Hamilton prospered and grew so quickly that in just two decades enough people had migrated there to make Hamilton the biggest town in Bermuda. Political power swung in this direction as well, and in 1815 the capital was relocated from the Town of St George to Hamilton. In 1897 Hamilton's status was changed from that of a town to a city. To this day it remains Bermuda's one and only city.
Although hardly more than 1000 people live in the narrow boundaries of the city itself, nearly a quarter of the island's population lives within 2 miles of the city.