GENERAL GRANT NATIONAL MEMORIAL
Location- W.122nd Street and Riverside Drive
General Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in 1822 and served as the 6th Commanding General of the US Army from 1864 to 1869. He worked closely with President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Union army into victory during the Civil War. General Grant was elected twice as President and served from 1869 to 1877. Under his Presidency, he reconstructed the nation, increased American trade, enforced Civil rights and voting laws, ended corrupted moiety systems, prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan and much more. He was a beloved president. General Grant died of throat cancer at the age of 63. His death united a country. He has appeared on the 50-dollar bill since 1913.
Several memorials honor the general but not like his final resting place. After his death, his family decide to bury him in New York. General Grant, wife Julia Grant wrote:
“Riverside was selected by myself and my family as the burial place of my husband, General Grant. First, because I believed New York was his preference. Second, it is near the residence that I hope to occupy as long as I live, and where I will be able to visit his resting place often. Third, I have believed, and am now convinced, that the tomb will be visited by as many of his countrymen there as it would be at any other place. Fourth, the offer of a park in New York was the first which observed and unreservedly assented to the only condition imposed by General Grant himself, namely, that I should have a place by his side”
The major of NYC invited prominent New Yorkers to a meeting, around 85 New Yorkers showed up. The Grant Monument Association came out of this meeting. The members did not discuss in detail the monument for Grant. However, the idea of any monument to General Grant gained public support. GMA proposed a fundraising goal of 1 million. Western Union donated $5,000 and the public sent in their donations. Private companies also sent in donations. By 1888, GMA propose a design competition.
The first competition yields no winner. The second competition caught the attention of Architect John H. Duncan. Duncan was a successful architect who already built the Tower of Victory, Newburgh Monument and the Washington Monument in Newburgh. The design of John H Duncan, who estimated his design cost around $496,000 and $900,000. Duncan stated his design’s objective: “was to produce a monumental structure that should be unmistakably a tomb of military character.”
The tomb’s granite exterior is modeled after the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus with Persian elements and, but resembles the Tropaeum Alpium. Within the tomb, the twin sarcophagi of Grant and his wife Julia are based on the sarcophagus of Napoleon Bonaparte at Les Invalides”
The monument’s architecture is Neo classical. The constructed started in 1891 and on April 27,1897, Grants remains were laid to rest in a 8.5 ton red granite sarcophagus. Five years later, Julia Grant died and was laid to rest in a matching Sarcophagus next to her husband of 40 years. By 1958, The National Park Service was given authority to oversee the monument.
The NPS had no plan in the first years for the monument, which led to it’s despair. Surrounding the tomb a sculpture consisting of benches with colorful mosaics was created in 1970s. The sculpture, entitled The Rolling Bench, was designed by artist Pedro Silva and the architect Phillip Danzig, and was built with the help of hundreds of neighborhood children over a period of three years. By the late 1970s, the tomb was neglected and graffiti ridden. It was used for criminal activity and trashed.
Frank ScaturroBy the 1990s, Frank Scaturro, a student at Columbia University, launched an effort to restore the tomb. He blew the whistle on NPS with a 325-page report which he sent to Congress and the President. Scaturro’s efforts drew national media attention and resulted in a $1.8 million grant to restore Grant’s Tomb. Today the Memorial is open to the public between the hours of 9 am to 5 pm. The admission is free and worth the visit. Photography is allowed in the tomb, but cellphone use, eating, drinking, smoking, and gum chewing are prohibited. Every year on April 27, the anniversary of his birth, a ceremony celebrating Ulysses S. Grant’s life is held at the memorial.
The memorial is worth the visit. The architectural design is phenomenal. The dome is something not often seen in New York City. The monument was from the people who adored General Grant. The remarkable design is worth seeing. Please visit during the spring/ summer or fall. The mosaic benches are striking. We recommend this hidden gem worth the visit. Would you visit the beloved General?
Go forth, Explore and Discover!