Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! Happy President’s Day!
The General Grant National Memorial is colloquially known as Grant’s Tomb. Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia are interred inside the mausoleum in red granite sarcophagi. Grant was the 18th president of the United States. Before that, he commanded the Union Army during the Civil War. He helped preserve the union during the Reconstruction era.
Upon retirement, the Grants settled in New York City, following a world diplomacy tour. Dying from throat cancer and desperate to provide an income for Julia after his death, Grant worked tirelessly on his memoirs. He finished writing them days before he passed away in 1885.
Mark Twain published the memoirs and they were a success. Julia Grant received the modern equivalent of nearly $13 million in royalties. Grant had been swindled out of his fortune by a con man shortly before his illness, so the book really did save his family.
Grant’s dying wish to have a burial plot with a space for Julia next to him. This precluded his burial in a military cemetery since women were not allowed graves there at the time. Grant had requested a NYC burial, according to Julia. So the Grant Monument Association began fundraising for a memorial in their neighborhood.
A seven-mile long procession of mourners followed Grant’s funeral march in August of 1885. Pallbearers from both Union and Confederate armies placed Grant in a temporary tomb in Riverside. Twelve years later, they transferred Grant’s remains to the completed mausoleum.
The neighborhood and the tomb deteriorated over time. In the 1980s, activists and Grant’s descendants protested the conditions and forced the NPS to spend $1.8 million on restoration. The Park Service rededicated the Grant National Memorial in 1997 and today the surrounding neighborhood has been revitalized.
President’s Day Program at the Memorial►
I visited the memorial for a special program for President’s Day. Ulysses and Julia Grant greeted visitors outside the mausoleum and then the President gave a condensed version of his 1870 ‘state of the Union.’ The actors knew their characters inside and out and really made history come alive. They answered questions for us while still in character. Did you know Mrs. Grant disliked Mrs. Lincoln?
I watched the movie about Grant’s life and achievements in the visitor center. Then, I visited the mausoleum across the street. Upon entering, I immediately thought of Les Invalides, Napoleon’s tomb in Paris, with its ornate, high-domed ceilings. The ranger confirmed that Les Invalides had indeed inspired the designers of Grant’s Tomb.
Location: W 122nd St & Riverside Dr, New York, NY 10027
Designation: National Memorial
Date designated or established: August 14, 1958
Date of my visit: 2/17/2020