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Grant’s Tomb (part 2)

Grant’s Tomb (part 2)

By on Feb 17, 2013 in Mini-nerd trips, Presidents | 8 comments

IMG_2676Many New York City tourists want to see the Empire State Building or Radio City, but history buffs may appreciate a trip to the Upper West Side to the final resting place of President Ulysses S. Grant.

The memorial is massive, rising 150 feet on a hill overlooking the Hudson. Yet somehow, we missed it and ended up coming in around the back, where we ran into some unusual sculptures.

Not quite sure what this is

Not quite sure what this is – it’s like a mosaic sculpture

We arrived around 4:15, the memorial closes at 5. Although a bit rushed,  we felt we had enough time to see what we wanted.

So why is Grant buried in New York City? He has childhood connections to Ohio and Illinois. Apparently, our 18th president did not have a strong preference of where he would be laid to rest. His family chose New York City, where Grant settled after his presidency.IMG_2702

One thing that struck me was the name of the site: the “General” Grant National Memorial, not the “President” Grant National Memorial. I guess the president may be Commander-in-Chief, but for a military man, maybe the title of “general” is more important?  Is there some sort of protocol for this?

IMG_2714Or maybe people think Grant’s military career is just more important? I have one reference guide that simply states, “Historians believe Grant was a great general, but just a so-so president.”

Most of the displays at the Grant Memorial Visitor Center focused on Grant’s military career, the Civil War and the construction/dedication of the mausoleum itself. IMG_2716

Did you know that during the Mexican War, Grant fought under the command of future president Zachary Taylor? (I wonder if they called him “General Taylor” when he was president?)

Another interesting thing we learned is that an African-American man spearheaded the efforts to build the Grant monument.  Richard T. Greener credited Grant for helping him succeed, which included becoming the first African-American graduate of Harvard.

IMG_2722You will find the Grant Visitor Center underneath the hill (with a view of the river) across the street from the memorial.

There is a decent bathroom (always a priority on a Nerd Trip) and a small gift shop where we picked up some presidential playing cards.

There aren’t nearly as many Grant Memorial souvenirs compared to other New York City attractions; but at one time, his monument had more visitors than the Statue of Liberty!

General Grant

General Grant

We saw only a small trickle of people; heat and time of day may have been factors.  However, I suspect that many people  (even those who have lived in New York their whole lives) do not know much, if anything, about the General Grant National Memorial.  If you are in New York City, I recommend you check it out. It doesn’t take long, and we learned a lot!

In our next post, we’ll take you inside the monument, including a look at its impressive architecture.

We leave you with more pictures from the Visitor Center displays.

IMG_2704IMG_2705

This is commemorative program from Grant's 63rd birthday celebration in 1885. Former Union and Confederate officers organized the event.

This is commemorative program from Grant’s 63rd birthday celebration in 1885. Former Union and Confederate officers organized the event in Louisville, Ky. Grant died a few months later of throat cancer.

This is Grant's red granite sarcophagus. The display says the stone was chosen because it resembled Napoleon's.

This is Grant’s red granite sarcophagus. The display says the stone was chosen because it resembled Napoleon’s.

    8 Comments

  1. I am ashamed to say I didn’t know this was–there. Thank you for enlightening me.

    • I think a lot of people probably walk by this everyday and never take the time to look in!

  2. The question of why “General” Grant instead of “President” Grant: my guess is that traditional protocol holds that a president reverts, after he leaves the presidency, to the highest title he held before (or after). The highest title Grant held, other than president, was general. Back when the memorial was built, they probably still followed that protocol. Today, everyone continues to call former presidents “President,” although formal protocol still holds that there’s only one President at a time. So Miss Manners or Emily Post would say that George HW Bush would be “Senator Bush,” and George W. and Jimmy Carter would be “Governor.”

    • Thanks History Tourist! I knew someone would know the answer.

  3. He was loved by his troops. Veterans of the civil war made a pilgrimage to the tomb well into the 20th century. There were a lot of veterans!

  4. Thanks for this write up – had no idea about the Tomb’s public art!

    • Thanks Cari. It really astonishes me to think about the number of people who walk by Grant’s tomb but who never go in!

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