Grant's Tomb 19 April 2019

Updated: Jun 10, 2019

If you find Ulsyess S. Grant interesting, then you may find Grant's Tomb interesting, if you don't, you won't.


1. Take the 1 train to 116th Street, then walk up and over to Grant's Tomb (ideally you want to approach from the south). Board the 1 train at 125th on the way home (to mix it up).

2. The General Grant National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb) is a neo-classical structure of the Doric order based on the Mausoleum of Halicarnass (where Mausolus was entombed; and now you know where the word mausoleum comes from). It was completed on April 17, 1887 using funds from a private subscription (how very Republican). Designed by John H. Duncan who also designed the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch.

3. Ideally approach the park from the southern end so you can admire the view of the building at the end of a row of plane trees - kinda reminded me of Aix-en-Provence.

-the triangle created by Riverside Drive is Chaplain's Row, dedicated to the Four Chaplins who gave their lives to save others when the troop ship SS Dorchester sank during World War II.

4. Examine the outside of the building carefully:

-to your right is the Department of the Interior flag.

-The facade is inscribed with the words "Let Us Have Peace" which was Grant's 1868 presidential campaign slogan. Allegorical figures that bracket the quote represent Victory (holding fasces) and Peace (holding olive leaves).

-The two eagles: the old New York City Main Post Office was being demolished @ 1930 and donated these two statues.

-sinuous and incongruous park bench mosaic the surrounds the building. Created by Phillip Danzig and titled "The Rolling Bench". Not sure what to make of it.

-note the appearance of the exterior walls. The Tomb was covered in graffiti during much of the 60’s and 70’s, though now scrubbed clean the walls show the effects.

5. Examine the inside of the building carefully:

-after entering look down into the oculus at the two 8.5 ton red granite sarcophagi that contain the remains of President and Mrs. Grant. The layout was inspired by Tomb of Napoleon at Les Invalids.

-the three lunettes originally stood blank until Allyn Cox created three mosaics @ 1965. From left to right:

*Generals Grant and Thomas at the Battle of Chattanooga.

*The Surrender at Appomattox showing Lee and General Grant at the Appomattox Court House. The artist helped Grant out as Lee was significantly taller than General Grant.

*General Grant at the Battle of Vicksburg.

-The three flags on the top of the staircase leading down to the lower level are:

*Flag of the President of the United States: this is an anachronism as the version of the flag on display was only created in 1945.

*Flag of the United States: I can't offer any more details here.

*General Grant’s Army General Flag (4 Stars): Unlike George Washington, John Pershing, George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Henry H. Arnold and Omar Bradley, the man who saved the Union never did get a fifth star. This flag is also another anachronism.

Note: with all due respect, this display is both hokey and unnecessary. Ulysses S. Grant was man who does not need fake exhibits to honor his greatness.

-the lower level contains busts of General Grant’s five lieutenants. Created in 1938 artists William Mues and Jeno Juszko (funded by the Federal Art Project):

*William T. Sherman: perhaps Grant's favorite, Buffett's Munger, everyone needs a second you can count on.

*Phillip H. Sheridan: served with Grant at Chattanooga and was Grant's Cavalry Corps Commander.

*George H. Thomas: The Rock of Chicamauga, served Grant decisively at the Battle of Chatanooga.

*James B. McPherson: with Grant at Shiloh, later killed by Confederate skirmishers.

*Edward Ord: with Grant at Vicksburg. Named a fort after him.

6. The Visitors Center is located directly west of the Tomb. Check out the upper level overlook for some nice views of the Hudson River. The Visitor Center offers typical NPS tchotskies and background information on our 18th President. There is a solid 20 minute movie that is worth watching (ask the Ranger to run it for you).

7. About 75 yards directly north of the Visitors Center is The Amiable Child Monument. Worth a very quick look (hey, you’re that close!)

8. Sakura Park is located directly east of the Tomb and contains:

-A bronze statue of General Daniel Adams Butterfield by Gutzon Borglum. Butterfield won the CMH at Gaines Mill during the Civil War and was Grant's Assistant Treasurer of the United States (his father co-founded American Express). Gutzon Borglum also sculpted Mount Rushmore.

-A toro (lantern) given to NYC by Tokyo in 1960.

-Cherry Trees given to the city in 1912.

9. Riverside Church: a neo-Gothic structure. The tallest church in the United States, and 24th tallest in the world,


Misc:

1. Public Restrooms are located 100 yards directly north of the Tomb.

2. Did you know that Grant was a Republican? Not many peolple know that.

3. Who is buried in Grant's Tomb? According to some, the answer is "no one", since Grant and his wife are entombed in sarcophagi above ground in an atrium rather than being buried in the ground. Though according to one of the definitions of tomb, a monument to the memory of a dead person, erected over their burial place, therefore "Grant and his wife" may also be the answer.

4. Largest mausoleum in the US, check it off the list.

5. Born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but due to an administrative error at West Point, was changed to Ulysses S. Grant. And the rest is U.S. history.

General Grant National Memorial

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