Historic Sites and Buildings
This national memorial, popularly known as "Grant's Tomb," commemorates the life and career of Ulysses S. Grant and shelters the crypt containing his remains and those of his wife, Julia Dent Grant.
Shortly before his death, Grant conveyed to his son, Frederick D., a request that he be buried in New York City, where he had lived in retirement for several years. Frederick chose a picturesque location overlooking the Hudson River in newly created Riverside Park. When death came on July 23, 1885, at a cottage on Mount McGregor, near Saratoga, his father's body first lay in state at the capitol in Albany, and then was taken to New York City Hall. From there on August 8, a parade of thousands of Civil War veterans escorted it to a temporary vault in Riverside Park. The funeral, attended by the Nation's highest officials, was one of the most impressive ever held in the city.
Meantime, a group of prominent New Yorkers had formed the Grant Monument Association to raise funds for the construction of a permanent memorial. The city donated a sizable plot of land in Riverside Park, not far from the temporary gravesite. Construction, delayed several years because of the lack of funds, began in 1891 and was completed in 1897. During this time, various financial and architectural problems caused the design of architect John H. Duncan of New York to undergo considerable alterations, resulting in a smaller and less elaborate structure than had been planned.
Ten days before the dedication ceremony, which occurred on April 27, 1897, the 75th anniversary of Grant's birth, his remains were transferred from the temporary vault to a sarcophagus in the memorial crypt. A vast crowd of citizens attended the dedication, which was highlighted by a military parade and an address by President McKinley. When Mrs. Grant died in 1902, her body was placed in a twin sarcophagus adjacent to that of her husband.
At the time of the dedication, the Grant Monument Association presented the memorial to the city. Not long afterward, the Board of Park Commissioners entered into an agreement with the association whereby the latter would administer it with municipal funds. This arrangement lasted for the next six decades, until 1956, when the State legislature authorized the transfer of the memorial from the Grant Monument Association and the city to the Federal Government. In 1959, with the cooperation of the association, the National Park Service began administering it as General Grant National Memorial.
A 150-foot-high gray granite structure, the monument sits on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. Its architecture, a combination of styles and motifs, is basically classical. The base is 90 feet square and 72 feet high. A portico, supported by 10 fluted Doric columns, projects from its southern facade and provides access to the interior. Rising from the base is a rotunda surrounded by Ionic columns and topped by a conical dome with a 5-ton capstone. Dominating the white-marble-lined interior is the open crypt containing the sarcophagi of Grant and his wife. Two trophy rooms at the rear of the crypt exhibit Union Army battle flags and mural maps outlining Civil War campaigns. Allegorical figures between the four arches in the rotunda represent phases of Grant's life. In niches around the walls of the crypt are heroic busts of five of his comrades in arms: Generals William T. Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan, George H. Thomas, Edward O.C. Ord, and James B. McPherson.
Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004