On one of the highest points of elevation in the City of New York, which is Riverside Park on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, there stands an edifice designed in the eclectic neoclassical style, adorned by Doric columns and a copula, facing southward and overlooking the Hudson River. This edifice is the General Grant National Museum, more popularly known as Grant’s Tomb and one of the most visited places of historical value in New York City.
Grant’s Tomb is the final resting place of Ulysses Simpson Grant, the 18th President of the United States and a general during the American Civil War. He is joined there by his wife, Julia Dent Grant.
President Grant is considered to be a great figure in the history of the United States. His actions in the American Civil War were deciding factors that turned the tides of victory in favor of the Union. His presidency was marked by the struggles of a nation dealing with the aftermath of civil war. President Grant was also famous and respected outside his homeland, having met with world leaders such as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Great Britain and the Emperor Meiji of Japan during his post-presidency world tour. When he died in 1885, after struggling with throat cancer and a bout of bankruptcy after being swindled in a business venture, over a million people were said to have attended his funeral parade in New York City.
President Grant was a resident of Galena, Illinois except for the last four years of his life, which he spent in New York City; why then was New York City chosen to be the site of his mausoleum? The city was chosen for two things. One is as a token of gratefulness by President Grant to the people of New York City for the show of affection and support he and his family had received from them during the trying years of his bankruptcy. The other reason was to allow Mrs. Grant the opportunity to visit her husband’s tomb frequently before joining him there in her own death in 1902.
The mausoleum of President Grant and his wife is the second largest one of its kind in the western world, the largest one being the final resting place of President James Garfield. The building was designed by John H. Duncan, who took his inspiration from the tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus. The construction of the building was made possible through public donations, with US$600,000 collected from various donors in the United States and the world for this very purpose. The building was completed in 1897 and was dedicated by then-President William McKinley in the same year.
What can a visitor look forward to when visiting Grant’s Tomb? Aside from viewing the sarcophagus wherein President Grant and his wife were entombed, there are many exhibits celebrating the life and work of President Grant. Occasionally, there are open air concerts held just outside the mausoleum. There are also ranger tours that will guide the visitor around the surrounding Riverview Park.