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Grant's Tomb
 

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Grant's Tomb

Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th president of the United States. When Grant died, a tomb, in his memory, was built for him. New York architect, John Duncan, was chosen to design the tomb of the deceased president. The granite that was used in Grant's tomb was stony creek granite that came from the Stony Creek Red Granite Company that was founded began in 1889 and was eventually taken over by Thomas Pearson of New York. Construction of the president's tomb did not start until 1891, six years after his death.Ulysses S. Grant After desecration and reconstruction, Grant's tomb serves as a memorial and also as a grand site for tourists to come and admire still to this day.

Ulysses S. Grant was elected as the 18th president of the United States in 1868 and started his presidential term as part of the Republican Party on March 4, 1869. He was then re-elected in 1872, and ended his presidency on March 4, 1877. Before his presidency, Grant was a graduate from West Point Academy and then became a general in the United States Army. Abraham Lincoln appointed Grant as the Commanding General of the Army in 1864. Ulysses S. Grant, in 1865, ordered General William Tecumseh Sherman to move his army south while Grant and his Army of Potomac found Robert E. Lee’s army in Northern Virginia. William Tecumseh Sherman, also being a very famous general in the U.S. Army also has a monument dedicated to him in 1989 in New York City. His equestrian monument, made of stony creek granite, was sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the architect behind the monument was Charles McKim. On April 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Court House, Grant wrote out terms for the surrender of Robert E. Lee. Not only did General Grant play a major role in the surrender of Lee’s army, he also was the Major General at the Battle of Shiloh, the Siege of Vicksburg, and also, many years ealier as a young officer, took part in the Mexican-American War. With many years in the military and great success as a general, it was clear that Grant was a major popular icon in the United States.

Under his first term as president, Grant had come across numerous issues, considering the Civil War had just ended. During his re-election in 1872, Grant was attacked by the Liberal Republicans because they wanted amnesty for Confederate soldiers. This is where Charles Sumner coined the term “Grantism”, when Sumner accused Grant of political patronage, nepotism, and being an autocrat. Sumner was a leader of the Radical Republican party from Massachussetts. After Grant retired from his presidency in 1877 he shortly after became a partner in a financial firm with Ferdinand Ward. It was a brokerage firm that facilitated the buying and selling of financial derivatives. However, in 1884, the company Ward & Grant went bankrupt and Ward fled. It was said that the firm went bankrupt because of the failure of the Marine National Bank of New York. After the bankruptcy, Grant was diagnosed with throat cancer. For the remainder of his life he worked in writing a memoir to pay of his debt to support his family. Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885.

Grant's Funeral Procession
Before Grant died, discussion about where he would be buried took place. Many people believed that he should choose to be buried at West Point. However, Grant declined this burial site because he knew that his wife, Julia Grant, would not be able to be buried next to him at West Point. Mayor William R. Grace said that he would set aside a piece of land in one of New York’s parks for Grant’s burial site. When Ulysses died, the Grant family decided to bury him in Riverside Park in Manhattan. The Riverside Park has one of the highest elevations in New York and overlooks the Hudson River. When Julia Grant eventually died in 1902, her body was buried in a twin sarcophagus next to her husband’s. The burial site at Riverside Park allowed the two loved ones to rest in peace together. Grant’s funeral took place from New York City Hall all the way to Riverside Park. It consisted of about 60,000 marchers and took over five hours to pass. Over one million people had witnessed the funeral procession. Grant’s remains were placed a temporary tomb in Riverside Park because the Grant Memorial Association, GMA, was working on finding an architect to make the perfect fitting tomb for the passing president.

The first president of the GMA was former president, Chester A. Arthur. The first secretary of the GMA was Richard T. Greener, who was the first African American graduate of Harvard and a great supporter of Grant. Another important person in the GMA was its fifth president, Horace Porter. He was a friend of Grant’s from aiding him in war and being his presidential secretary. Porter served as the president of the GMA right until he died in 1921. The GMA is still the association that supplies funding for President Grant’s tomb. Exterior of Grant's Tomb

The GMA held a competition of over sixty architects to see who would design and oversee the construction of Grant’s tomb. The GMA finally came to the conclusion of choosing New York architect John Duncan to construct Grant’s tomb in Riverside Park. Duncan’s previous works consisted of “The Washington Monument at Newburgh”, “The Newburgh Monument” and “The Tower of Victory”. Duncan, designed the tomb which incorporates designs from the tomb of Napoleon, the tomb of the Roman emperor Hadrian, and the Tomb of King Mausolus at Halicarnassus, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. However, Duncan's broad, ambitious plans for the tomb had to be changed because there was not enough money to support the original blue prints. Over $600,000 dollars would be raised by 90,000 people to construct Grant’s tomb. Even though the money donated for the tomb was mostly public donations, some companies and persons stand out. For instance, the Western Union Company had donated $5,000 to the project. The former governor of New York, Alonso Cornell proposed a fundraising goal idea of 1 million dollars. Also, the Consumers Coal Company donated 0.375 cents to the fundraising for every ton of coal they sold. Becoming more organized, the GMA finally started construction in 1891.The crypt of Grant's tomb

Duncan also knew McKim, Mead, and White because he had once worked on the same street of millionaire mansions as the architectural firm. At 7th 54th West Street in Midtown, John H. Duncan designed this mansion. McKim, Mead, and White designed 9-11th 54th West Street in Midtown which belonged to James Junius Goodwin, a banker and cousin of J.P Morgan. John H. Duncan, according to the GMA, was the “right man for the job” of constructing Grant’s tomb with his vast neoclassical ideas and experience.

Grant’s tomb is over 150 feet long and the exterior consists of more than 8,000 tons of granite, including the pink Stony Creek granite, and the interior consist of mostly marble. In 1928, another architect, John Russell Pope suggested more ideas for Grant’s tomb. In his suggestions an equestrian statue in the plaza was added as long with busts of Grant’s closest acquaintances such as General Sherman and General Sheriden in his crypt. An artist, Dean Fausett, painted murals in the tomb reflecting Grant’s battles in war. More additions of detailed artwork were added to the tomb. Sculptor, J. Massey Rhind, sculpted the epitaph on Grant’s tomb that reads “Let us have peace”. These words were taken from Grant’s republican nomination speech. Also, on each side of the epitaph are two eloquent sculptures assumed to be representing Peace and Victory. On each of the four pendentives in the interior of the tomb allegorical representations show Grant’s life by Rhind sculpting a scene of birth, military life, civilian life, and death. In 1966, another artist, Allyn Cox, painted murals on each of the three lunettes inside Grant’s tomb. Cox was also an acquaintance of the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White where they all worked together on the Dumbarton Oaks mansion, which is located in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C.  McKim, Mead, and White also worked with Stony Creek Granite at Grand Central Station, the William Tecumseh Monument in New York, and Columbia University. Even though Duncan was the initial architect for the tomb, many other people such as architects, designers, and artists added to the appearance of the 18th president’s tomb making it more detailed, meaningful, and special. Grant’s tomb is the second largest tomb in the Western hemisphere, with the Garfield Memorial being the first. Mainly, the exterior of the Grant tomb contains Stony Creek Granite because the inside of the tomb is mostly marble. The two eagles in the front are made of the granite.Epitaph on Grant's tomb

Unfortunately, in the 1960s and the 1970s, the National Park Service (NPS) and the Secretary of Interior of the Clinton Cabinet, Bruce Babbitt, took over maintenance of the tomb, mismanaging the tomb, as it took on desecration and a decline of patriotism. General Grant’s tomb fell to vandalism and was regarded as a public disgrace. Graffiti was an extensive problem as the tomb was covered in it. Also, two of the reliquary trophy cases inside the tomb were destroyed. Empty bottles of alcohol, marijuana baggies, and cocaine vials were found around the tomb. Also, the tomb was no longer used as a memoir for the deceased president, but as a bathroom facility and shelter for homeless people. Under the negligent NPS, who was in charge taking care of the tomb, discoloration and water damage destroyed the rotunda and cracks started to appear in the granite. In the 1990s, a man by the name of Frank Scaturro noted and documented the extensive damage of the tomb and reported it to the NPS who was responsible for the negligence of the tomb. As they took no action, Scaturro went to president Bill Clinton and Congress in 1993. Frank Scaturro, with the help of the government and attention of the media, formed a new Grant’s Monument Association that would restore the tomb. About $1.8 million dollars went into the restoration of Grant’s tomb. $ 1 million dollars donated to the resotration actually came from the NPS. On April 27, 1997, Grant’s tomb was fully restored as it celebrated its 100 years and its return as a historic monument once again.

Interior of Grant's tomb
As a large historic and memorial masterpiece, General Grant’s tomb is a work of art. For the construction of his tomb, as mentioned, marble and granite were used. Stony Creek Granite was used in the construction of Grant’s burial site in 1891 which was quarried from Bear Island of the Thimble Islands off Hoadley Point in Guilford, Connecticut, home to Beattie Quarry. Bear Island was originally called Goat Island. This was because many Swedish immigrant quarry workers who lived on the island kept herds of goats for milk.  In 1870, a New Yorker, Thomas Pearson, purchased Bear Island and quarried granite that was used for bridges across the Connecticut River at Saybrook, Middletown, and Hartford, such as Bulkeley Bridge. The pink granite from Bear Island also provided granite for the Lincoln Memorial and the Statue of Liberty which was dedicated October 28, 1886.

The Grant Monument association, a non-profit organization, keeps watch over Grant’s tomb and watches the condition of the tomb as well. The GMA has not just presented Grant’s tomb as a memorial to celebrate his life, but also presents it as a tourist attraction. The GMA, still till this day, has created a visitor center that allows people to go inside and see the interior, and the exterior of General Grant’s burial site. Each year on April 27, which is the date of Grant’s birthday, a ceremony is held at the tomb to celebrate Grant’s life.
 

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 Works Cited:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/10/garden/10oaks.html
http://www.grantstomb.org/ind-gma.html
http://orbisnews.org/nyc/gr-t/g-grant.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulysses_S._Grant#Shiloh
http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/ulyssessgrant
http://www.branford-ct.gov/History/Stony%20Creek%20Quarries.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulysses_S._Grant#Presidency_1869.E2.80.931877
http://nyc-architecture.com/HAR/HAR008.htm
http://www.riversideparkfund.org/visit/general-grant-national-memorial-grants-tomb/
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/18/realestate/18scap.html
http://localism.com/ct/branford/stony_creek


DeFord, Deborah. Flesh and Stone: Stony Creek and the Age of Granite. Stony Creek, CT: Stony Creek Granite Workers Celebration/Leete's Island, 2000. Print.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 October 2011 11:35  

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Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone - Stony Creek and the Age of Granite - buy at Amazon.com
Available on Amazon

Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.