If you jump on the subway and ride north to Morningside Heights, you’ll reach a very different part of the city. It’s quieter and greener, and has much more space. So much space in fact that it’s home to the world’s largest cathedral and North America’s largest mausoleum.
Laid to rest in that mausoleum are President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia.
I added it to my ’30 Before 30′ list earlier this year because I’d heard it was an historical must-see — and I kind of wanted the excuse to visit a part of the city I barely know.
I also knew very little about Grant himself before visiting his tomb — save the fact he was a president (and I couldn’t have even guessed at which number president). So thankfully I had Ryan with me to fill in the gaps because there was no information displayed throughout the building.
When we went inside the mausoleum — which is made of 8,000 tons of granite and white marble — I was floored. It is so much bigger than I’d expected and the ceilings, which reach to 150ft, were so high.
As I learned (and don’t laugh at me, Americans) Grant was the Commanding General of the Union Army who won significant battles in the Civil War and ultimately forced the commander of the Confederate Army to surrender — bringing the war to an end. Hurrah! Scenes from the battles he led are dotted throughout the mausoleum and maps show where he led troops across the country.
He was elected as president (the country’s 18th, I learned) twice, in 1868 and 1872. And afterwards, Grant moved to New York, where he passed away from throat cancer in 1885. He was buried in the city and, more than 12 years later, the mausoleum was finished and his body was transferred to an 8.5 ton granite sarcophagus inside. (His wife Julia passed away in 1902 and her body was placed in another sarcophagus beside her husband’s, as per his request.)
This was a perfect quick trip for a sunny day. The building is beautiful and trees line a walkway leading to it. It’s very simple and very serene, and gives a suitably austere nod to a giant in America’s history.
And if you’re after more information, there’s a visitor’s center at the Overlook Pavilion nearby. (Although we somehow missed that part!)
If you find yourself up in the neighborhood — and why not check out the quiet Riverside Park or the handful of great restaurants and bars nearby? — I would recommend you pop by to say hello and marvel at the building’s beauty.
Oh, and that’s another off my 30 Before 30 list!
Grant’s Tomb is at Riverside Park and 122nd Street in Morningside Heights. It’s maintained by the National Park Service and is open to the public on Wednesday to Sunday between 9am and 5pm (it’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays). It’s free. Ranger-led tours are held throughout the day — for more info visit here.