|GRANT'S TOMB -- (BY BRUCE FRANKEL)
(Extension of Remarks - May 18, 1994)
HON. HENRY J. HYDE
• Illinois State Senator Judy Baar Topinka has taken up the cause of moving Grant's Tomb to Illinois, where he once lived in Galena, and where his last resting place will be treated with more respect. She authored an Illinois Senate joint resolution.
• This material has been forwarded to
the Honorable Rudolph Giuliani, mayor of the city of New York, on behalf
of Senator Topinka.
New York: The correct question soon may change from `Who's buried in Grant's Tomb ?' to `How much longer will Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia, be buried there?'
The imposing New York mausoleum where the Civil War hero and 18th U.S. president is buried has been neglected for decades. Now the Illinois General Assembly wants the National Park Service, which administers the tomb , to surrender unconditionally to these demands:
Show some respect and take care of the century-old tomb --or send the Grants to Illinois, where Grant maintained a residence for 20 years.
Maybe we're just dumb Midwesterners, but we'd be very proud to take care of him,' says Illinois state Sen. Judy Baar Topinka.
But Joe Avery, superintendent of the park service's Manhattan sites, defends the government's maintenance: `It's being sensationalized. We're doing all we can.'
The tomb once attracted more visitors than the Statue of Liberty. But crime-wary tourists are afraid to visit the 122nd Street monument, near Columbia University and on the edge of Harlem.
Homeless people sleep on its littered portico and urinate in its corners. Drug addicts loiter in the shadows, leaving crack vials behind.
• Graffiti is regularly scrawled on the sepulcher's walls. The roof leaks. Photographs and Grant's Civil War battle flags are missing.
• Grant's Tomb has become the most desecrated presidential burial site in the nation,' says Frank Scaturro, a Columbia University history major.
• Scaturro, a former volunteer park service guide at the tomb , has been trumpeting alarm across the nation in a 325-page report.
• `It's a presidential tomb , and it's being treated as a subway station,' says Ulysses Grant Dietz, Grant's great-great-grandson.
• The stir is getting results.
• About $400,000 has been set aside for contracts being drawn to refurbish the tomb's roof, gutters and ventilation. An additional $50,000 has been approved to open the tomb seven days a week.
• Responds Topinka: `We'll give them six months to show they means business.'
• For Grant to receive such treatment would have been unthinkable a century ago.
• One million people lined New York's streets on Aug. 8, 1885, to watch 60,000 marchers in a five-hour funeral procession for the military leader credited with winning the Civil War and saving the country from dissolution.
• Grant actually wanted to be buried at West Point. But, because his wife could not be buried there by his side, he requested a burial site in St. Louis, Galena, Ill., or New York City.
• New York was chosen because his wife, who lived here, could visit frequently, and because Grant was grateful to New Yorkers for their outpouring of affection when he went broke in his later years.
• Grant was born in Ohio. He went to Galena in 1860 to work in his family's harness shop and left the next year to fight in the Civil War. He returned briefly after the war and kept his Galena home.
• The park service began managing the
monument in 1958. Fewer than 50,000 people a year now visit.
Whereas, U.S. Grant died at Mt. McGregor,
N.Y., on July 23, 1885, and his body was finally laid to rest amidst
much pomp, circumstance, parades and speeches in an imposing tomb on
Riverside Drive, on New York City's upper West Side, wherein he was
ultimately joined by his much beloved wife, Julia Boggs Dent Grant in
1902, and that his tomb has been compared to other notable 19th and 20th
century tombs such as that of Napoleon in the Dome des Invalides in
Paris; the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square, Moscow; and the Tomb of the
Unknown soldier, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia; and
• Whereas, It comes to the attention of the Illinois General Assembly that his 8,000 ton tomb in Manhattan has become a hangout for muggers, the homeless and drug dealers and, according to the Chicago Tribune, `graffiti has to be sandblasted regularly from the tomb's walls and columns'; and
• Whereas, The same Chicago Tribune would note that `there are few mentions of the monument in tourist brochures. Visitors to the site, which is open only five days a week, find nothing but a few plaques. The lighting is poor, the roof is leaky, there are no tour guides and no bathrooms . . . and in this behemoth city awash with people and problems, the fate of an out-of-the-way memorial to a man from Galena, Illinois, has clearly not been a priority'; and
• Whereas, At least one New Yorker has tried in vain to get the National Park Service, which administers the tomb , to make the tomb respectable again, and has sought the help of Civil War buffs around the nation to contribute rehabilitation monies with little result, and that now, only between 40,000 and 100,000 people a year come to the tomb even though, in 1887 when it was built, the cost was more than $800,000 collected from some 90,000 people around the country so that it would command a breathtaking view overlooking the Hudson River and would be in proximity to Grant's widow's home in Manhattan; and
• Whereas, At the time of its dedication, speeches by President William McKinley and Mark Twain declared that `New York would always be a famous city because Grant was buried there'; therefore, be it
• Resolved by the Senate of the Eighty-Eighth General Assembly of the State of Illinois, the House of Representatives concurring herein, That the Illinois General Assembly respectfully requests that the Mayor of New York
• City, the Governor of the State of New York, and the National Park Service appropriately honor the memory of Ulysses S. Grant , the 18th President of the United States of America, a man who so gallantly served his country in war and peace, by making all necessary improvements and rehabilitations to his tomb and by providing free and accessible tourist information on the tomb ; and be it further
• Resolved, That the City of New York and the State of New York, in lieu of making necessary improvements and rehabilitation to Grant's tomb and providing appropriate tourist information, may acknowledge that the memory of U.S. Grant and the maintenance of his tomb now constitute a burden to those two entities; and be it further
• Resolved, That if the maintenance of Grant's tomb is too burdensome, the State of Illinois would then request that the City of New York and the State of New York petition the National Park Service to be free of the burden of the Grant's tomb and that the State of Illinois be allowed to appropriately honor this great hero so that he and his wife might find a final resting place with all due respect and tranquility, in a hallowed space in Illinois selected by the Illinois General Assembly in consultation with the Historic Preservation Agency; and be it further
• Resolved, That if the National Park Service agrees to move Grant's tomb to a site in Illinois, the cost shall be borne privately; and be it further
• Resolved, That Illinois is fully capable of honorably caring for its war heroes and former Presidents' resting places as is illustrated by the outstanding condition of Abraham Lincoln's tomb , located in Springfield, Illinois; and be it further
• Resolved, That suitable copies of
this preamble and resolution be forwarded to the Mayor of the City of
New York and the Governor of the State of New York in an attempt to ask
for immediate consideration of the pleas of the people of the State of
Illinois to whom Grant brought so much glory.