Mismanagement Desecration Restoration


In the early 1990s, Frank Scaturro, a student at Columbia University who volunteered at Grant's Tomb, reported the problems he observed at Grant's Tomb to his supervisors in the NPS, only to be ignored or met with bureaucratic hostility. After two and a half years working unsuccessfully to secure improvements from within the system, he went public with a report to the president and Congress in the fall of 1993 documenting the deplorable condition of Grant's Tomb and advancing proposals for the restoration and long-term preservation of the site. This report drew the attention of the national media. (See media archives.) With support from the last surviving member of the defunct GMA and from the Grant family, Scaturro established a new Grant Monument Association as successor in interest to the earlier organization.

Through 1994, the effort to restore Grant's Tomb expanded on several fronts and came to include all three branches of the federal government. On the congressional level, the GMA worked with Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represents Grant's Tomb's district in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York. Additionally, with the pro bono assistance of attorney Edward S. Hochman, who first read about the plight of Grant's Tomb in a January 1994 editorial in the New York Times, the GMA and a representative of the Grant family sued the Secretary of the Interior and NPS officials in charge of Grant's Tomb in an effort to compel the restoration of the monument. The GMA also alerted the public to the magnitude of the situation at the monument by disclosing the intention of descendants of President Grant to re-inter the remains of their ancestor if the government did not conduct a bona fide restoration.

The restoration efforts even received an unexpected boost by the Illinois state legislature, which passed a resolution demanding re-interment of President and Mrs. Grant in Illinois if Grant's Tomb were not restored by federal and New York officials charged with responsibility over the site.

Under pressure from several different directions, the government enacted a number of improvements. Nighttime security was installed at the monument, and the NPS adopted procedures to keep the monument off limits during those hours in which the Tomb had been most vulnerable to desecration. The operational budget of Grant's Tomb, although still a fraction of the budget of the presidential memorials in Washington, D.C., was tripled. Additionally, about $1.8 million was appropriated to conduct a restoration of the site by its 1997 Centennial. This included the cleaning of graffiti, repair of the roof and accompanying water damage in the rotunda, a cleaning of the Tomb from top to bottom, and replacement of the deteriorating granite plaza in front of the Tomb.

Grant's Tomb being cleaned as part of the mid-1990s restoration

The NPS also restored the Fausett murals that had been painted over in 1970 and installed in the reliquary rooms bronze trophy cases, created with the same design as those that had been destroyed.

Dean Fausett and Frank Scaturro at
Grant's Tomb on the day the NPS showcased
the restoration of the Fausett murals

On April 27, 1997, Grant's Tomb celebrated its Centennial and was rededicated as newspapers announced that following years of neglect, Grant's Tomb was a monument once again.

You can watch the Grant's Tomb Centennial commemoration here.

The following images depict Grant's Tomb in the 1990s before corrective action was taken and today…

Eastern Wall - Before & After

Detail from northern wall

Front Plaza - Before & After

Ledge on western side of Tomb's stairway

Western Facade

Details from the western wall

Rear Stairs - Before & After

To point out these improvements, however, is not to overlook lingering problems at the site that need to be remedied. 

Find out What Remains to Be Done: Proposed Visitor Center and Land Transfer and how you can help!