Riverside Park: Grant’s Tomb Improvements – New York NY


A great number of improvements to the General Grant National Memorial (“Grant’s Tomb”) were undertaken by the WPA between 1935 and 1939. As the National Park Service’s David Kahn (1980) explains:

“Thirty-eight years after the tomb opened, the initial restoration project began in December 1935, when the Works Progress Administration’s laborers laid down new marble flooring in the atrium. In 1935-39 WPA cleaned marble (interior and exterior), replaced floors, replaced roof, electric lighting, heating, built curator’s office, new stained glass, painted over dirty plaster walls, screens, display racks, brass sculptured busts of five Union generals by WPA artists, installation of eagles on the parapet, expansion and landscaping of surrounding parkland and addition of granite stairs and retaining walls [designed by Gilmore D. Clarke and Aymar Embury, Robert Moses’ CWA-WPA-paid chief architects], new trees, two flagpoles with brass plaques, expanded plaza, … “In January 1939, most of the WPA laborers had largely completed their work and a ceremony was held at the tomb during which they were given certificates of commendation by the [Grant Monument] Association. A formal rededication of the tomb, attended by a few Civil War veterans among others, was then held on April 27, 1939. The entire project had cost some $300,000 of which the Grant Monument Association has supplied over $80,000 left over from the fund raising campaign of 1929. The tomb looked fresher inside and out than it had in years.” …

Shortly after the restoration project began, the old New York City Post Office was being demolished and donated two statues of eagles to decorate the front of the Grant Monument. The laborers of the WPA worked on several projects throughout the 1930s, including roof restoration, electric lighting and heating systems, and removing the purple stained glass windows. The Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company installed amber glass to replace the purple stained glass. Toward the end of the 1930s, a project began to restore the two reliquary rooms, where battle flags were displayed in trophy cases, and murals of the wars Grant had fought in were painted on the walls… After the many contributions of the WPA, the Grant Monument Association held a re-dedication of the tomb on April 27, 1939.”

Further references to WPA work on the site are summarized here.

Source notes

Kahn, David M., Curator, Manhattan Cities, General Grant National Memorial: Historical Resource Study, January 1980 (National Park Service), pp.164-174. 
NYC Municipal Archives Online Gallery

Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish, Frank da Cruz on May 14, 2014.

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Location Info

W 122nd St & Riverside Dr
New York, NY 10027

Coordinates: 40.813423, -73.963095

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