WILTON — Grant Cottage, the location where former president Ulysses S. Grant completed his final memoirs prior to his 1885 death, was approved as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service on Jan. 13.
For six years, Tim Welch and the Friends of Grant Cottage worked and advocated for the cottage’s new designation, which lists it on the historic tourism map and allows the cottage to apply for several federal historic preservation grants.
“I thought, ‘Isn’t it about time,’” Welch, president of Friends of Grant Cottage, said. “I’ve been associated with the organization for over 10 years, we started this project six years ago. And it’s taken a bit longer than anybody would have thought.”
Welch said the wait was due to the committee overseeing the cottage’s application at the National Park Service being disbanded, and not reconstituted, until last year.
The Department of the Interior’s National Historic Landmark Committee unanimously voted in favor of the recommendation last fall, and
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed off on the application during the final days of his job last week.
“There are only 2,600 National Historic Landmark sites,” Welch said. “And some people, when they retire, maybe they travel around in their Winnebago and visit all the national parks. And they also visit the National Historic Landmarks. Now we’re one of those. And in many ways, I think it’ll probably give us a boost in terms of our attendance, which, as you might imagine, in 2020, was somewhat challenged due to COVID.”
About 7,500 people per year have been visiting the site, which was acquired as a State Historic Site in 1957. The cottage saw an attendance boost in recent years following the
Ron Chernow Grant biography Grant, and a History Channel mini-series of the same name, which was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and featured promotional spots on the cottage itself.
“Most people say he was a lousy president,” Welch said. “But in recent years, his reputation has increased because it’s now learned that during his presidency, he did more for African Americans and Native Americans than anybody until [John F. Kennedy] 100 years later in the 1960s. And it’s also arguable that he executed Abraham Lincoln’s vision after Lincoln was assassinated, and he attacked the Ku Klux Klan and destroyed them, putting them out of business until the 1920s. He also came up with the Justice Department. There’s a lot of things about the Grant administration and we view Grant Cottage as a shrine, whose purpose is to rehabilitate the general’s reputation.”
The cottage, located on top of Mt. McGregor, was the private summer residence of New York City financier Joseph W. Drexel, who lent it to Grant. Grant stayed there for six weeks until his death on July 23, 1885.
The site’s new designation followed letters from legislators — including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga — to encourage the Department of the Interior to act on the site’s national historic status.
“I was proud to have gone in person to push for this hidden gem to receive resources from the National Park Service,” Schumer said. “Ulysses S. Grant is having a deserved resurgence in appreciation lately, and this well-deserved distinction will encourage more people to visit this beautiful spot.”
Stefanik noted that “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant” has inspired generations of writers.
“I extend my sincere congratulations to the Friends of Grant Cottage Trustees and Staff for their commitment to preserving and promoting this beautiful historical landmark in the North Country.”
Tours of the site are scheduled to resume in May.
“This honor is the result of steadfast and tireless advocacy, spearheaded by our commission member Barbara Glaser who invested so much of herself in this,” said Heather Mabee, chair of the Saratoga/Capital Regional Park Commission. “This honor brings even more prestige to an already prestigious site.”