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Grant's Tomb rededicated after face lift

April 27, 1997
Web posted at: 11:35 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK (CNN) -- He won a war and later the White House. Now the descendants of Ulysses S. Grant have won their campaign to upgrade the Civil War hero's final resting place.

On Sunday -- a century to the day after 1 million people turned out in New York City for the original dedication of Grant's Tomb -- a crowd of thousands returned to celebrate the completion of an extensive renovation of the towering monument where the bodies of Grant and his wife Julia rest.

The National Park Service spent $1.8 million to upgrade the monument, according to spokesman Manny Stumpf. The tomb draws about 100,000 visitors a year to pay their respects to the 18th president, view its 150-foot high dome and see tableaus depicting Grant's victories as commander of the Union Army in the Civil War.

Family threatened to move bodies

But three years ago, the tomb, located on the upper West Side of Manhattan just east of the Hudson River, was in such a state of disrepair that Grant's descendants sued the government, threatening to uproot the remains of the first family and bury them elsewhere.

Ulysses Grant Dietz, great-great-grandson of the Civil War general, calls the way Grant's tomb was being treated "pretty shocking." The roof leaked, the walls were stained with graffiti and the tomb had become a hangout for drug addicts.

But on Sunday, a proud Dietz, riding in a horse-pulled carriage, was on hand for the rededication, along with hundreds of marching bands from around the country.

Grant remembered as better general than president

Grant was the Colin Powell of his day, a popular, revered general who left the battlefield victorious and took a plunge into Republican politics at the highest levels.

However, his tenure in the White House, from 1869 to 1877, was plagued by allegations of corruption and incompetence. Many historians rate Grant as one of the country's worst presidents.

Still, at his death in 1885, Grant was the most popular general since Washington, and throngs turned out for dedication of his tomb in 1897.

Dietz and other Grant descendants say they hope the park service, which has implemented 24-hour security at the tomb, will keep it from falling into disrepair. But if that happens again, they say they are still prepared to bury the general and his wife elsewhere.

Which would give a spin on that old chestnut, "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?'"

Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist and Reuters contributed to this report.  

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