Grant’s Tomb in 2007

Grant’s Tomb in Riverside is a familiar sight along the Hudson River, but did you know it’s currently unfinished? The winner of a design competition, John Hemenway Duncan, had grand plans for the monument to the President General Ulysses S. Grant but some of them were never realized. Equestrian statues were supposed to grace the monument’s façade and it was to be surmounted by a quadriga. Additionally, and more impressively, a grand staircase and monumental arch were supposed to take visitors between the Hudson River and Tomb situated on its acropolis in Riverside Park.

Duncan’s exterior design was inspired by the now-ruined Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). Les Invalides in Paris, which currently serves as Napoleon’s Tomb inspired the interior.

The competition, announced on January 26, 1888 by Alonzo B. Cornell, the Chairman of the Grant Monument Association, had some hefty design guidelines. An 18 point, three page document detailed that the design had to meet a budget of $500,000, that “the designs should combine architecture and sculpture, and that the material to be used should be granite only or in combination with metal” and only the color India ink could be used.

Duncan, who also designed the Washington Monument in Newburgh, NY and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, Duncan’s design bested other well known architects including Charles W. Clinton, Carrere & Hastings, and Napoleon LeBrun and Sons.

In 1928, John Russell Pope, proposed completing the sculptural scheme in the monument’s plaza and pediment. However, the onset of the Great Depression ensured that the necessary funds were never raised and as a result, the General Grant National Memorial remains in an unfinished state.

See more from our NYC That Never Was series