I was in Upper Manhattan this afternoon for a meeting. I took the #1 train to 116th Street and when I emerged to street level Columbia students were packing their belongings into their parents’ cars and heading home for the summer. As I continued along I saw the doors open at Riverside Church and, with about fifteen minutes on my hands, went in to give it a look. As it happened, I stumbled into the Columbia University graduation ceremony, which I could hear and see going on inside the church from the lobby. A student in cap and gown standing in the lobby even asked me if I needed help but I politely said no, wished him well, and went on my way.
The reason I was in the area was because I had a meeting at Grant’s Tomb. As it turns out, I’ll be volunteering there at least over the summer. I am excited about this. I feel that in many ways things have been guiding me towards this for some time. I am already contemplating a number of interpretive possibilities. My first order of business though will be to ground myself in the basics of the site and its historic provenance. I have already just about completed the historic resource study written by a Park Service historian in the early 1980s.
Grant’s Tomb is a good fit because it ties in neatly with my book manuscript about Civil War Era New York City. Theodore Roosevelt Sr, Chester Arthur, Winfield Scott Hancock, Roscoe Conkling, Rutherford B. Hayes: the lives of all of these figures and others intertwined with Grant’s in substantial ways. I feel I’m well-positioned to take this on. I will not be starting until early June but after I do I will have regular updates about what is going on.