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Restoring Grant's Glory

The Grant Memorial sits in silent, yet powerful repose beneath the shadow of the U.S. Capitol Dome, serving as a timeless sentinel to the heroism, valor, strength and also the anguish our nation endured when it was torn apart by the Civil War.

During the war, the Capitol was briefly used by Union troops as soldiers' quarters, a hospital and even a bakery. Today, millions of visitors approach the large bronze and marble memorial that honors the Civil War general, Ulysses S. Grant, whose victories as a military strategist are credited with saving the Union and who later became our nation's 18th president.

"Time and the elements of nature have ravaged the monument's surfaces," said Eugene Poole, Jr., U.S. Capitol Jurisdiction and Project Executive in Planning and Project Management, who is managing the Grant Memorial's bronze conservation and Union Square rehabilitation. "We are moving aggressively to conserve, preserve and restore the historic fabric of the Grant Memorial and Union Square to its former glory."

The care of Union Square and the Grant Memorial were transferred from the National Park Service to the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) in late 2011. The Grant Memorial is located by the reflecting pool at the east end of the National Mall, west of the U.S. Capitol.

Upon transfer, the AOC addressed immediate safety issues and repaired the most visibly deteriorated conditions throughout Union Square. Because weather and time have not been kind to the Grant Memorial, AOC staff developed a preservation strategy to restore the Grant Memorial to its original condition.

The preservation effort will begin in the spring of 2015, with the conservation of the nine bronze sculptural elements. Fencing and scaffolding will surround the sculptural groups. The conservation will include cleaning, repairing, repatinating and protecting the existing bronze. Sixty-one missing or broken bronze pieces will be recast. After the bronze conservation is complete, stone cleaning, setting and conservation will follow.

"After worrying about the poor condition of the largest and probably most visible and visited sculptural monument in the city, I am thrilled that we will be restoring it so that everyone will be able to see and appreciate the incredible accurate and life-like details and strong emotional impact that have been obscured by corrosion," said Barbara Wolanin, Curator for the AOC. "In addition to all that it commemorates, the Grant Memorial is a masterwork of American sculpture to which Henry Shrady devoted 20 years of his life and sadly, passed away just two weeks before the memorial was dedicated."

Getting the statue restored to its original brilliance before the bicentennial of Grant's birth in 2022 – a century after its dedication – will properly honor this American hero. Wolanin added, "The conservation of the memorial will demonstrate the commitment of the Architect of the Capitol to preserve and care for our national treasures for current and future generations."

Follow project updates for the Grant Memorial Restoration.

Panorama of the Grant Memorial and Capitol Reflecting Pool.

Grant Sightings

During portions of the conservation of the Grant Memorial, the statues may not be visible, but you can still catch a glimpse of Grant as a marble statue in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol and on the $50 bill. The lions from the Grant memorial can also be seen during the opening credits of the political thriller "House of Cards."

Who was Ulysses S. Grant?

1822

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio. Appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1839, he arrived to learn that he had been erroneously enrolled as Ulysses Simpson Grant. Simpson was his mother's maiden name. The roll could not be corrected, so Grant changed his name.

1843

Upon graduation he was posted near St. Louis, where he met his future wife, Julia Dent. After distinguished service in the Mexican War and at several garrison postings, he resigned his commission in 1854.

1861

Volunteering to serve the Union cause after the start of the Civil War, Grant was the strategist of victories that earned him national attention. His achievements at Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga and Appomattox were decisive in the course and outcome of the war.

1869

He served as the 18th President of the United States (1869-1877). His political inexperience and misplaced trust in unscrupulous advisers, however led to scandal despite his own innocence of corruption.

1885

Grant died of throat cancer on July 23, 1885, and is entombed with his wife Julia in New York City, in a mausoleum overlooking the Hudson River.

This story is also published in the Spring 2015 issue of AOC's Foundations & Perspectives.

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Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect the correct number of bronze elements and missing pieces.

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Comments

Jack Bryar (not verified)
Grant was a far greater president than most appreciate. He tried very hard to preserve the gains of freed slaves at a time when corruption in Congress ans among the state Republican parties was almost endemic, and during a period when the Klan and other neo Confederate political organizations were already beginning to raise havoc.

Pamela Thornlow (not verified)
Are there other bronze statues by H M Shrady on the capitol grounds? I am specifically looking for an image of a large moose. Thank you.

Sarah Bublitz
Hi Pamela, there are no other Shrady works around the Capitol, but I was able to find information about his Bull Moose sculpture through the Met Museum's website. Here is the link for that: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/12588

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