Still can’t remember who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb? Head uptown to Morningside Heights, far from the well-trod tourist path of New York and home to such famous but often ignored sites as Columbia University, St. John the Divine, Riverside Church, Riverside Park and, of course, General Grant National Memorial.
A vibrant community of intellectuals and students, Morningside Heights also boasts a number of charming bookstores, cafes and bars where you can while away an afternoon.
A day spent walking around the neighborhood will have you feeling like a native, far from the tourist throngs of Times Square.
As you exit the 1/9 subway stop at 116th Street, walk east through the gates of Columbia University. Here amid the wide green lawns and neoclassical buildings you may think for a moment that you have landed in Renaissance Italy rather than modern-day Manhattan.
Columbia’s campus was designed in the 1890s by the renowned architectural firm McKim, Mead and White, the most famous architects of their time.
Be sure to check out Low Library, the site of Columbia’s infamous student uprising in 1968. While in Low, join one of the student-led campus tours that start here.
Barnard College in Morningside Heights on the Upper West Side of Manhattan is just a short walk from the Columbia University campus.
Cathedral Church of Saint John the Devine See this church, Grant’s Tomb and more on the Hop-on Hop-Off bus tour uptown loop
St. John the Divine
At the Amsterdam Avenue exit of Columbia, turn south and head to 112th Street where the massive St. John the Divine Cathedral awaits.
Begun in 1892, construction still continues on what is the largest cathedral in the world.
Check out the Great Rose Window inside—it’s the largest stained glass window in the country—and be sure to stroll around the carefully tended grounds that overflow with flowers and sculptures.
Perched on the edge of Riverside Park from a cliff overlooking the Hudson River, the General Grant National Memorial, popularly known as Grant’s Tomb, provides our eighteenth president and his wife—there’s the riddle answer—with the largest tomb in America.
The Memorial’s designer—John Duncan—also created the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Grand Army Plaza at the entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
General Grant National Memorial
Opened in 1897, the impressive granite and marble structure rises 150 feet and is topped by a colonnaded dome. Inside, rare photographs illustrate an exhibit that charts Grant’s life from his frontier boyhood through his days as a mediocre student at West Point to his unlikely ascent to the top spot in the Union Army and then the presidency.
Helpful park guides—the site is run by the National Park Service—are on hand to answer all your questions about the man and his mausoleum.
The Riverside Church—near Grant’s Tomb—is one of the best known religious structures in New York City. Three distinct sections; five-bay nave, mid-block 22 story tower and 1 1/2 story passage make up the neo-Gothic style structure.
Construction of the Riverside Church began in 1927 and was completed by 1930. Architects Henry C. Pelton and Allen & Collens modeled it after the 13th Century gothic cathedral in Chartres, France. The 392 foot tower overlooks the Hudson River. With 74 bells ranging from 10–40,000 lbs. the carillon is the second largest and heaviest (100 tons total) in the world. A gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the carillon strikes the hour daily with recitals three times a day on Sundays and special occasions.
A New York Times Article details the efforts to have Morningside Heights designated a historical district along with an overview of its history.
by Neil J. Young