Visitors’ center among improvements at Ulysses Grant National Historic Site

By BILL MILLIGAN

Renovation work continues at the National Park Service’s Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, former home of President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant.

The site, also known as White Haven, is comprised of 9.65 acres with five historic structures. The renovations, started in 2005, include construction of a new visitors’ center, a new parking lot, relocation and restoration of the farm’s old barn and improvements to the frame house – White Haven – built in the early 1800s.

Though open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, the work will not be complete until this October, according to park spokesman Chris Eckard.

“We’re operating now with our previous technology,” said Eckard, a guide.

Films that now are shown on closed-circuit television screens soon will be shown on a wall-sized display in the new visitors’ center classroom.

The National Park Service began design of the center in 1995 after funding was obtained by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Construction began 10 years later — in 2005.

The National Park Service determined to move Grant’s barn out of the Gravois Creek flood plain at the same time. While the move is now complete, interior improvements continue. Once complete, spokesman Larry Lipinski said the facility will include a library, interpretive center and horse stalls restored in the manner they would have appeared during the time Grant worked the farm.

As president, Grant established the first National Park – Yellowstone – 134 years ago. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush signed legislation establishing the property at 7400 Grant Road as a National Historic Site. The facility is situated just across the road from Grant’s Farm, another popular St. Louis attraction.

The 9.65-acre property is a haven for a variety of wildlife including raccoon, woodchuck, rabbit, squirrel, red fox and indigenous fowl.

Grant came to Jefferson Barracks in 1843 after graduating from West Point. His former roommate, Frederick Dent, introduced him to his sister, Julia, to who he proposed in 1844, just before his unit moved to the southwest to fight the Mexican War.

The site is open to the public every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Guided tours begin at 9:30 a.m.