Back in 2010, I took a couple of friends to a science lecture at Columbia University (Pupin Hall) where they offered astronomy viewing from their amazing telescopes on the roof top in upper Manhattan. That was my first encounter with an astrophysicist who was not only good looking but incredibly lean and built. Who knew nerds could be so hot? to this day, I think of that memory very fondly.
During the stargazing portion of the event, we overlooked the streets to Riverside Church and many of Columbia’s prestigious halls. In the western horizon, my eyes got caught but this beautiful monument building a la Grecian style with columns and domes. In the darkness, it stood with this pale white light glowing from its facade, bouncing light back from the city’s light, no doubt. With my handy google map app, I quickly found out it was the General Grant National Memorial (New York). I told myself, one day, I will visit it.
View from Pupin Hall, Columbia
Finally, two years later, I found myself wandering up towards that direction. If you take the 1 train up town and get off at 116th St, walk north on Broadway. It’s a lovely walk past magnanimous scholarly buildings. If you turn left at 122 past a church, you’ll walk uphill. On your right, a beautiful granite staircase leading up deeply encased in greeneries. This is called Sakura Park. You can skip entering this and continue on 122th but it’s a nice detour. A quiet, pretty park.
The memorial is decorated in flags and very little tourists were there. Yet this monumental building stood firm and rooted. Unlike DC, which has a plethora of national monuments and tourists, this was a quieter, peaceful monument. I remember thinking, it reminded me of the famous mausoleum in ancient Hellenic period (I couldn’t quite remember the name until now. Apparently, the exterior architectural style is inspired by the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus).
I didn’t quite do my research so upon entering the building, I was surprise to see how dark it was. You are greeted by gorgeous marble floors, coffering domes, and neo classical paintings on top panels. In the center of the room was an opening with a balustrade draped in purple silk. On either side of the opening, there are interior rooms with flags of various serving states. Upon reaching it, you can look down to see the coffins of President Grant and his wife, Julia. The design and the layout reminded me so much of Napoleon’s tomb in Paris. But unlike the gaudy and bright lights, Grant’s mausoleum is a reverent quiet resting place.
An old photo I took of Napoleon’s Tomb in Les Invalides.
After the quick perusal of the tomb, which I found out later is the largest mausoleum in North America, don’t forget to visit the Riverside Park. There’s a lot of walking, stone steps leading to nowhere, but I promise you, you’ll end up in a gorgeous park overlooking the Hudson River. It’s a much quieter, less traveled park than Central Park and dogs run amok.