After he graduated from West Point Ulysses S. Grant was stationed at Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis. One of his classmates from West Point invited Grant to his home, where Grant met and fell in love with Julia Dent. Ulysses and Julia would eventually marry and live in the home for a time with the Dents. They later owned the property themselves, although they were only occasional visitors to the property after the Civil War. This home, White Haven, which was later owned by Ulysses and Julia, is now preserved as Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.
Visitors to the historic site first enter the visitor center, where they are able to see a film about Grant’s life. This film sets the stage for the rest of the visit–it celebrates Grant as a civil rights leader and debunks the myth that his presidency was a failure, instead painting the man as someone whose policies were fair, but too progressive for many Americans. In the visitor center visitors can also sign up for the tours of White Haven, occurring every half hour. The ranger-led tours describe the history of the house and allow visitors to see its interior. The house is well-made, but simple, with a few furnishings to give a sense of what the dwelling may have looked like when Ulysses and Julia lived there. Placards around the house offer descriptions of what life may have been like for the Dents, the Grants, and the Dents’ slaves (as you learn in the video, Ulysses owned only one slave, but freed him on his own accord in the late 1850s when he was in need of money). Behind the house are several outbuildings that visitors can also see.
As visitors return to the visitor center, they are able to walk through a small museum which expands on the content from the video and tour. The museum features more specific information on the lives of Ulysses and Julia, with excerpts from letters, journals, and policies adding first hand accounts of events. If you still want to learn more, there are a variety of books one can choose from, among other things, in the bookstore.
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site is an interesting and informative national park site and is a must visit for anyone interested in history or St. Louis. We highly recommend the site and encourage you to visit to learn more about Grant, his family, and his principles.