Invisible Ground: Augmented Reality, Storytelling and Immersive History
Invisible Ground is a podcast, telling the stories of the familiar places and people in southeast Ohio which might not be always visible, but are part of our daily life.
Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union Army in the Civil War and 18th president of the United States was born in this one-story, timber-frame home on April 27, 1822 to Jesse and Hannah Simpson Grant. The Grants settled in Point Pleasant in 1821 and Jesse took charge of the tannery located nearby. The growing family paid $2 a month rent. Before Grant’s first birthday, the family moved to Georgetown, Ohio, where he lived until his appointment to West Point at age 17. Due to an error on his application, his name was changed from Hiram Ulysses Grant to Ulysses Simpson Grant. He never corrected the error.
Following Grant’s death in 1885, supporters moved the house by barge to Cincinnati and displayed it at the Ohio Valley Centennial Exposition, on the banks of the canal outside the grounds. Henry T. Chittenden of Columbus saw it on display. After he left Cincinnati, he determined to make an effort to rescue the building and place it where it would be carefully preserved for future generations.
Mr. Chittenden purchased the building for $3,000. He brought the cabin to Columbus and erected it in Goodale Park, just north of downtown. The cabin was an important part of the celebrations of the 1888 GAR, Grand Army of the Republic, encampment. This national reunion included 70,000 Union veterans who marched by the birthplace of the man who had once commanded them in war. Afterwards, the house went to the Ohio State Fair Grounds in Columbus.
Exposed to the elements and throngs of visitors for nearly a decade, the birthplace's condition was deteriorating. Supporters built a glass and limestone pavilion over the house to protect it in 1896. Governor Bushnell and Henry Chittenden helped to dedicate the memorial building. At the ceremony Chittenden said, "we have gathered about this now consecrated spot to complete an affair that had its beginning some eight, or perhaps better, eighty years ago when this little cottage which we see here was reared upon the banks of the Ohio River to be the home of a simple pioneer of our great state. The son of that pioneer was the great soldier…"
Despite its isolation and the lack of good roads, aging Civil War veterans and others continued to make pilgrimages to Point Pleasant. Though another house had been built on the site, enthusiasts installed a Civil War cannon and a plaque dedicated to the memory of Grant in 1907. The residents of Point Pleasant had long advocated the return of the birthplace. The centennial of Grant's birth in 1922 accelerated their efforts. State officials created a U. S. Grant State Memorial Association and a Grant Centenary Commission to spearhead the effort to bring the birthplace home.
The nearly impassable road leading to Point Pleasant had long been used as an argument against returning the birthplace to its original site. In February 1922, Congress approved the creation and sale of Grant memorial gold dollars and silver half dollars, with part of the proceeds to be used to improve the five mile stretch of road from New Richmond to Moscow. Construction of the Grant Memorial Bridge over Indian Creek improved access to the birthplace site in 1927. Federal, state and local officials worked together to finance further road improvements in 1928.
In March 1936, workers dismantled the birthplace from its site at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. They shipped the house in sections on six trucks to Point Pleasant, where they stored it in a barn. Workers moved the two-story frame house which had occupied the site since the late 1880's to a nearby site. They reconstructed the birthplace on the original stone foundation. State and local officials rededicated the Grant birthplace on October 4, 1936.
The Ohio History Connection furnished the home with period objects and artifacts of the Grant family. In 1998, Federal officials placed the birthplace on the National Register of Historic Places. Historic New Richmond, Inc. manages the house in partnership with the Ohio History Connection to keep the Grant Birthplace open to the public.
Audiovisual Curator, Lisa Wood, wrote a blog post in 2020 about a historic film donation that included footage of the 1930's relocation of the Grant Birthplace. To learn more about this footage, please visit this blog post.
To learn more about visiting the Grant Birthplace and the available programming at the site, please visit the website for the U.S. Grant Birthplace.