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History on the air

CBS' 'Sunday Morning' visits Grant Cottage

Program to focus on historic site

Thursday, February 14, 2013
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History on the air


Grant Cottage State Historic Site.
Grant Cottage State Historic Site.

— The time Ulysses S. Grant spent dying from cancer in his cottage on Mount McGregor is the focus of a segment on this week’s “CBS Sunday Morning.”

“Grant Cottage is the emotional center of the piece,” said Mary Lou Teel, producer of the show, which can be seen locally at 9 a.m. Sunday on CBS Channel 6.

“It was amazing. It’s really a unique place,” Teel said about the day she spent at the cottage with a film crew and CBS correspondent Mo Rocca.

“CBS Sunday Morning” is a popular news program with a national audience of more than 5 million viewers, Teel said. She said the audience has been growing in recent years.

Tim Welch, president of The Friends of Ulysses S. Grant Cottage, gave the television crew a tour of the cottage and grounds where the Civil War general and later U.S. president died on July 23, 1885, after completing his memoirs.

Welch is interviewed in the piece by Rocca.

Teel said the state historic site, which is located a few hundred yards from Mount McGregor state prison and is managed by the Friends organization, is largely the same as it was when Grant died.

She said the clock is stopped at 8:08 a.m. (the time of Grant’s death), the large floral pieces sent after his death are preserved with beeswax, and even a partially filed bottle of cocaine water used to sooth Grant’s painful mouth and throat sits on a shelf.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” Teel said.

Welch said the four-person crew from CBS spent a full day last fall filming at the cottage, which is open to the public from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend.

“It’s a Presidents Day feature,” Welch said about the “CBS Sunday Morning” segment.

He said the 150th anniversary of the Civil War has renewed interest in Grant, President Abraham Lincoln, and the bloody war between the states.

The eight-minute segment will also includes an interview with Ulysses Grant Dietz, Grant’s great-great-grandson, who is now the curator of a museum in Newark, N.J., and H.W. Brands, the author of a new book about Grant, “The Man Who Saved the Union.”

The Dietz interview takes place at Grant’s Tomb in New York City, not at Grant Cottage.

The Friends of Ulysses S. Grant Cottage manages and operates the cottage for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. No state employees work at the site, just a staff of volunteers and a few paid personnel coordinated by the Friends.

The cottage is actually in the town of Moreau but widely associated with Wilton, as it is only a few hundred yards from the Wilton town line and is accessed from Wilton.

The towns of Wilton and Moreau make annual contributions to the maintenance of the historic site, Welch said. The state also helps pay for the upkeep and operation of the cottage.

Welch said this year the Friends will be making $20,000 in improvements to the visitor center adjacent to the cottage. He said some museum-quality interpretive panels will be installed, among other improvements.

Welch said the partially filled bottle of cocaine water located on a shelf near two large leather chairs in the cottage where Grant sat and slept during his final days contains a white residue at the bottom of the bottle. He said officials do check the bottle and its residue on an annual basis to make sure none of the residue has been removed.

 
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