History,  Kid Activities,  Missouri,  Museums,  National Parks,  St. Louis

Explore History at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

While most visitors to St. Louis make a point to visit Gateway Arch National Park, another nearby National Park site often falls under the radar. The Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site is well worth the trip to visit. This site preserves the home where the Union Civil War General and 18th president once lived. Read on to learn all about the best tips to explore history at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.

Ulysses S. Grant Historic Site History

The Ulysses S. Grant Historic Site is centered around the White Haven plantation. This was the home of Grant’s wife’s family, the Dents. Grant actually proposed to his wife Julia right on the porch of this home. (Be sure to pay attention when visiting to learn how his first proposal actually went!)

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Settling at White Haven

After Grant resigned from the Army in the 1850s, he and his wife Julia settled at White Haven. From 1854 to 1859 the Dents, Grants and an enslaved African-American workforce lived on the property. Life at White Haven was often filled with conflict as Grant had been raised that slavery was morally wrong while Julia’s family owned 30 slaves and enjoyed the comforts slave labor offered them.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Grant and Slavery

Although Grant benefitted from the farming labor of his father-in-law slaves, Grant himself only owned one slave named William Jones. Grant purchased Jones from his father-in-law in the 1850s. When Grant gave up on farming and moved to St. Louis in 1859, he signed manumission papers to give Jones his freedom.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

The historic site does an amazing job of unpacking the complicated issues and events of Grant’s life. During your visit, you can learn about the history of White Haven, the major events of Grant’s life, as well as the history and details of slavery, Civil War, and Grant’s presidency. The impact of living with slavery first hand led to Grant’s progressive for the time views on civil rights.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Visiting the Grant Historic Site

The Ulysses S. Grant Historic Site is located at 7400 Grant Road
St. Louis, MO 63123, right across the road from the popular Grant’s Farm Park.

There is a parking lot with free parking just for visitors to the site.

Park Hours and Admission
The park is open daily 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. and closed on major holidays.
Admission to the site and tours are completely free!

Recommended Time for a Visit
1-2 hours is recommended. I thought it would be a quick visit and we stayed over 2 hours!

Things to Do at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Visitor Center

Start your visit at the Visitor Center. This is where you can meet for a guided tour of White Haven or watch a 22-minute orientation film providing information on Grant’s military service, life at White Haven, and terms as president. The movie plays every 30 minutes. Our kids enjoyed this movie, but be warned that there are Civil War battle scenes.

The Visitor’s Center also has a gift shop, restrooms, and a classroom area. There was a special traveling exhibit in the classroom at the time we visited.

Become a Junior Ranger

The Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site just released a new Junior Ranger badge to commemorate the 200th birthday of Ulysses S. Grant. Kids can pick up an activity booklet at the Visitor’s Center to complete and earn their Junior Ranger badge. The booklet was a little difficult for our 6 and 8 year old kids, but there were several activities they could complete with help.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site Junior Ranger Badge

Tour White Haven

The site offers free guided tours of the White Haven home each hour on the hour. No reservations are required unless you are a group of 15 or more.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Our guide did a wonderful job explaining the history and interesting details all about Grant and White Haven. Despite the name White Haven, you may be surprised to see that the house is actually green in color! You can learn more about why the house has this “Paris Green” color when visiting.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site White Haven Tour

The tour allows you the option to walk the ground floor rooms of the home. All but one of the rooms are wheelchair accessible. You can view period furnishings, view Grant’s office, and read various interpretive panels.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Explore the Grounds and Outbuildings

Whether you take the guided tour or not, access is still available around the grounds and the outbuildings. While the farm once included 850 acres, only a small amount of land and four historic outbuildings remain. You can view the Summer Kitchen, Chicken House, Ice House, and Horse Stable. These structures are all viewable along a 0.25 mile concrete path.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Visit the Museum

The Ulysses S. Grant designed a horse stable which was constructed on the property in 1872. This barn is now the museum for the site.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

The front section of the museum retains the stable features while the remainder of the museum features exhibits on the life and times of Ulysses and Julia Grant. Half the museum focuses on Grant’s private life and family while the other half highlights his public service to the United States.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

While we didn’t have time to explore the museum quite as in depth as I would have liked, what we did get to view was very informative. Even our kids enjoyed several of the interactive displays as well as the children’s area.

Participate in the NPS Wellness Challenge

A new National Park Service Wellness Challenge recently launched at all seven of Missouri’s National Park sites. Each park has nine challenges – three physical, three mental, and three learning. When complete, you can earn a challenge badge or certificate in one or all three categories.

We managed to complete 8 of 9 challenges for Ulysses S. Grant Historic Site and received our Wellness Challenge Stamps. (The 3 mile guided jog challenge will have to wait!) Cards for the challenge are available at the Visitor’s Center. In fact, we were the very first people to have our cards stamped!

 National Park Wellness Challenge

Attend a Special Event

The site often hosts special events throughout the year. In honor of Grant’s 200th birthday in 2022, there are even more events this year. Check out the park’s website or Facebook page for details.

Overall Impression of Grant Historic Site

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site Tips for Visiting

Overall, our whole family enjoyed our visit and highly recommend a visit. The site is free, informative, and educational for the whole family.

If you are looking for other activities in the area, check out nearby Grant’s Farm, Laumeier Sculpture Park, or Powder Valley Nature Center.

If you are looking for more free things to do in St. Louis, check out this post for the Best Free Things to do in St. Louis.

Have you ever visited this National Historic Site?

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