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Mosaic Benches at Grant’s Tomb, A Place That Matters

mosaic benches grants tombIn the early 1970s, as vandalism and graffiti threatened to engulf the 1897 memorial to General Grant in Riverside Park, the National Park Service had an interesting idea. Rather than try to protect Grant’s Tomb by building a fence to keep people away, why not make the austere memorial and nearby residents feel more like neighbors? The Park Service collaborated with the organization CITYarts to work with artists, architects, and community volunteers to create something wonderful on site. The result was the Mosaic Benches at Grant’s Tomb, Riverside Park & 122nd St. — the largest public arts project of its day — 350 ft. of undulating mosaic-embedded benches that surrounded the building’s back and sides at a setback of 25 ft. Not everyone was pleased with the juxtaposition of these two very different forms of public art and commemoration. Without the intervention of the benches’ advocates, the free-form structures would have been removed. Today, they seem to have settled in place and CITYarts is fundraising for a large-scale renovation.