Two New Parks Are Created: The Ulysses S. Grant and Harry S Truman National Historic Sites
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial assisted in the birth of two new historic sites during the 1980s. The Harry S Truman Home became a National Historic Site in 1983, and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial rendered assistance to the site in the early months of its existence. White Haven, a St. Louis farm and home once owned by Ulysses S. Grant, was designated the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (ULSG) in 1989 through the assistance of JEFF, and was officially administered through JEFF into the 1990s. Both sites received tremendous advantages through the personnel and/or financial assistance JEFF was able to render.
The Harry S Truman National Historic Site
Mrs. Bess Truman, widow of former President Harry S Truman, died in October 1982. Her will gave the Truman home in Independence, Missouri to the National Archives and Records Administration, which was not prepared to restore and administer such a property. Secretary of the Interior James Watt signed a proclamation on December 8, 1982 under the Historic Sites Act, which brought the Truman Home unofficially into the National Park System. The proclamation was an emergency measure giving the Park Service authority to protect the property until Congress officially passed a law providing enabling legislation for the site. 
A person was needed to oversee the administration of the new site until a superintendent and staff could be appointed. Tom Richter was a ranger trainee at JEFF, working directly for the office of the superintendent. Jerry Schober recalled: "I sent Tom, a young intake employee at that time, to take care of the Truman site. I told him that this was going to be the hardest job he'd ever have. He had to meet everyone in the community, be presentable, noteworthy, acceptable, yet make no commitments to anyone." 
Richter recalled that "early in January of 1983 I was officially offered the job by Jim Dunning, the regional director in the Midwest Region of the National Park Service in Omaha. And ten days later, I was on my way over Well, actually, even quicker than that. Superintendent Schober and I came over in early January and met with Andy Ketterson, chief of the cultural resources management branch, Midwest Regional Office, and Lee Jameson, who was a restoration specialist from the Midwest Regional Office. We met with Dr. Benedict K. Zobrist, the director of the Truman Library, and Pat O'Brien, the historic preservation officer for Independence. That was mainly an orientation visit, and then ten days later I was over here permanently as the first person to be assigned right to the site."  "[M]y immediate supervisor was Superintendent Jerry Schober," recalled Richter, ". . . and Mr. Schober in turn then reported up to the Regional Office. But in practical terms, a lot of my communication went directly to the Regional Office, particularly to people like Andy Ketterson and Lee Jameson and Ron Cockrell, the regional historian. . ." 
From January to September 1983, Richter was the sole employee at the Truman site. His mission was to keep an eye on the home for resource preservation, put the plan devised by Andy Ketterson into effect on security issues, (which included upgrading a poor smoke alarm and security system), and conducting a public relations campaign, "showing the flag" and letting people know about the National Park Service presence in Independence. Dr. Zobrist of the Truman Library donated the use of an office, a photocopier, and the assistance of a secretary in their facility, and was tremendously supportive. 
JEFF set up an imprest cash fund so that Richter could make cash purchases for small items such as hedge clippers and paying the man who mowed the lawn. Richter was given special authority to sign his own time cards.  JEFF maintenance foreman John Patterson made a trip to the site to make a quick overview of the house's needs.  "Our concern in the beginning was certainly just the physical condition of the building," said Richter. "We had problems with leaks suddenly erupting. Because of the primitive smoke alarm system, we were very concerned about the threat of fire, so we had the [security guards] make patrols every hour through the building. . . [We] improved the lighting system at the home, and put up a couple of modern light fixtures on the garage building to improve the lighting at night."  The Park Service trimmed the shrubs and fixed the roof. The executor of Mrs. Truman's will had hired a guard service to protect the house, but better protection was needed by a group more aware of the sensitive and unique nature of the historic site and its important artifacts. Andy Ketterson worked out a temporary agreement with the Federal Protective Service, the law enforcement arm of General Service Administration (GSA) for the protection of the site, until GSA could hire contract guards. Tom Richter supervised the guards stationed at the house. 
Richter had to deal with the physical problems of the resource, as well as the political factions in Independence, Missouri. "Independence has so many little rival interest groups and it is very difficult to keep on the good side of all of them, particularly in a town like Independence where public affairs are discussed so openly, and sometimes twisted around by different groups to suit their purposes."  Groups included preservation and anti-preservation groups, infighting in the Jackson County Historical Society, pro and anti-tourism groups, religious groups such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the reformed sect of that church, as well as the Baptists, whose property lay in the neighborhood of the Truman Home and might be impacted by large numbers of visitors. In addition, a lot of animosity continued to exist in Jackson County toward the Federal Government, left over from a Civil War round-up of people by the Union Army who would not take the loyalty oath. 
"I would say overall it was sort of a 'show me' kind of attitude," remembered Richter. "They were a bit apprehensive, to be quite frank, with their experiences with the Truman Library, which did not have good public relations with the community. There was some fear that, 'Oh no, here comes another one of those federal agencies that's going to act sort of above the community and above community interests.' Certainly, there was concern over how the Truman home would impact their tourism program. The city officials were very strongly interested in that. There was concern that we would just align ourselves with the Truman Library, perhaps through a shuttle, and thereby attract visitors only to the Truman home and Truman Library and sort of ignore the rest of Independence. The attitude also in this community . . . is that the Truman home really belongs more to Independence than to the nation, that there was sort of a feeling of, 'What are these outsiders coming in?'"  Tom Richter had a very difficult mission to accomplish during those first few months of the site's history, and according to Jerry Schober, surpassed all expectations. 
Richter also had to win over the President's daughter, Margaret Truman Daniel. "At first Margaret told everyone that she was going to remove all the furnishings, but she later changed her mind," recalled Jerry Schober.  Tom Richter added: "[Mrs. Daniel's] first visit in May of 1983 was very important, because that was really the first opportunity the National Park Service had of direct contact with her, talking about our plans and showing the home. She was very reluctant to even have the home open to the public. Her idea at first was we simply would preserve the home without opening it to the public, because she felt the house could not withstand the wear and tear of all these visitors. We used our powers of persuasion to convince her that we would do whatever was necessary to preserve the home as well as show it to the public. . . . It was sort of a winning her over process. Each meeting was more beneficial as she got used to us." 
The Harry S Truman National Historic Site was officially established on May 23, 1983. Tom Richter took an extremely complex and potentially volatile position and turned it completely to the advantage of the Park Service. The job presented a number of headaches and personal restrictions. "[E]ssentially I was on call 24 hours a day," remembered Richter. "If I wanted to go off on a little trip somewhere, I'd have to leave word as to where I could be reached, and so that was a little difficult."  Despite its official designation, the site continued to be overseen by Richter for four more months.
A hectic nine months as a solo employee came to an end for Richter in the fall of 1983. "Around the first of October, Norman Reigle was hired as the superintendent of the park, which then made me the chief of interpretation and resource management. Shortly thereafter, we hired Joan Sanders as our administrative technician. . ."  With the formation of a park staff at Truman, JEFF's involvement in the site came to an end. Tom Richter stayed on as Truman's first chief of interpretation. JEFF assisted the site in several ways, but its assistance was limited due to its distance from Independence. Its involvement with the Ulysses S. Grant site would be far more extensive.
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
To properly appreciate the significance of the Dent/Grant property in south St. Louis County, and the work that culminated in its addition to the National Park system, it is necessary to briefly review its history. 
Early Years and Development: 1796-1821
In 1796, Hugh Graham obtained a Spanish grant for a tract of land consisting of 800 arpents (789.66 acres) on the Gravois Creek. On September 6, 1799, he certified before Daniel Boone, Commandant of the District of Femme Osage, that he had deeded this property to James Mackay in exchange for land on the Missouri River. Mackay was a Scots fur trader who moved to St. Louis from Canada about 1793. Mackay served as commandant for the Spanish government at St. Andrew and St. Charles, Missouri.  After the purchase by the United States of the Louisiana Territory in 1803, Spanish land grants were evaluated by the new government, and confirmed or denied. Mackay's grant was confirmed by the U.S. Board of Land Commissioners for the Louisiana Territory on December 12, 1808, as Survey 9, Township 44 North, Range 6 East. By that date he had already sold a portion of the tract to his brother-in-law, William L. Long. 
William Lindsay Long was the son of Capt. John Long of Virginia. In 1794 the family moved to Kentucky and from there in late 1796 to the Bonhomme district in northwest St. Louis County. In 1807 the family moved to the vicinity of James Mackay's land grant on Gravois Creek. The following year Long married Elizabeth Sappington and bought Mackay's property. William Long began construction on the primary portion of a frame house (which still stands on the estate) for his growing family sometime prior to 1818.
In 1818 Long sold the property to Theodore Hunt, a former naval captain who came to St. Louis in 1813 in his capacity as an agent for the American Fur Company. Hunt married Anne Lucas on June 24, 1814; she was the daughter of Jean Baptiste Charles Lucas, a former U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania, a member of the Board of Land Commissioners for the Louisiana Territory, and a judge. The Hunts moved to the Gravois Creek property following the death of Anne's brother, Charles, in a duel with Thomas Hart Benton in 1817. Anne Hunt wanted to leave St. Louis "for fear she might encounter Colonel Benton in some of her walks." The Hunts stayed in their new home for two years before moving to the Lucas family estate, "Normandy." 
The Dent Family and Ulysses S. Grant at White Haven: 1821-1860
In 1820 or 21 (the deed is not clear on the date), the Hunts sold their property on Gravois Creek to "Colonel" Frederick Dent, a St. Louis attorney and businessman. Dent rented a home in St. Louis but intended the Gravois Creek property to be a summer residence. It also gave him the opportunity to assume the role of a gentleman plantation owner. Dent named his farm "White Haven" after a plantation his family once owned along the Mattawoman Creek in Maryland. The plantation was operated through the efforts of one dozen to three dozen slaves owned by the Dents.
It was during the Dents' residence at White Haven that Ulysses S. Grant first became associated with the family and the property. Grant was born April 27, 1822, at Point Pleasant, Ohio, and grew up in nearby Georgetown, Ohio. He received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1839, graduating 21st in his class of 39. As a young second lieutenant assigned to St. Louis' Jefferson Barracks in 1843, Grant began visiting White Haven to see the family of his West Point classmate, Frederick T. Dent. It was on these visits that Grant met Frederick's sister, Julia Dent, and after a happy courtship at White Haven, the couple were engaged. Ulysses S. Grant and Julia Dent were married on May 22, 1848.
Grant served in the 4th U.S. Infantry throughout the Mexican War, winning commendation for his conduct at Monterrey and in the final assault on Mexico City. Following the war Grant was assigned to military posts at Detroit, Michigan; Sacketts Harbor, New York; Oregon; and in 1853 to Fort Humboldt, California. This last assignment was especially hard on Grant, since he was separated from Julia and his growing family (the Grants eventually had four children). In 1854 he resigned from the army and returned to White Haven.
Ulysses S. Grant and his family lived with the Dents in the main house and at "Wish-ton-wish," a house owned by Grant's brother-in-law on the White Haven estate. In October 1856 the Grants moved to Hardscrabble, a log house that Grant built with his own hands. The Grants moved back to the main house at White Haven in February 1857, to help Col. Dent following the death of Julia's mother. During this period, Grant planted crops for himself and managed the farm at White Haven for Col. Dent. The economic panic of 1857, coupled with illness in the Grant family and among their slaves, hindered the success of the plantation. In 1859 Grant sold his livestock and moved to St. Louis. From 1859 to 1860, Grant worked as a real estate agent and customs house collector in St. Louis. These ventures were unsuccessful, and in 1860 the Grant family moved to Galena, Illinois, where Grant assisted his brothers in a leather goods store owned by his father. One of Grant's brothers was dying of tuberculosis, and Grant was probably expected to take over the operation of the business in the quiet Illinois town. 
Grant's War Years: 1861-1865
The United States Civil War provided Ulysses S. Grant with the opportunity he needed to become a success. From his appointment as a colonel in June 1861 to his triumph as a lieutenant general commanding all of the Union armies in 1865, Grant sprang from obscurity to become a national hero during the war. Grant also attained a level of financial security previously unknown to him, with a substantial annual salary. During the war, Grant's family was either near him in the field or at White Haven. Grant dreamed of the day when he could return to a quiet life of farming, and toward that end began purchasing White Haven from his father-in-law and brothers-in-law. In October 1865 Grant returned to St. Louis for a brief visit, and received a tumultuous welcome. Whether or not he visited White Haven on this trip is unknown. 
Grant Owns White Haven: 1866-1885
By 1868, Grant consolidated all of the former Dent land holdings and obtained clear title to the White Haven site. He renovated the main house on the estate, hired a superintendent, and readied the farm as a place to raise championship horses in his retirement.
Grant was elected in 1868 to the first of two terms as President of the United States. Throughout his presidency, Grant held title to White Haven, although the early 1870s were not profitable years for farming. By 1874, Grant began contemplating the sale of White Haven.
Although personally popular with the public, Ulysses Grant's presidential administrations were marked by scandals. In 1875 and 1876, the Whiskey Ring tax evasion scandal broke in St. Louis, and although the President was never implicated, the trials held there may have made White Haven a less attractive potential retirement home.
When his second term ended in March 1877, Grant did not appear to be ready to retire to the life of a gentleman farmer. His name remained at the forefront of the American political scene, and the potential for another try at the Presidency in 1880 remained. 
White Haven in the Post-Grant Years: 1885-1979
After his presidency, the Grants embarked on a two year, around-the-world tour. Upon their return, they decided to settle in New York City, where Grant entered a business partnership with his son, Ulysses Jr., and Ferdinand Ward in a Wall Street brokerage firm. Ward engaged in illegal activities that drove the business to the edge of financial disaster. In an attempt to save the enterprise, Grant obtained a loan of $150,000 from his friend William Henry Vanderbilt. Despite this effort, the firm collapsed and Grant lost his money. To repay the loan to Vanderbilt he signed over his ceremonial Civil War relics, the treasures given to him by heads of state on his world tour, and a substantial quantity of property, including White Haven. Grant was diagnosed as having cancer of the throat in 1885, and in a last attempt to provide for his family after his death, spent his final months in writing his memoirs. He died in a small cottage at Mount McGregor, New York, on July 23, 1885, having just completed his autobiography. 
In 1888, William Vanderbilt sold White Haven to Luther H. Conn, a native of Kentucky who moved to St. Louis in 1867 and made a fortune in mining and real estate. He renamed the estate "Grantwood" and began to raise thoroughbred horses there. Conn was proud of owning the former president's home and took special care to preserve the house in its original condition.
In 1903 Conn sold 217 acres of the estate to Adolphus Busch, who built a palatial residence there called "Grant's Farm." By June 1905 Conn sold the fifteen acres surrounding the main house to a development company for an amusement park, and subdivided the remainder among individual purchasers.
Fortunately, the amusement company's plans did not materialize, and in 1913 St. Louis realtor Albert Wenzlick purchased the central 15-acre portion of the former Grant estate. Wenzlick used the house as a summer home and showplace for visitors. In 1937 his son Delbert inherited the property and decided to make White Haven his permanent home. In 1940 he had the main house and adjacent buildings recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey, then restored and modernized them. Delbert Wenzlick lived at White Haven until his death in 1979. Due largely to the efforts of Wenzlick prior to his death, and to the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation, White Haven was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Creation of a National Historic Site: 1980-1991
After Delbert Wenzlick's death the White Haven property was placed in trust as part of his estate; his son, H.A. ("Bill") Wenzlick, acted as agent. Some members of the Wenzlick family hoped to sell the property to the Busch family or to a developer for condominiums, and toward that end they formed the corporation "U.S. Grant's White Haven." Throughout the early 1980s Bill Wenzlick continued his efforts to sell the estate, either to be maintained as a historic property or to be razed for extensive development. 
In response to these efforts, those concerned with the preservation of White Haven began working to bring the site and the danger of its destruction to the attention of congressional politicians. In December 1984, Representative Richard Gephardt and Rob McDonald (a staff member of Senator John Danforth), along with JEFF Superintendent Jerry Schober and St. Louis County officials, toured the site and considered strategies for keeping it out of the hands of developers. At that time, Gephardt expressed a hope that private interests would purchase the property. 
Increasing interest in preserving White Haven led to the creation of a preservation organization, Save Grant's White Haven, Inc., in 1985.  In addition, St. Louis County formally requested that the National Park Service consider White Haven for designation as a National Historic Landmark. In June 1986, JEFF was directed to develop alternative management strategies for the site and to undertake an assessment of its significance.  In July, Senators Danforth and Thomas Eagleton, and Rep. Gephardt asked Interior Secretary Donald Hodel to direct the National Park Service to undertake a feasibility study of White Haven as a potential unit of the National Park System.
The study was completed in September 1986, and suggested four basic alternatives: the acquisition and restoration of White Haven by the Save Grant's White Haven group, which would turn it over to a responsible entity to be managed as a historic site; some sort of cooperative administration by the federal government and a private interest, such as Save Grant's White Haven, Inc.; a combination of federal and county or state administration; and administration solely by the federal government. 
In October 1986, St. Louis County purchased the house and 10 acres of property for $510,000. Half the money came in the form of a loan from the Missouri State Department of Natural Resources; the remaining funds were obtained through a bond issue that had been passed in August.  The Save Grant's White Haven group stated that it would continue raising money to help restore the house and repay the loan. By July 1987 the county was ready to begin restoration. 
Even though White Haven had been saved from the threat of developers, interest in making it a part of the National Park System continued. In December 1987, NPS Chief Historian Edwin C. Bearss recommended that the property be included in the system because of its national significance, and proposed that it be administered by JEFF.  Bearss elaborated upon the importance of the White Haven site:
On March 21, 1988, Rep. Richard Gephardt introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives for the inclusion of White Haven in the National Park System. That particular measure failed to pass because it was introduced so late in the session, but in March 1989, Senators Danforth and Christopher Bond introduced Senate legislation to create the White Haven National Historic Site. Gephardt also introduced similar legislation in the House. The Director of the National Park Service, William Penn Mott, supported the acquisition of White Haven "as a National Historic Site by Secretarial Order with Congress enacting a Statutory Authorization for operating funds." 
In April 1989, White Haven was officially declared a National Historic Landmark by Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan.  In May, Gephardt's legislation gained the approval of the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands despite objections from NPS Deputy Director Herbert Cables, who wanted to conduct a management study before accepting the property. 
In June, the House passed the legislation with one modification White Haven would be known as Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. The Secretary of the Interior was authorized to accept the property from St. Louis County and a provision was made for annual appropriations necessary for maintenance. 
Further progress was made in August 1989 when the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved identical legislation. In September, the full Senate gave final congressional approval to the bill. On October 3, 1989, President George Bush signed Public Law 101-106, which gave the Secretary of the Interior authority to accept White Haven and establish it as a National Historic Site. The legislation also authorized the Secretary to acquire by donation or purchase with donated funds personal property associated with White Haven or President and Mrs. Grant for the purposes of the site. Thus the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (ULSG) was created.  JEFF funding was earmarked in the FY 91 budget to establish an NPS presence, provide site protection and preventative maintenance, and initiate the planning process.  Effective January 14, 1990, Park Ranger Denise Stuhr was reassigned on a not-to-exceed one year detail to the Superintendent's office, to develop off-site programs associated with Ulysses S. Grant, and to familiarize herself with the NPS planning process to advise interested parties on the progress of the site.  Plans were made to prepare planning documents, including a Historic Resource Study, Historic Structure Report, and a General Management Plan. Guidelines for potential sales items representing the site were drawn up by JEFF Historian Mike Capps. 
The property was purchased from St. Louis County and the State of Missouri through the use of non-federal funds on May 30, 1990, and donated to the National Park Service for inclusion in the National Park System.  Executive Director Ray Breun of the Jefferson National Expansion Historical Association, who purchased the site, recalled:
The official transfer of the site to the National Park Service took place at White Haven on June 12, 1990, in a ceremony attended by county, state, and federal representatives.  Jill York O'Bright, former regional historian for the Midwest Region, was chosen as the first superintendent of the site and began to hire a staff. JEFF had given birth to a new park.
The Grant site was composed of a tract of land of approximately 9.65 acres located southwest of St. Louis in an unincorporated portion of St. Louis County. The estate was surrounded by a heavily wooded, suburban residential neighborhood known as Grantwood Village, and by Grant's Farm, a 281-acre estate owned by Anheuser-Busch, which included an animal preserve and a theme park open to the public. 
There were five historic buildings on the property. The main house, built in the early 1800s; a possible former slave quarters or kitchen of an unknown era; a storage shed built around 1910; a small building which may have been used as a smokehouse, springhouse or icehouse, built about 1875; and a barn dating to the 1870s. 
The National Park Service acquired the site with the intent of restoring and preserving the significant buildings, enhancing the site with collection acquisition and management, permanent and special exhibits, education programs, special events, and information for public tours and interpretive literature. FY91 funds were appropriated for a Historic Resource Study and Historic Structure Report. Private and ONPS funds were used to renovate a former caretaker's cottage (a non-historic structure) into a functional park headquarters building. 
The Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site looked toward the 1990s as an era of planning and preparation, to open the grounds and doors of White Haven to the people of the United States. Due to the efforts of a concerned community, congressional cooperation, the Jefferson National Expansion Historical Association, and the interest of Jerry Schober and the NPS, a gap in telling the story of the history of the United States illustrating the character, achievements and career of Ulysses S. Grant was filled.
Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004