New Lease of Life for President U.S. Grant Ancestral Homestead
The President U.S. Grant Ancestral Homestead in the Clogher Valley was reopened this weekend following £58K refurbishment works.
The popular historical site outside Dungannon, owned by Mid Ulster District Council, was officially reopened on Saturday 3 July.
The Homestead was the family home of the Simpsons, the ancestors of Ulysses S. Grant, General and 18th President of the United States of America. His grandfather John Simpson was born in the small whitewashed cottage and lived there until the age of 22 when he emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1760.
In the early 1960s, the property was identified as being the ancestral homestead of the President and in 1965, a Blue Plaque was erected in recognition of the significance of the site. In 1978 the legacy Dungannon District Council purchased the property and in 1983 the original restoration began.
While new audio and visual interpretation was added to the site in 2017, this is the first significant refurbishment in more than 30 years and was 100% funded by the Ulster-Scots Agency.
The work has enhanced the Homestead, with the introduction of welcome signage at the entrances and exits, directional signage to help visitors navigate around the site and brand new interpretive displays within and around the buildings.
The play park on the site has also been refurbished with 100% funding from the Department for Communities, making it more accessible and inclusive though the installation of a pod swing, a wheelchair accessible ground level roundabout and a wheelchair accessible in ground trampoline.
Speaking about the reopening of the significant tourist attraction, Chair of Mid Ulster district Council, Councillor Paul McLean said,
The Clogher Valley is an area of huge significance for the Council so to see this substantial funding allocated to such an important historical site is certainly welcomed by myself and by the Council as a whole.
The refurbishment work, which has been 100% funded by the Department for Communities and The Ulster Scots Agency, will enhance the user experience for visitors to the impressive site. Through the newly installed interpretive displays, visitors can develop their learning and knowledge of the man himself, including his early years, military career, presidency, political achievements and his legacy, which very much still lives on today.
The enhancement doesn’t end at the Homestead, visitors will now be able to enjoy an accessible and inclusive play park, making play open, possible and enjoyable for all. We are extremely fortunate to have a landmark of such political and historical significance on our doorstep and I am thrilled to be able to reopen it to residents of the district, and tourists from further afield, today.
Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities, added: “My Department’s Access and Inclusion Programme is designed to help promote a more inclusive society by improving accessibility at arts, cultural and active recreation venues for people with disabilities who often have limited opportunities to participate in activities that many of us take for granted.
“The addition of a wheelchair accessible roundabout and trampoline together with a basket swing will help to open the play park at the US Grant Homestead to those with disabilities, providing them with the opportunity to increase their participation in active outdoor play.”
Ian Crozier from the Ulster-Scots Agency commented, “Ulysses S. Grant is one of the best known US Presidents with Ulster-Scots roots and he was also one of the most influential people in the history of modern America. The Ulster-Scots Agency has been delighted to work in partnership with Mid Ulster District Council to make sure that his fascinating story and that of the hundreds of thousands of Ulster-Scots who made America is told at the beautiful Grant Homestead. The wonderful new facilities will make for a great visit, which we hope will be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.”
The cottage and grounds are open all year round. For tours and the audio-visual show, booking is essential. To book contact: The Bridewell Visitor Information Centre, Magherafelt on 028 7963 1510 or email.
The funding contributions for the project were, Department for Communities, £25K for the play park refurbishment and Ulster Scots Agency £33K for the new signage and interpretive displays.