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Grants at Play

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The Grants at Play Credits: Photo Courtesy of the North Salem Historical Society
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NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— In 1880, Ulysses Grant Jr. (son of the President and called “Buck”), married Fannie Chaffee, daughter of Colorado Sen. Jerome Chaffee. For a wedding gift, the Senator bought the newlyweds an estate in North Salem. The property was already well known as the home of James Howe and then James Libby.  Prominent businessman Libby replaced the Howe farmhouse with a stone mansion and named it Inland Vale. Buck and Fannie Grant renamed it Merryweather and added outbuildings. The original estate is commonly known as Grant’s Corners, at the intersection of June, Grant and Hawley Roads.

The president and his wife stayed there with Buck and his family for a few years while the president was writing his memoirs. Grant raised Arabian horses, and the high-spirited animals were often seen pulling a carriage containing the president and neighbor Charles Close.

Merryweather was a busy family affair.  Four of the president’s five grandchildren were born there, and the house was alive with games, picnics, pets, visitors and, it appears, fun.  We know this because Buck was an accomplished photographer.  His extraordinary work survives as a collection of glass negatives that were donated to the North Salem Historical Society by former Merryweather owner Bob Beckwith. Former Historical Society trustee Linda Farina did the painstaking work of scanning most of the negatives. The photo above shows four of Grant’s grandchildren and two cousins under the arch of the porte cochère at the estate. Was it a costume party, a play, Halloween or something else? 

To see more of the photos and learn more about the Grants in North Salem, you may request a copy  of the bulletin “Merryweather Farm: At Home with the Grants” from the Historical Society at sthompson@northsalemny.org

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