One of the oddest and most moving of house museums in all of New York State  is Grant Cottage (off Ballard Rd., Wilton, 518/587-8277 or 518/584-2000, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wed.–Sun. June–Labor Day, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun. Sept.–Oct., adults $4, seniors $3, children 6–16 $2), perched on the hilltop in the middle of Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility. To get to the cottage, you must stop at a guard booth and enter a walled minimum-security complex topped with shiny barbed wire.
President Ulysses S. Grant came to Mt. McGregor in June of 1885 and spent the last six weeks of his life here, completing his memoirs. Afflicted with throat cancer, he was working frantically against time, trying to finish his book so that his family would have something to live on after he was gone. Grant had become bankrupt paying back the moneys he had urged his friends to invest in his son’s company; the company went belly-up after his son’s partner absconded with the funds.
In 1885, Mt. McGregor was home to the popular Hotel Balmoral, owned by Grant’s friend Duncan McGregor. McGregor lent Grant his cottage both out of the goodness of his heart and because, as a shrewd businessman, he knew that if Grant died in the cottage, it would become a popular tourist attraction.
Die Grant did, and to this day, the house remains exactly as it was when he and his family left it. In one room are Grant’s toothbrush, his nightshirts, and a half-empty bottle of medicinal cocaine and spring water. In another are the notes that Grant scribbled in pencil after he could no longer talk, and a bedspread stained with the wreaths brought by mourners.
Before his death, Grant—often sleeping as few as two hours a night—did succeed in finishing his memoirs. They are considered to be among the finest ever written by an American general and earned the family handsome royalties.
To reach the cottage from Saratoga , take Route 9 north eight miles to Ballard Road and turn left.