What’s In A Name? The Grant House

 In Pearson Field Education Center, The Historic Trust

The log structure occupying 1101 Officers Row, Vancouver has long been referred to as the “Grant House,” giving visitors the impression that this home was occupied by Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States. However, despite serving as Assistant Quartermaster at the Fort from 1852 to 1853, Grant never lived in the cabin, instead occupying a room in Fort Vancouver’s lower garrison, near the Columbia River.

So who first lived in the Grant House and why not name the log cabin after him? In 1849, soldiers under the supervision of Major John S. Hathaway erected the first of the Row’s log houses, including the structure that is now referred to as the Grant House. This cabin was to serve as a residence for the fort’s commanding officer. In total, nine log cabins were built that year. In order to construct these homes, the army shipped each building’s frame from the coast of Maine, around Cape Horn, all the way up the west coast and inland to present day Vancouver, Washington.

Upon completion of the cabins, Hathaway and his family moved into 1101 Officers Row. They lived there for several years, where Hathaway served as Fort Commander.  For reasons known only to himself, Major John S. Hathaway took his own life in May of 1853. His unfortunate fate likely discouraged the U.S. Army, and the historians who followed, from referring to the log cabin as “The Hathaway House.”

After Hathaway’s death, further renovations were completed to the log home in order to turn the space into the post Officer’s Club. In 1856, the original hand-hewn logs were covered with weatherboarding, the exterior was painted and wallpaper was added to the interior. Renovations also included the addition of wide verandas to the first and second floors. The new Officer’s Club was reminiscent, in style, of a mid-Atlantic mansion, which must have brought some comfort to many of Vancouver’s officers who originated from Virginia and the Carolinas, where this architectural style was popular.

Though many notable residents would reside in the log cabin built by Hathaway, including William W. Loring, Philip Kearney, B.L.E. Bonneville, Gabriel J. Rains, and George Wright, the name “Grant” was bestowed upon the house in 1879, when the victorious Civil War general and former President of the United States returned to Vancouver, Washington. It was during this visit that the town’s appreciative citizens named the structure The Grant House. Today, this log cabin stands as a homage to Grant’s service as both Civil War General and later President of the United States (1869-1877.) While Trust staff is proud of our work preserving Grant’s legacy, let us not forget that each building on Officers Row, no matter the building’s name, stands tribute to every man and woman who worked, lived and dedicated their lives to betterment of our community.

The Grant House is currently a restaurant where diners can enjoy a delicious meal in the home that Major Hathaway built.

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