A local historic site just outside of Saratoga Springs is about to be featured on the History Channel. Wilton’s Grant Cottage, a New York State historic site on Mount McGregor, about 20 minutes outside of Downtown Saratoga, will be featured in a new six-hour, docu-series on the life of Civil War hero and President Ulysses S. Grant.
The new documentary, Grant, was produced by New York City-based media company RadicalMedia, along with Appian Way’s Jennifer Davisson, Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio and Pulitzer-winning author Ron Chernow, whose biography of Grant inspired the docu-series. Split into three episodes that are slated to air on the History Channel from May 25 (Memorial Day) through May 27, Grant will feature cameos by Wilton’s Grant Cottage State Historic Site and its Operations Manager Ben Kemp; as well as Chernow and an ensemble of esteemed national figures such as author/journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates and former Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus.
“When we were first talking about this project, it was really interesting how many people there were who have connections to Grant,” says Dave Sirulnick, president of entertainment at RadicalMedia. “That includes people who read his memoirs or who visited or grew up near his different homes, near different battlefields or near sites like Grant Cottage.” Sirulnick knows a thing or two about creating successful TV series. Prior to taking the job at RadicalMedia in 2019, Sirulnick spent nearly three decades at MTV developing some of that channel’s most popular programming, including the Emmy Award-winning documentary series Made (2000-12); Emmy-winning series True Life (1998-2014); and musician and fan-favorite, Total Request Live (1998-2008). During this time, Sirulnick also helped create award-winning MTV music documentaries featuring superstars such as Lady Gaga, Drake, Ed Sheeran and Nicki Minaj. “When we here at RadicalMedia had the opportunity to work with the History Channel to bring this story to life, we were very, very excited,” says Sirulnick. “We’re pleased with how the series came out, and we’re very happy that people will get to know more parts of Grant’s story that they didn’t know before.”
To tell the story of the 18th president, Grant will feature a mix of filmed commentary, cinematic scenes and footage of actual historic sites and enhanced archival imagery. Wilton’s Grant Cottage is where the Civil War hero and then-former president spent the last weeks of his life in 1885, finishing his famed memoirs that would go on to become a bestseller and rescue his family from poverty. The third and final installment of Grant will include discussion of Grant Cottage, as well as filmed commentary by Kemp. “We’re excited to have exposure like the films and new biographies,” Kemp told Saratoga Living last June when SL first broke the news that the state historic site would be mentioned in the big-budget documentary. “It’s great because Grant Cottage is the final chapter to a fascinating life, and the last chapter is the thing that people usually remember.”
When DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, picked up the film rights to Chernow’s biography in 2015, rumors swirled that Steven Spielberg was in talks to direct with DiCaprio playing Grant. Now that Grant will finally see the light of day, it’s unclear whether that production will still happen.