Theodore Roosevelt 26th President, 1901-1909
Birthplace, New York City, New York
One of America’s most colorful and best-remembered Presidents, President Teddy Roosevelt was known for his adventurousness, big game hunting, rough riders, robust and macho physique and political dealings. Tours of the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace center on its period rooms, restored to reflect their original appearance between 1865 and 1872. These rooms are the parlor room, the library, the family room, the living room, the dining room and the master bedroom. The parlor room was the most elegant room in the Roosevelt home and was furnished in the Rococo Revival Style. The library has two obelisks in it mementos of the family trip to Egypt. The dining room has horsehair chair seats that used to scratch Teddy Roosevelt’s legs. A portrait of Teddy Roosevelt’s mother hangs over the mantel in the master bedroom. Forty percent of the Teddy Roosevelt Birthplace’s furnishings are from the original house while another twenty percent come from Roosevelt family members.
Teddy Roosevelt was born on October 27, 1858 and spent the first fourteen years of his life growing up in a typical New York City brownstone in New York City’s most fashionable residential district. When Teddy turned fourteen the Roosevelt family sold this original Teddy Roosevelt home and took a full year tour of Europe. Upon returning from Europe, the family purchased and moved into a home on 6 West 57th Street in New York City. The original brownstone was later totally demolished but eventually after Teddy Roosevelt’s death in 1919 prominent citizens reconstructed Roosevelt’s boyhood home as a memorial.
Teddy was a sickly child with serious asthma and unable to attend school on a regular basis. But Teddy had a capable and curious mind and learned to read at an early age. Avidly reading books on nature, adventure and history, he dreamed about the outdoor life and idolized the heroes of history and literature about whom he read.
When he was about 12 his health began to take a turn for the better. To help him further improve his father challenged him saying: “You have the mind, but you haven’t got the body. To do all with your mind, you must make your body match it.” To help Teddy create the body that would match his mind, his father installed a gymnasium in the back of their house. Through regular training in the gym Teddy’s health improved even to the point that his asthma no longer seriously bothered him in his activities.
His health improved Teddy Roosevelt became a cowboy in the Dakotas in the 1880′s, a colonel of the Rough Riders regiment during the Spanish-American War, and a hunter naturalist on three continents. In 1901 on the death of President William McKinley, Roosevelt became the 26th President of The United States.
Home, Maltese Cross Cabin, Medora, North Dakota
At the dawn of the 20th century in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became this nation’s 26th President and ultimately one of its greatest conservationists. It was here in the North Dakota Badlands in 1883 that he first arrive to hunt bison. Before he left, he had acquired primary interests in the Maltese Cross or Chimney Butte Ranch. Roosevelt thrived on the vigorous outdoor lifestyle, and at the Maltese Cross, actively participated in the life of a working cowboy.
The Maltese Cross Ranch cabin was originally located about seven miles south of Medora in the wooded bottom-lands of the Little Missouri River. At Roosevelt’s request ranch managers Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield built a one and one-half story cabin complete with a shingle roof and cellar. Constructed of durable ponderosa pine logs that had been cut and floated down the Little Missouri River, the cabin was considered somewhat of a “mansion” in its day, with wooden floors and three separate rooms (kitchen, living room and Roosevelt’s bedroom). The steeply pitched roof, an oddity on the northern plains, created an upstairs sleeping loft for the ranch hands.
A number of items in the cabin today belonged to Theodore Roosevelt. Those that did not are from the same time period and would be typical furnishings of the day. A prolific writer, Roosevelt spend many lamp-lit hours laboring at the desk in the living room recording his memoirs and reminiscences of badlands life. Between 1884 and 1885 he completed Hunting Trips of a Ranchman at the desk in the Maltese Cross cabin. The hutch in the living room doubled as a library and fold-out writing table to indulge two of Roosevelt’s prime passions — reading and writing. The traditional rocking chair in the living room, in all probability Roosevelt’s, was his favorite piece of furniture. A wicker-lined canvas clothing trunk belonging to T.R. sits in the bedroom.
Roosevelt actively ranched in the badlands until 1887 but maintained ranching interest in the area until 1898. He later developed a conservation program as president that deeply reflected his experiences here in the West where he had become keenly aware of the need to conserve and protect our natural resources.
During Roosevelt;s presidency, the Maltese Cross cabin was exhibited in Portland, Oregon and St. Louis. It was then moved to the state capitol grounds in Bismarck. In 1959, the cabin was relocated to its present site and renovated. The most recent preservation work occurred in 2000.
Home, Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York
When Theodore Roosevelt was 15, his father established the family’s summer residence at Oyster Bay, and the boy spent his vacations exploring the fields and woodlands on Cove Neck. Three years after graduating from Harvard, young Roosevelt purchased the hill on Cove Neck where his home now stands. A barn was the only building on the tree-barren hill. For this property he paid $10,000 in cash and assumed a 20-year mortgage for the $20,000 balance. The total area of the property was 63 hectares (155 acres), of which he kept 38 (95), selling the rest to relatives.
The New York architectural firm of Lamb and Rich drew up the plans for the home, but before the final agreement for this construction was signed, Theodore’s wife and mother died on the same day in their New York City home. Determined to have a suitable home for his infant daughter, Roosevelt contracted John A. Wood & Son of Lawrence, Long Island, to build for $16,975 the house that was to become known as Sagamore Hill.
Roosevelt had originally planned to name the property “Leeholm,” for his first wife. But within two years he had begun seeing Edith Kermit Carow. He soon called the estate “Sagamore Hill,” from the old Sagamore Mohannis, who as Chief of his little tribe, signed away his rights to the land.”
Sagamore Hill is a rambling, solidly built, 23-room Victorian structure of frame and brick. Today it is little changed from that time, a half-century ago, when it was the home of a distinguished American and his family. On the first floor are a large center hall, the library that served as T.R.’s private office, the dining room, Mrs. Roosevelt’s drawing room, the kitchen, and the spacious north room, added in 1905. This room was designed by Roosevelt’s friend, C. Grant LaFarge, son of the artist John LaFarge. The 9 by 12 meter (30 by 40 foot) room is built of Phillippine and American woods: mahogany, black walnut, swamp cypress, and hazel. Filed with hunting trophies, books, paintings, flags, and furniture, the north room vividly reflects the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt.
The second floor containts the family bedrooms, the nursery, guest rooms, and the room with the great porcelain bathtub. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., once recalled that the tub’s wastepipe made “the most astonishing series of gurgles” when the water ran out. “We were told by our Irish nurse that these were the outcries of the ‘faucet lady’ and we watched with care to see if we could catch a glimpse of her head in the pipe.”
The Gun Room, housing Roosevelt’s collection of hunting arms, is on the top floor. Here, too, he sometimes went to write or to entertain his friends, away from the bustle of the household. Other rooms include the quarters for maids and a cook, a sewing room, a school room where some of the children were tutored, and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.’s bedroom as it was in his precollege days.
Furnishings throughout the house are original Roosevelt pieces. In every room are items used and loved by the family. On every hand are crowded bookshelves, the contents revealing the wide range of Roosevelt’s interests. Indeed, many were from his own hand.
On the south and west sides of the house is the spacious piazza from which Roosevelt looked out over Oyster Bay Harbor and Long Island Sound. On the grounds are landscaped gardens and, nearby, the Old Orchard Museum, formerly Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.’s home, containing displays relating to the “Conservation President” and his family.
In 1950, two years after the death of Mrs. Roosevelt, Sagamore Hill, its contents and 34 hectares (83 acres) of land were purchased by the Theodore Roosevelt Association, a nonprofit corporation founded in 1919 to recall “to the American people Mr. Roosevelt’s personality and achievements, and the ideals of individual and national life that he preached and practiced.” In 1963 the association presented Sagamore Hill, along with Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in New York City and a $500,000 endowment, to the American people as a gift.
Home, Inaugural Site, Buffalo, New York
On September 14, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office as the 26th President of the United States in the Ansley Wilcox house after the assassination of President William McKinley. In addition, before becoming a National Historic Site, the house had a long and varied history as part of a U.S. Army Barracks, a prominent Buffalo residence and later a popular restaurant.
Gravesite, Youngs Memorial Cemetery, Oyster Bay, New York
Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep on January 6, 1919, at home, in his beloved house at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, New York. One commentator said that death had to take him while he slept else it would have had a fight on its hands.
He was only sixty years old when he died, and the “strenuous life” had taken its toll. Always pushing his body to the maximum, Roosevelt had suffered a detached retina while boxing (as president) that blinded him in one eye. He carried a bullet in his chest from an assassin’s attempt on his life while making a speech in Milwaukee on the presidential campaign of 1912. He had contacted malaria and suffered a serious leg infection while exploring Brazil on his seven-month, 15,000 mile expedition in 1913. And his love for swimming in the freezing waters of Oyster Bay and the Potomac River during winter months left him with painful inflammatory rheumatism and an ear infection that ruined his hearing in one ear. The coronary embolism that claimed his life took him early in the morning, just as the morning haze that he so loved to watch rose off the ocean’s waters at Oyster Bay.
Several years before Theodore Roosevelt’s death, he and his wife Edith selected the Youngs family cemetery as their final resting-place. The Youngs family settled Long Island in the late 1600′s and at one time owned most of Cove Neck. The homestead that stands across the street from the family burial ground was home to nine generations of Youngs and a place that George Washington stayed during a presidential tour of Long Island.
Neighbor and attorney William Jones Youngs was Roosevelt’s secretary during TR’s term as Governor of New York. This may be why Roosevelt signed a pioneering bill in corporate law that Youngs drafted chartering the cemetery in 1900.
Roosevelt’s first wife, Alice Lee and his family were laid to rest in a family plot in Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery. With Youngs so close to Sagamore Hill, Edith likely helped her husband make his decision to be buried on a hillside that afforded a view of Oyster Bay harbor. Roosevelt was also familiar with this place. Long known as Youngs Woods, TR was impressed by the variety of bird life that was found there.
Roosevelt was buried on a cold, snowy day in January 1919. At the burial, a teary-eyed friend, one time political adversary and former president, William Howard Taft, was one of the last to leave the cemetery.
Over the next few months, other prominent individuals, such as Chief Boy Scoutmaster, Dan Beard, the King of Belgium and Duke of Windsor visited the grave to pay their respects. As a young boy, the Duke recalled Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 visit to Buckingham Palace, and the fascinating stories TR told about hunting African lions. In later years, Emlen Roosevelt, a cousin and neighbor, purchased 12 acres surrounding the cemetery. A portion of that acreage was added to the burial ground as a Roosevelt family plot. The remainder was set aside as a buffer from development and given to the Audubon Society to form the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary. After her death in 1948, Edith Roosevelt was buried along side her husband.
Memorial, Washington, DC
After Theodore Roosevelt’s death in 1919, citizens wanted to establish a memorial in his honor. The 91 acre wooded island in the Potomac seemed the perfect place. The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association purchased the island in 1932. Congress approved funds in 1960 and the memorial was dedicated in 1967. Eric Gugler designed the memorial. Paul Manship designed the statue.
Theodore Roosevelt Island has a diverse history. Native Americans called the island “Analostan” and used it for fishing. It was later named “My Lord’s Island,” when King Charles I granted the island to Lord Baltimore. The next owner, a sea captain, called it “Barbadoes,” after his childhood home. For years it was a summer resort for other wealthy Virginians. The Mason family owned it for 125 years. In the early 1800s, John Mason built a brick mansion and cultivated extensive gardens. The Masons also operated a ferry from the island to Georgetown.
The Masons left “Mason Island” in 1832, after a causeway built to the Virginia shore stagnated their water. For years after that the island was picnic resort, except during the Civil War when black and white Union Army troops were stationed there.
Today, trails lead through the marsh, swamp and forest. Visitors often see birds or small mammals. The outdoor memorial, with Roosevelt’s thought-provoking quotes and statue, captures the spirit of this energetic President who was ahead of his time.
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