Today I headed out to Long Island for an early Thanksgiving celebration with Ryan and, before settling down to mashed potatoes and delicious gingerbread cookies, we decided to stop off at one of its many historical sites.
Battling the drizzle, we stepped out at President Teddy Roosevelt’s former home at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay. The late leader started building the house in 1884, raised six children at the home and spent holidays here throughout his presidency (1901-1909) – so it became known as the ‘Summer White House’. It was also the place of his death, aged 60, in 1919.
Unfortunately, the home has been undergoing extensive renovations for the past couple of years and some parts of the property, such as its boardwalk, were badly damaged during Hurricane Sandy last year. It means that the main house – which is large but relatively modest for a wealthy president born to millionaires – is covered in scaffolding and you’re not allowed in until it re-opens in 2015.
While I could admire the outside and the grounds, it was a shame not to get inside (you know I like my historical homes). Ryan, who’s been before, said it was worth a return visit as they allow people to tour the rooms, which are largely untouched since the president’s family lived there.
Instead, we took the damp path through the turning trees to a museum at Old Orchard, a home built by the president’s son. It gave a good introduction to the man’s life and leadership (which was surprisingly progressive). The exhibit was immediately friendly on the eye – simply laid out with short summaries and some interesting artifacts.
My American history is pretty shoddy, so I learned that when Roosevelt was vice president, President McKinley was assassinated so he took over – becoming the youngest ever president, aged 43.
Three years later, he was voted back in and it seemed that, although he’d grown up surrounded by such affluence, he had a good understanding of the needs of the lower classes. (I appreciate the museum could have been a mini bit biased…)
Sagamore Hill is open 9am-5pm from Wednesdays to Sundays, and every day of the week during June, July and August. The main house is closed for renovation until 2015.