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A President’s Home: Theodore Roosevelt & The Secrets Of Sagamore Hill

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(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

A unique combination of rustic hominess and opulent splendor, the Roosevelt Family estate, Sagamore Hill, functioned as the summer White House during Theodore Roosevelt’s two terms as president. Tucked away in a secret corner of Cove Neck, Long Island, Sagamore Hill simultaneously provided a much-needed sanctuary for the Roosevelt Family and a media magnet. Today, this national historic site is open to visitors, who can spend the day enjoying the Roosevelt Museum at Old Orchard, site outbuildings which were utilized by the family and a lush nature trail which leads to nearby Target Rock National Wildlife Center.

A Glimpse Back in Time

Theodore Roosevelt began building a Queen Anne style home on 95 acres of tidal salt marsh, forest and beach land in anticipation of the large family he meant to have with wife Alice Hathaway Lee. Tragically, Alice died giving birth to their first daughter, also named Alice. Roosevelt’s mother died of typhoid fever on the same day, in the same house. Despite this double tragedy, Roosevelt decided to keep on building. He changed the name of the 23-room mansion from Leeholm to Sagamore Hill, after Native American chief Sagamore Mohannis, who had lived in the area in the 17th century.

Sagamore Hill was completed in 1885. Shortly after its completion, Roosevelt remarried childhood friend Edith Kermit Carow and the couple went on to have children of their own. Nature lovers, the Roosevelts enjoyed the great outdoors and were avid hunters. Sagamore Hill was where Roosevelt first got word of his successful presidential election in 1904.

Roosevelt died in his sleep at 60 years old at Sagamore Hill, and Edith stayed on in the home for 29 years, until her own death. At that time and in accordance with Edith’s wishes, the entire estate was turned over to the Theodore Roosevelt Association and opened to the public. A decade later, the National Park Service was granted the deed to the estate and determined it to be a National Historic Site.

Sagamore Hill Today

The Theodore Roosevelt Museum at Old Orchard and the park’s Visitor Center are currently open Wednesday through Sunday and the park grounds are open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. If you plan to visit as a group of 15 or more people, it is advised you make a reservation.

Your first stop on the grounds should be the Visitor Center, to learn about current events and exhibits on the grounds. While the Roosevelt Home is currently under renovation and closed to the public, the Roosevelt Museum at Old Orchard provides a fascinating look at the bygone era of this famous family through movies, exhibits and heirlooms chronicling the life of the Roosevelts, their worldwide travels and their legacy to America. This building was originally built as a family home by General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the oldest son of the president.

You can follow in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt on the Sagamore Hill Nature Trail, well worn from family hikes that he and his children took on camping and swimming expeditions to Cold Spring Harbor. The walk will take you through a scenic oak and tuliptree forest, past the Eel Creek boardwalk and onto a federally protected wildlife refuge, where waterfowl and various forms of wildlife can be viewed in their natural habitat.

The perfect way to spend a summer afternoon, a visit to this historical location provides hours of fascinating history, outdoor activity and an enjoyable day for history buffs, nature lovers and families.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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