‘The basis of good citizenship is the home’ – Theodore Roosevelt
Visiting other people’s homes gives you a sense of who lives there. Houses, like pets, often reflect the characteristics of their owners. This holds true for presidents, who are both people and elected officials. President Bush reminded us of this recently with his statement that “I do tears.”
On Labor Day weekend, I, along with family and friends, visited Sagamore Hill, the summer White House and home to Theodore Roosevelt and his family. Located in Oyster Bay, New York, Sagamore hill was built by Roosevelt in 1885. Roosevelt was the twenty-sixth president of the United States. In 1901, when President McKinley was assassinated, the 42-year-old Roosevelt became the nation’s youngest president. He served until 1909.
His home, a three-story, 23-room, blue-painted, wood-framed house, is perched atop a hill. Walking into the house, a visitor instantly feels she is entering not a house, but what was -- a century ago -- a home to a family with six children.
That homey feeling persists, despite the presence of velvet ropes stretched across the entrances to rooms to keep out guests who might try to reach in and touch artifacts (yes, the alarm does work). The dark-wood panels in the entrance hallway and the stuffed animal heads convey a feeling of masculinity and roughness true to the outdoorsman and conservationist.
The second floor includes bedrooms for guests, children and Roosevelt himself, who died in an adjacent bedroom where he had been moved so that he could be near a fire.
Roosevelt was a bibliophile, with a collection of more than 6,000 books. They are tucked away in corners throughout the house, including a small bookshelf built into the entrance to the master bedroom. An American Flag, from Roosevelt’s time, Roosevelt’s red presidential flag, and the Rough Riders Flag all hang in the trophy room of the house. Lessons in history and life are woven into the surroundings and highlighted in quotes from Roosevelt. Many of them are still applicable.
“Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die: and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life. Both life and death are parts of the same great adventure.” President Roosevelt, “Metropolitan” October 1918.