Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TR's Birthplace

One day last week, I was playing tourist in Manhattan, and came across a hidden gem of a museum. The Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site is located on 20th Street, between Park and Broadway.

Roosevelt's parents lived in the house from 1854 to 1872, and Theodore was born there in 1858.

The historic site is a reconstruction of the original house. The family sold it, when they moved uptown to 57th Street, in the 1870s. The original house was demolished to make way for a commercial building, in 1916. That decision was quickly regretted and, after Roosevelt's death in 1919, it was purchased with the intent of reconstructing the house as a historic site, which opened in 1923.

Park rangers give tours of the period rooms in the house, which contain many of the original furnishings. In my opinion, park rangers have a tendency to get overly theatrical in their tour presentations, and this one was no exception. That was slightly irritating, but he basically did a good job of describing the house and the history involved with it.

The house is well maintained, and anyone who is interested in museum houses from that period may well find it interesting.

There is a gallery on the first floor, with several photos, drawings and artifacts. The most amazing item is the shirt Roosevelt wore, when he was shot in Milwaukee, during his Bull Moose presidential candidacy in 1912. Seeing the bullet hole in the shirt makes a piece of long-ago history come alive.

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