OYSTER BAY, N.Y. -- Theodore Roosevelt had a lot of stuff.
There's the massive head of a 2,000-pound African cape buffalo hanging over a fireplace near the front entrance of his home, Sagamore Hill, on the north shore of Long Island. Next to a large desk in the North Room sits a wastepaper basket made from the hollowed foot of an elephant. Nearby, there's an inkwell crafted from part of a rhino. More than four dozen rugs made from bearskins and other creatures taken down by the noted big-game hunter adorn nearly every room.
There are 8,000 books and thousands of items, from flags to furniture, busts to baubles and medals to mementos.
Everything must go.
The entire contents of Sagamore Hill are being packed up and put in storage as the National Park Service prepares for a three-year, $6.2 million renovation of the 28-room, Queen Anne-shingle style mansion in Oyster Bay. The 26th president of the United States, who had the home built for him in 1885, lived there until his death in 1919. He used Sagamore Hill as a "summer White House" during his presidency from 1901-1909.
The Grand Homes of Former Presidents
Theodore Roosevelt's 'Sagamore Hill' To Undergo Repairs
Ever wonder where the presidents called home -- that is, before listing 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. as their primary residence? Then click through our list of the most interesting presidential homes in history -- from Nixon's surfer hideaway to Clinton's love shack, every one of our presidents' homes has a story to tell. Click through, for instance, to find out who this musky man cave belongs to!
And don't forget to check our homes for sale listings beneath the slides. You could end up rubbing elbows with the next head of state.
Sagamore Hill. Oyster Bay, NY
Theodore Roosevelt was a Rough Rider, through and through -- and his home in Oyster Bay, NY was a perfect reflection of that. As perhaps the manliest of all presidents past (sorry, Andrew Jackson), Teddy's home is a virtual reliquary of all things musky and manly and tough. Click on to see America's first ever man cave.
The cardinal rule in man cave design: All throw rugs must have faces. The man who would later in life become the namesake for the "Teddy Bear," Roosevelt was an avid outdoorsman and lover of wildlife. From 1885 until his death in 1919, Roosevelt called the "Summer White House" his home. He lived here with his wife, Edith, and six children. Pictured to the left is his personal library.
The "Summer White House" was always brimming with activity -- children scurrying about, friends and emissaries dining for pleasure and business. In 1905, Roosevelt added the North Room to accommodate his growing family and guests. The room spans 30X40 feet and stands 20 feet high. On festive occasions, the family would clear the furniture and convert the room into a dance parlor. Never a dull moment in the Roosevelt home!
One thing's for sure in the Roosevelt house -- one never dines alone. How could you with a moose head peering down at your supper? For all its idiosyncrasies, the Sagamore Hill "Man Cave" remains one of the most endearing and storied presidential homes.
4070 Calle Isabella
San Clemente, CA 92672
That Nixon needed an outlet for "job related stress" is no surprise, but would anyone have guessed that he'd shack up in this radiant Mission Revival mansion? Nicknamed "La Casa Pacifica" (The House of Peace) by Tricky Dick himself, this Spanish-style country estate became the president's fortress of solitude after the Watergate scandal. Click on to see the opulent interior, then and now.
Shot in 1971, this photo of Nixon and wife, Pat, shows the first couple in a quiet moment, a full year before the break in at DNC headquarters. Technicolor furniture aside, Nixon boasts one of the most luxurious homes on the list. You'll be floored to see what the next tenants did with the place.
From life in Technicolor to California dreamin', the new decor seems more surfer chic than presidential. But don't let the laid back interior fool you. The House of Peace has opened its doors to numerous thought leaders, including Mexican President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger--quite a house warming.
With panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean from just about every inch of this 13,000 square-foot estate, and the soft sea breeze swirling around all 7 bedrooms, maybe Nixon wouldn't have minded the hookah bar-inspired decor in this rec room. Then again...
1412 W. Ohio Avenue Midland, TX
As presidential homes go, this is a true two-fer. Take a peek inside the childhood home of George W. Bush (and family home of his Commander-in-Chief father, George H. W. Bush). From these humble roots rose one of the most influential families in White House history. Click on to see inside.
The Bush political dynasty goes farther than presidential ties. You’re looking at the childhood nursery of John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, George’s younger brother and former Governor of Florida. Who could have guessed that a family growing up in suburban Midland, TX would lead three of its members to the highest civic stations in the nation.
The home was purchased and renovated by the George W. Bush Childhood Home group in 2001 and has since been restored to match the era when its inhabitants called it home. Notice the 1950's cathode-ray tube television and copies of Life magazine -- already artifacts of a bygone era when George W. Bush was elected president in 2000.
This is where the future leader of the free world (Junior, not Papa Bush) would rest his head. Crumpled clothes scattered across the bed give the room that lived-in, I'm-off-to-school-to-learn-how-to-be-president feel.
199 State Park Road 52
Stonewall, TX 78671
Lyndon B. Johnson proved to be a vanguard for civil rights, including "The Great Society" legislation that made major strives towards equality. He was also a hands-on, country-living kind of guy, evidenced today in his "Texas White House." It was from this ranch house that LBJ performed much of his important work. (Notice the congress of lawn chairs.) Click on to see how presidents do it down south.
Ever wonder what the Oval Office would look like with some country twang? For starters, you'd find a framed portrait of one of LBJ's beloved beagles. Behind the (somewhat cramped) desk, the Chief Executive's turquoise office chair. And last but not least, wood paneling as far as the eye can see.
100 Ladybird Lane Johnson City, TX 78636
Not far from the Texas White House, in the Hill Country of Texas, is the site of Lyndon B. Johnson's childhood home. The original home was torn down, but was faithfully restored by the Johnson family in 1964.
LBJ's reconstructed family home holds the honor of being the only presidential home to be rebuilt and restored by the incumbent president, according to the National Park Service. Heritage was of vital importance to Johnson, and his faithful recreation of the home proves it.
5450 South East View Park
Chicago, IL 60615
Before the winds of change swept Obama and the first family into the West Wing, Chi-town's favorite son was shopping real estate in the 'burbs. Their ground floor condo unit was the Obamas' first real estate purchase -- a key marker in the president's transformation from professor, to senator to finally -- well, you know.
While photos of the first family's exact condo unit weren't available, these picture of a unit in the same building give a good sense of what life in the Obama household might have looked like. The architectural style seems befitting a law school professor, and the perfect choice for a faculty member at nearby University of Chicago Law School.
The Obamas lived in the condo from 1993 to 2005, at which point the once unknown law school professor took his seat in the 13th district of the Illinois Senate. The Obamas would then move on to a mansion in Kenwood, a tony suburb on the south side of Chicago.
930 Clinton Drive
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701
Who would have pegged Slick Willie to be such a romantic? In 1975, while driving his then-girlfriend, Hillary, the couple spotted a house they fell in love with. As legend has it, Bill scooped up the house, rushed to meet her at the airport en route to Chicago, and in a fantastical scene, proposed to Hillary on the spot (his second proposal). As luck would have it, she accepted.
Looking back, it may seem like a humble beginning-- a one-bedroom home in the middle of rural Arkansas. But this was the couple's first and last home before being thrust into the public spotlight. On October 11, 1975, the couple married in the tiny home's living room amongst friends and family. By 1976 -- appropriately enough, the year of America's bicentennial -- the couple would move out to start their respective careers as Washington's high-powered political duo.
A photograph of the young couple, Bill gazing adoringly at his new wife, is memorialized on a plaque in front of the Clinton home. The house is now operating as a museum in honor of its star tenants.
401 Little White House Rd
Warm Springs , GA 31830
Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the only president to be elected for three terms in office, navigate the country through some of its most trying days and accomplish all of it with a perceived handicap. It was in Warm Springs, GA that FDR hoped to find a cure for what doctors at the time thought to be Polio. He was so enamored by the area that in 1932, he built his "Little White House" near the banks of the city's warm spring waters.
The home was converted into a museum. Here, a tour group admires FDR's collection of nautical ornaments and model sailboats. In his youth, FDR was an avid sailing fan.
A rare glimpse at FDR's wheelchair, tucked away in a corner of his living room. Perceiving his illness as a weakness, FDR was seldom, if ever, seen in public with his wheelchair. He trained himself in short intervals to walk with the support of a cane.
One of FDR's most prized possessions--his 1940 Willys Roadster, displayed behind glass at his Warm Springs home. Tourists from far and wide flock to see the vintage car that caught the president's fancy.
83 Beals Street
Brookline, MA 02446
It stands to reason that our most picture-perfect president would have grown up in a picturesque Colonial. His formidable mom, Rose, returned to the house after her son’s assassination and restored it to the way it looked on May 29, 1917, the day the future 35th president was born there. Kennedy’s father, Joe, ever the savvy businessman, bought the place in 1914 for $6,500.
Rose Kennedy re-created the interiors of the house mostly from memory, but some original objects remain. The piano in the living room was a wedding present. At night, she would sit in the corner chair and read to Jack and his siblings before bedtime. One of the children’s favorites? The legend of King Arthur. Camelot was never far from mind.
JFK was born in this bedroom overlooking Brookline’s Beals Street. His six-month baby pictures and those of his brothers and sisters are on the wall over the dresser. “Some people say that all babies look alike,” Rose Kennedy once said, “but I can tell the difference even at that age.” No wonder—with nine kids, she had a lot of practice.
816 S. Hennepin Avenue P. O. Box 816
Dixon, IL 61021
Our 40th president, Ronald Reagan, who would have turned 100 this year, lived in this white Queen Anne house from 1920 to 1923. At the age of 9, he was already warming up for his role as the Gipper, playing football in the side yard with brother Neil. The house, which the Reagans lived in as renters, is restored inside to its early-20s décor and open to the public as a tourist attraction. One thing we’re pretty sure Regan never said while living here: “Tear down this wall!”
When Reagan, as guest of honor, returned here to celebrate the home’s dedication—and his birthday--he was served lunch along with wife Nancy and his older brother, Neil. There was only one catch: Because of security concerns, Reagan couldn’t eat any of the birthday cake baked for him by a local resident.
Workers have already spent nine months packing books and other smaller items into boxes, using special care to catalog every one and place it on a computer spreadsheet. The three-story home has 15 bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as sitting rooms and offices. It sits on nearly 83 acres, high atop a hill overlooking an inlet that leads to Long Island Sound.
Sagamore Hill, which sees about 50,000 visitors annually, closes to the public on Dec. 5 so that craftspeople can begin the heavy lifting in earnest to rehabilitate the 1885 home that hasn't seen any major renovations in more than a half century. A much smaller display of Roosevelt memorabilia -- including his White House china -- will remain on display in a smaller building on the property throughout the three-year project.
Plans call for upgrades to the electrical, heating, security and fire suppression systems throughout the home, which has been a National Park Service historic site since the early 1960s. Exterior work will include a new roof, gutter and drainage system, foundation waterproofing, and restoration of 78 historic windows, doors, porches and siding.
Also to be restored are Sagamore Hill's original rear porch and a skylight in the center of the house, both of which were altered or removed in the 1950s when the Theodore Roosevelt Association owned the property and first opened it to public visits. The association ran Sagamore Hill for about a decade before the National Park Service took over in 1962 -- a somewhat fitting custodian for the home of the man who championed the creation of the national park system.
"Theodore Roosevelt's house is like anybody else's house," said Amy Verone, chief of cultural resources at Sagamore Hill. She joked, however, that not everyone tackling a renovation project in their home has to contend with finding a place for 10-foot-elephant tusks adorned with silver inlays.
"You should replace your furnace system, you should update your electrical system, you should do all those kinds of things," Verone said. "But in order to facilitate that work, we have to empty the house, because the artifacts are historic. We can't just run out and buy a new one if we drop or break something."
National Park officials at Sagamore Hill first talked of rehabilitating the mansion in the late 1990s, competing for finances with other park projects across the country. Finally, funding was awarded in 2008, and after three years of planning, actual construction is set to begin next spring.
Although officials have consulted with museum experts -- including someone at the Smithsonian Institution who advised on the care and storage of the animal skin rugs -- they confess to finding inspiration in many places. "We love 'This Old House,' Verone said of the PBS series on home fix-ups. "We're always watching it for clues."
Sagamore Hill is somewhat of a precursor to the modern concept of presidential libraries, which didn't come into fashion until one was built for President Herbert Hoover in the 1930s, Verone said. Before that, presidents usually gave their official papers to the Library of Congress, as was the case with Roosevelt, although his personal papers went to Harvard, his alma mater, she said.
The first national historic site was designated in the 19th century when volunteers worked to rehabilitate George Washington's home at Mount Vernon after it had fallen into disrepair. Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello and several locations associated with Abraham Lincoln are among the other sites. Most former presidents are remembered in some way, either by private associations, the park service or state-run programs, she said.
Roosevelt's birthplace in Manhattan, the site where he was inaugurated in Buffalo after the assassination of William McKinley, a national park in North Dakota and a small island in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., are also historic sites operated by the Park Service. Sagamore Hill superintendent Tom Ross said "TR" also has a "home" at Mount Rushmore.
Sagamore Hill, Ross said, "is a priceless, irreplaceable resource." He said the preservation is important "so that we can preserve the history and heritage and share it with future generations."
Verone said visitors to Sagamore Hill learn that Roosevelt tackled many of the same problems the country faces today. "What kind of country will we be? A place like Sagamore Hill helps remind the public of that.
"These aren't new problems; these are conversations we've been having for 100 years."
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Theodore Roosevelt's 'Sagamore Hill' To Undergo Repairs