Editors Note: An updated version of this post can be viewed here.
For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.
Name: Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
Location: Manhattan, Flatiron District/Gramercy Park
Address: 28 East 20th Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue South
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10-5. Guided tours leave on the hour, last tour 4pm.
Directions: 4/5, N/R to Union Square, 6 train to 23rd St.
Details: This is a fun and interesting house museum, as Teddy Roosevelt was one of our most interesting and popular presidents. It’s also a sham. TR was not born in this building. The original brownstone that the Roosevelts’ lived in was torn down in 1916, for a commercial building, but in 1919, the year Roosevelt died, some influential and wealthy citizens bought this site, tore down the new building and recreated TR’s birthplace. They used the brownstone next door, which was a twin to the Roosevelt house, as a model, and also used some of the interior of that house in the recreation. They were also able to obtain some of the original furniture for the house, as well as other Roosevelt family pieces, the end result being as much an authentic home as most other historic birthplaces.
Theodore Roosevelt was the only president to be born in New York City. This neighborhood was quite wealthy when Theodore was born in 1858. His family lived here from 1854 to 1872, leaving when the neighborhood began to become more industrial. The original house was built in 1848, and is a classic Gothic Revival brownstone. Roosevelt was a very bright, but sickly child with severe asthma and other ailments, but after the age of 12 he began to improve through exercise and activity, a regimen that carried him through his entire life, so much so, that he is always remembered as an outdoorsman, the Rough Rider, and consummate man’s man.
The job of recreating the original house and creating the museum space next door, which is in the twin brownstone, was given to the 20th century architect Theodate Pope Riddle, one of the few female architects of the day. The period rooms are arranged to show the Roosevelt’s life here in 1865. No detail was spared in either the furnishings or the architectural detail of the rooms, with intricate plaster ceiling moldings and medallions, as well as other classic Gothic Revival features. The museum features artifacts and papers from TR’s life, including his Rough Rider uniform, and memorabilia from his amazing career, including his tenure as NYC Police Commissioner and governor of NY state. The house and museum are run by the National Park Service, and are through National Park Ranger-guided tours only.