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26th President of the United States, 1901-1909
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Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
New York

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
National Historic Site
National Park Service

Theodore Roosevelt, the sickly child who became the energetic 26th president of the United States, was born on this site in 1858 and lived here until he was 14.  The original birthplace was a typical New York brownstone located on a quiet tree-lined street in the city’s most fashionable neighborhood.  After Roosevelt’s death in 1919, some of his friends and followers formed the Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association to reconstruct the original house.  Roosevelt’s sisters and his wife guided the decoration of the five period rooms on the first and second floors and donated much of the original furniture.

Roosevelt’s parents moved into the original house on 20th Street in 1854.  The Roosevelts were members of one of the oldest and most socially prominent families in New York.  Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. was a wealthy glass importer, merchant, and banker. His wife, the former Martha Bulloch, was an aristocrat from Savannah, Georgia.  Theodore Roosevelt was the second of their four children and their first son.  Asthmatic, nearsighted, and frequently ill, Theodore received most of his education at home through private tutoring.  He learned to read at an early age, devouring books on adventure, history, and the out-of-doors.  He studied taxidermy and established what he called the “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History” in the house.  These early interests continued throughout his life.

The young Roosevelt’s health began to improve around the age of 12.  His father gave him a warning and a challenge: “You have the mind, but you haven’t got the body.  To do all you can with your mind, you must make your body match it.”  “Teedie,” as his family called him, responded with his usual determination.  When his father installed a gymnasium on the back piazza, Roosevelt, often accompanied by neighborhood friends, would crawl through the nursery windows every day to play and exercise.  The frail boy soon grew healthy, and his asthma ceased to bother him.

The family lived on 20th Street until the fall of 1872, when Theodore was 14 years old.  The neighborhood changed from residential to commercial in subsequent years.  Businesses took over the house.  In 1916, it was completely demolished to make way for a two-story commercial building.  The Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association purchased the site, demolished the existing commercial building, and reconstructed the birthplace house in the early 1920s.  They also built a museum and galleries on the adjoining lot, where a house belonging to Roosevelt’s uncle once stood.  They opened the reconstructed birthplace to the public in 1923.  The Women’s Association merged with the Theodore Roosevelt Association in 1953, and that group donated the house to the National Park Service in 1963.

The drawing room
The drawing room
National Park Service

Roosevelt remembered his old home well.  The drawing room, much as it is today, with its high ceiling, magnificent mirrors, crystal chandelier, and blue satin hangings, was “a room of much splendor . . . open for general use only on Sunday evening or on rare occasions when there were parties.” The horsehair-covered chairs in the dining room scratched his legs.  The library was a place of “gloomy respectability” for a child, even one who loved reading.  On the other hand, the front bedroom on the second floor, today furnished with its original elaborate Victorian furniture, was a place where he and his siblings would watch their father dressing and “stay as long as we were permitted, eagerly examining everything which came out of his pockets.”  The nursery windows still open onto the upstairs porch where the gymnasium was located.

Plan your visit

The Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 28 E. 20th St, New York City.  Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos.  Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace NHS is open Tuesday-Saturday, 9:00am to 5:00pm. A small entrance fee is charged.  Please allow one hour for a tour of the museum and period rooms and 30 minutes for viewing a film. For more information visit the National Park Service Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site website or call 212-260-1616.

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