August 29, 2011
Sagamore Hill, the Roosevelt family homestead, has lived a storied existence. Theodore Roosevelt purchased the property when he married his first wife, Alice Lee. Theodore’s family had summered in the Oyster Bay area for years and he could think of no better place to start his own family. However, with the early death of Alice, construction of the house was almost stopped, until family members managed to convince the grieving Theodore that he still needed a home in which to raise his newborn daughter.
After his second marriage to Edith Kermit Carow, Sagamore Hill was alight with the growing family’s rambunctious members. During the presidential years, Sagamore Hill carried the distinction of being the “Summer White House,” and many important meetings were held there over the years.
In several letters to his daughter Ethel, Theodore noted how much he loved Sagamore Hill. Ethel was often sent ahead to Oyster Bay to prepare the house for the arrival of the rest of the family from Washington during the summers. In a June 6, 1906, letter, Roosevelt wrote, “After all, fond as I am of the White House and much though I have appreciated these years in it, there isn’t any place like home – like Sagamore Hill, where the things are our own, with our own associations, and where it is real country.” Another letter to Ethel written just a few days later is pictured below. You can scroll to the end of this post to read the entirety of the letter.
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Ethel Roosevelt, June 13, 1906. MS Am 1541.2 (23). Houghton Library. Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.
It was to Sagamore Hill Theodore Roosevelt retired in his later years and it was at Sagamore Hill, in 1919, that Theodore Roosevelt died. The property remained in the Roosevelt family until 1962, when the house and its land were given to the National Park Service and became Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. The site is one of our contributing partners for the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library.
Transcript of letter:
June 13, 1906
That was an awful nice letter of yours. Mother reads me your letters aloud, and they tell us just what we want to know. We were immensely amused at your lament at the impossibility of keeping down the butcher’s bill in view of the appetite of some of the family.
I am so pleased that you like your room. You need not sympathize a bit with me about the swap, for your former room will be exactly as good for me, for I only use it as a dressing-room, and I am sure I shall greatly enjoy the little piazza. I am just longing to get back to Sagamore to see everything, and especially the north room and the library, which somehow or other always seem to me to have a peculiar attraction.
I was really interested in what you told me of Gray Dawn. I knew that Fidelity would let you handle her, as she would not let anyone else, but I did not realize that this was true of Gray Dawn also. I think Gray Dawn is altogether too lively for Mother to ride.
My infernal ankle, by the way, has prevented my taking any exercise at all. Not only I can not play tennis, but I have not been able to ride, or to do any walking more than is implied in going to church at such a slow gait that I think it fairly paralyzed the secret service men.
My bust is finished, and we think it very good.
I was so pleased at something I heard that the ushers has said about me the other day, and about the way I behaved toward them, and how they and the secret service men felt a good deal as if they were members of my regiment. I shall tell you about it when I see you.
Kiss Quentin for me and given my love to all of both the dear families, and to the Landons too. Archie really must be a pretty good little rider.
Your loving father,
The other day your Lodge babies drove up to the White House with their mother, as she wished to leave a message; and the cunning things clamored vociferously to “get out and see Miss Ethel.”