For the past seven months, I’ve been on the TR Trail. Really, it started before that, but I just didn’t realize it. In October 2013, I visited the American Museum of Natural History and saw the proud statue of Theodore Roosevelt. While living in the DC area, I made the pilgrimage out to Theodore Roosevelt Island and posed for pictures with the gigantic statue of him. As a native Arizonan, I’ve visited the Grand Canyon and felt pride in our national parks.
Last week the TR Trail heated up for me, literally and figuratively, as I traveled to New York City to seek out more Roosevelt items for the digital library. It was a beautiful spring week in the city – the first week of spring, really. I traversed those Manhattan streets on the way to the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site and imagined the Roosevelts shopping at Brooks Brothers. I learned how the streets of New York changed around them and caused a move to another part of the city.
Most of my week was spent within the hallowed walls of the New York Public Library. TR would appreciate what that institution has become. People wait outside on the steps for the library to open. It’s the first time I’ve been in a line to get inside of a library. Of course, the main branch of the NYPL isn’t just any library. It’s a beautiful shrine to literature, culture, and the city that surrounds it.
My trip ended with a train ride out to Long Island and a walk through the empty halls of Sagamore Hill. Within the next few weeks, the Sagamore Hill staff will start bringing Roosevelt’s books back into the house, following a major renovation. They will make sure that each title is put back in the exact order that Roosevelt had it. His library was essential to him. For me, visiting it was like arriving at the beginning. Roosevelt’s great love of reading and of the places where he found himself make the trail endlessly fascinating.
Painting of Sagamore Hill, 1900. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.