Ah, New York! The 95th annual meeting of the Theodore Roosevelt Association gave me the opportunity to meet old friends and new, to visit TR sites, and to drink in all that this great city has to offer. Among the speakers at the meeting were the great Edmund Morris, author of a biographical trilogy on TR, and Ken Burns, who recently released the 14-hour documentary The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.
Also speaking during the meeting was Edward Kohn, author of Heir to the Empire City: New York and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt. Kohn’s work focuses on how TR was formed by the city of New York – from his privileged youth, to his entry into politics, to the opportunities and problems of governing a great city in the midst of exponential growth. Seeing the city through this lens made my visit all the more enjoyable.
Another very fine speaker was Joe McDougald, executive director of UConn Law’s Center for Energy and Environmental Law. McDougald stretched our perceptions of Roosevelt’s conservation legacy, making the case that all of the environmental protections that have been enshrined in law in the last 40 years or so – clean air, clean water, land use, etc. – were being discussed in seminal form during TR’s administration. TR’s legacy is not limited to conservation and preservation of public lands, but has much more breadth and depth. To illustrate his point, McDougald used the proceedings of the 1908 Conference of Governors, called by TR to discuss conservation issues.
Both the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace and Sagamore Hill, the Roosevelt family’s home on Long Island, are undergoing renovations and refurbishing of exhibits, but that didn’t keep the National Park Service staff from rolling out the red carpet for us. In the case of Sagamore Hill, the house is officially closed and the rooms are empty of furniture and artifacts. This made it possible for us to walk through the rooms, which are usually roped off, and to appreciate architectural details that we might not otherwise recognize.
The new skylight over the central stairwell adds light and aids with the heating and cooling of the home.
Other attendees visited the American Museum of Natural History, of which Theodore Roosevelt Sr. was a founding member. Still others drove out to Montauk Point, where the Rough Riders disembarked and were quarantined on their return from Cuba.
New York is truly a great city, and one which holds many opportunities to experience TR’s life and legacy!