Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Visit to Sagamore Hill

For my birthday this year, my mother and I spent a day on Long Island, NY to visit Sagamore Hill, the home of Teddy and Edith Roosevelt. We were also able to see several other spots of interest.

We got up early in the morning since we read that if you do not get there early enough, the tickets for the house tours for the day will be sold out. Thankfully, we didn't have any traffic, so we were able to get there quickly. It's about a two hour drive from my home near Allentown, PA.

We had to drive through the city to get there on the express way. 

Long Island felt so much like Pennsylvania! It was hilly with beautiful trees sporting bright yellow and red leaves. 

Sagamore Hill

We got to Sagamore Hill before it opened. We drove through the long drive up to the house. The drive was at the bottom of the hill and you looked up to see the home. You couldn't see any other homes from the drive. We were there in time to see a Boy Scout Troop raise the flag. Hearing their busy voices chatting added to the excitement.

This picture does not do the magnificence of the place justice. It has a stately air and you could tell those who lived here loved nature. The property had many trees and when it was built you could see Oyster Bay from the front porch. Now there are too many trees that have overgrown the view.

We were able to buy our tickets for the first tour. While we were waiting for the tour to begin, we looked around at the chicken coop and read a couple of signs that explained the Roosevelts and different aspects of their lives. One interesting piece pointed out that at times TR would join his farm hands in the fields when he just had the urge to be outside working for the day. He insisted to be paid for his labor, too!

We also noticed that there was a windmill which operated the water pump along with an ice house. There is a story that TR had climbed up the windmill to repair a part and the windmill sliced a part of his scalp. He was bleeding pretty badly. When he went into the house Edith said something like, "If you are going to bleed, please don't do it on my floors! Go into the bathroom!"

When we went up to the front porch, we noticed that there was a large wrap around porch. There was a section of the porch that did not have any rail at all. That is where the rocking chairs were and they faced the bay. What a peaceful view that must have been! 

The front room with the awning was TR's office. He purposefully put his office in the front of the house by the front door so that he could beat the maids to the door when visitors came. 

The front door was wide and heavy. It had the presidential seal on it. Inside this door was the hall with TR's office to the right, Edith's sitting room to the left, and at the end of the hall was the dining room (which I thought was quite small), and a large room they used for receptions and dancing and general entertaining.

Another door on the porch had a Latin phrase above it. We looked it up when we got home. It means "he who has planted will preserve." This is the TR family motto.

Unfortunately, there were no pictures allowed to be taken inside. It was very Victorian: dark wood panels, lots of pattern, and lots of texture. There were also lots of animal skins and heads and even a trash can made out of an elephant foot!

There was not much said about Edith on the tour. But it was so special to be feet away from where she rested in her sitting room and where she wrote letters at her desk. In the dining room, she sat at the foot of the table and behind her was a folding screen through which she gave instructions to the kitchen help. We even got to see the bed where she died.

The house transported you to the time period more so than other house tours I've been on. I think this is due to the fact that when Edith died in 1948 the house was given to the Teddy Roosevelt Association and then later it was turned over to the National Park Service. So there was no need for curators to hunt down original furniture or belongings. It was already there just how it was when they actually lived there. Amazing!

Old Orchard

After we toured Sagamore Hill, we walked down a small foot path to Old Orchard, the house built for Ted, Jr.

Orchard House
Old Orchard was turned into a museum for TR. We took a quick look through.

These clever steps were set up on the picket fence between Old Orchard and Sagamore Hill. So, of course, we tried them out!

TR Grave Site

Our next stop was the TR grave site at Young's Memorial Cemetery. It was only a couple miles from Sagamore Hill. The Young family were friends of the Roosevelts and were one of the early settlers in the area. 

 The cemetery was on a wooded hill near a home. There was a paved path that went up the hill with the tombstones all on one side of the path. 

After a short walk up the path, there was a note to go up the 26 steps to see TR's grave. There were 26 steps since he was the 26th president.

At the top of the 26 steps there was a concrete slab with a stone bench and then a gated area that housed the grave site of both TR and Edith. There was one headstone and one foot stone for the two of them. 

This stone with a plaque was next to the stone bench by TR's grave. It quotes TR saying "keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground."
Next we explored the rest of the cemetery to see who else was buried there. We looked for TR's children. Their tombstones were not right next to TR's, but they were several rows away and they were not all right next to each other. We found stones for all the kids except Quentin which we were surprised about. Quentin had died during WWI and died before TR did. Quentin was actually buried overseas. But we thought he would at least have a marker in this cemetery especially when we saw a marker for Ted Jr., who is buried in France. He died there shortly after D-Day in which he had fought. Although, now that I'm thinking about it, maybe it's because Ted, Jr.'s wife had him mentioned on her stone since she is buried there, too, and Quentin was not married when he died so no wife would have marked his death on a stone.

The other interesting part of the Young Cemetery was that the Young family erected wooden crosses to mark the graves of their slaves. We had never seen anything like that before.

Many of the Young family were buried there obviously. I loved the font used for the stones. It's different than in PA. Stones in our area of PA from this time period are in German.

Oh, but the best part of the cemetery was my mother brought Pop-Tarts!! When we were kids we spent a lot of time in cemeteries while my mother was doing genealogical or historical research. To sweeten the deal for us kids, we were given Pop-Tarts at the cemetery. It was the ONLY time we got Pop-Tarts. We also loved when the cemetery was connected to a church with a playground or had huge pine trees which we could play under with our Cabbage Patch dolls. I also liked to peek into the windows of the old Mennonite meetinghouses. Some even had outhouses still. 

Raynham Hall

After the cemetery we went into the small town of Oyster Bay and visited Raynham Hall which was the home of Benjamin Tallmadge who was the lead spy for George Washington on the Culper Spy Ring. The Revolutionary War history in this home was fascinating. Benjamin Tallmadge was so secretive that when Washington came to town, Tallmadge didn't go to see Washington or let on that he was Culper. That takes humility!

The docent was so knowledgeable and had done a fabulous job sewing her own costume. She was knowledgeable not only about the Revolutionary War era but the house itself. There had been many additions over time. The house is much bigger than it looks!  

After Raynham Hall, it was time to head home. We couldn't have asked for a better day. Thanks, Mom!