A Giant of a Conservationist

by Melody Morrow

Only one U.S. president was born in New York City. Raised in a townhouse at 28 E. 20th between Park Avenue South and Broadway in a “romantic” enclave of Gramercy Park is (also known as Theodore Roosevelt Way) where Theodore Roosevelt would grow up to be our 26th president. A walk around Gramercy Park is an ideal way to spend an afternoon and it’s also where Edith Wharton, the famous author, lived. Lady Mendel’s at the Inn on Irving Place is a great way to recount the afternoon while enjoying tea in a Victorian setting.

Theodore Roosevelt become immortalized on Mount Rushmore along with Presidents’ Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. However, he started life in New York City as a sickly, but smart youth from an upper class family who exercised to improve his health. From there he began a lifelong passion for the “strenuous life.” He was born in the house on October 27th, 1858 and lived there until he was 15. The house was restored in 1923 and opened to the public as a museum. The Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association and the Theodore Roosevelt Association jointly donated the museum to the National Park Service in 1962. Today you can see uniformed Park Rangers leading the house tour.

Although the gallery is closed for renovation you can see the rooms and furnishings, which he was surrounded by in his formative years. It was in the living room where I first learned that his father, Theodore Roosevelt Senior, was one of the Founders of the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. The founding members would have discussions about it in the mansion’s living room.

TR’s other homes included Sagamore Hill, located in Oyster Bay, Long Island which is an amazing home/museum and which pays tribute to his enduring love of nature. After all, the stuffed animal called the Teddy Bear was named after him. Can’t think of another President who has been associated with such an enduring childhood toy. Pretty cool.

The more I learn about Teddy Roosevelt the more intriguing he becomes, not so much as an elected official, but as a conservationist and NYC native. He was very well known as the “Conservationist President” establishing five national parks and 18 national monuments throughout the US. The New York native has a park named after him called the Theodore Roosevelt National Park located in the Badlands of North Dakota near a small historic town called Medora. National Geographic stated in an article “the park honors the president who probably did more for the National Park System than anyone before or since.”

As far away from NYC as his preservation of the North Dakota Badlands is and his exploration into the depths of the Amazon Rainforest at a time when there was little to protect anyone from its treacherousness he managed to endure. You can read more about his true life Amazon adventures in the book entitled, The River of Doubt, by Candice Millard.

“There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.” ?Theodore Roosevelt’s Confession of Faith Speech, Progressive National Convention, Chicago, IL, August 6, 1911.

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