Our favorite President is a native New Yorker and his home, Sagamore Hill, is right here on Long Island! Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th President, resided here from 1885 until his death in 1919. Sagamore Hill served as the “Summer White House” for seven years hosting numerous visits from foreign dignitaries and peace talks to end the Russo-Japanese War earning him the Nobel Peace Prize. The birth of three of his children and his own death transpired at this home. Just hours before he passed on January 6, 1919, he told his wife, “I wonder if you will ever know how I love Sagamore Hill.”
Sagamore Hill was aptly named by Roosevelt from the Algonquin word for chieftain, the head of the tribe. He was by all accounts the head of not only his tribe at home, but the tribe of our nation. Long Island has a deep Native American history and Roosevelt’s inclusion of different cultures is evident not only in the name, but also in the history of the grounds. Our tour guide described Roosevelt as a generous employer for his time, employing many Irish-American and African-American persons with fair pay and amenities.
The park grounds are open every day from sunrise to sunset.
The Roosevelt children were encouraged to play outdoors and love nature. The park still embodies this spirit with a big lawn, hiking trail, and beach access. The hiking trail is a mere 3/4 mile round trip, but it’s downhill to the beach and uphill back to the houses. The incline may be too steep for a few, especially since it is a nature trail with roots, leaves, and rocks (dense woodland). As you exit the trees, you are welcomed to the waters of Cold Spring Harbor. There’s a lovely man-made walkway over the salt marsh (Eel Creek) leading to the beach. You can play, relax, and even teach your kids how to skip rocks. The lawn and beach are also wonderful places for a picnic.
Equally essential to Roosevelt’s home were the animals, especially the family dogs. In the spirit of this love, dogs are welcome guests at Sagamore Hill. They are welcome on the lawns, trails and beach as long as they are leashed as per town ordinances (no longer than 6′ leash). And, please, clean up their excrement so everyone can enjoy the space freely.
Buildings and Tours
Note: All of the public buildings are closed Monday and Tuesday.
The Roosevelt Family Home is superbly well kept. It is like walking back in time. The tour guide leads you through each part of the house and gives you clear images of the activities in each room with personalized anecdotes. Although all of the rooms are open to be viewed, none of them permit you to enter inside. Lean in too far and you will set off the alarm. This shrine is heavily protected. Nothing that can pose a threat to any item or piece of the house is allowed entry- no strollers, backpacks, suitcases, food, liquids or the like. There’s even no photography allowed inside. You can plan accordingly or leave your items outside on the front porch. The tour leads you through the whole house so be prepared for climbing the staircases up to the second and third floor. The tour lasts about 45-60 minutes long. Some of our favorites were the Polar Bear “rug” given by Admiral Peary from his 1909 expedition to the North Pole, the children’s toys, the large ornate wooden furniture, and the Buffalo hide depicting the Battle of Little Bighorn.
The family home is open to the public with strict guidelines and only by guided tour. These tours are only held Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm. I highly suggest advanced reservations that can be booked through Recreation.gov or by calling (877) 444-6777. If you choose to purchase your tickets at the Visitor Center they can only be used for the same day you purchased them and they are strictly limited in number. These tickets generally sell out between 10:00am and noon (sales begin at 9:00am). Tours are every half hour. We tried our luck arriving at 11:00am on one visit to no avail. We reserved them in advance on our next trip using the website (this is for all National Parks, so it’s a pretty interesting website to check out). Adults are $10 each, but kids under 15 are free (still need ticket!). There is a Senior Pass, if you’re eligible, for visitors 62 and over that covers the senior and three others.
“National Park Pass holders: Please be advised that National Park Passes will waive the cost of a house tour ticket. Please present your pass when requesting your ticket. The National Park Pass does not serve as a house tour ticket, it will be necessary to obtain a tour ticket to be admitted to the Theodore Roosevelt Home.”- https://www.nps.gov/sahi/planyourvisit/fees.htm
The Visitor Center/Bookstore is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, Wednesday through Sunday. Check in at the Visitor Center upon arrival for park site information and tour tickets for the Theodore Roosevelt Home. Admission to the visitor center and gift shop is free during regular business hours. Don’t forget your National Parks Passport to get stamped here!
The Theodore Roosevelt Museum, which chronicles the life and career of the President, is located in the Old Orchard house. This historic home belonged to Theodore Roosevelt’s oldest son Ted and his wife Eleanor Alexander-Roosevelt. Admission is free during regular business hours. We found this museum fascinating. We walked into it thinking Roosevelt was a fascinating and well accomplished man. We walked out of it feeling like we barely knew how amazing he was until we toured this museum! It is no wonder he is so many people’s favorite President (dead or alive).
This museum has such a great variety on display that you can cross connect some of the artifacts with people or events in your own lifetime. I always find that this makes history easier to connect to and historical figures become more human when they are relatable.
When our family visited Montauk and Camp Hero State Park we had learned about Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and their quarantine after fighting the Spanish in Cuba (Spanish American War). At the time it was called Camp Wikoff and it was a temporary home for Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and more than 20,000 other soldiers of the Army’s Fifth Corps. This huge camp was spread over most of Montauk from mid August to late October of 1898 with men recovering from battle wounds, yellow fever, malaria, and typhoid fever. His uniform among other relics are on display at the museum in the Old Orchard House.
We also came across some portraits of Theodore Roosevelt’s involvement with the Boy Scouts of America in the museum. Did you know he helped get scouting started in this country? He was honored with the title Chief Scout Citizen. My son’s Boy Scout troop was one of the local area troops that would march from quite a distance to Sagamore Hill to picnic with the President on his big lawn. Of course, this was way before our time, but it makes it interesting for us to connect the meaning behind such a terrific opportunity. The Huntington Historical Society recently acquired our troop’s flag as part of the town’s history as the troop is 100 years old.
The Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary & Audobon Center is right next door to Youngs Cemetary. The thick woods and the songbirds are in close proximity of his gravesite allowing his final resting place to stay as natural and serene as he always enjoyed. This is also the nation’s first Audobon songbird sanctuary. Don’t forget your binoculars and bugspray (summer essential).
Center Building Hours: Monday-Friday: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Closed Saturdays and Sundays
Trails are open everyday dawn until dusk.
Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary & Audubon Center
134 Cove Road
Oyster Bay, New York 11771
phone: (516) 922-3200
Visiting Sagamore Hill