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Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill home reopens in Cove Neck

After six years of extensive restoration, including three

After six years of extensive restoration, including three years when it was closed to visitors, Teddy Roosevelt's home Sagamore Hill is finally being reopened. Credit: Newsday/ Audrey C. Tiernan

It's a party of presidential proportions.

Sagamore Hill, the former Cove Neck home of Theodore Roosevelt, has been spruced up, and now the venerable house is ready for a good old-fashioned celebration.

After six years of extensive rehabilitation, including three years when it was closed to visitors, the home in which "Teddy" lived with his family from 1885 through his presidency (1901-09) and until his death in 1919 reopens to the public Sunday.

Since the home has always been kept historically accurate, not many of the artifacts have changed, but new lighting and restoration of items on display will make it more visually appealing, officials say.

"Our hope is, really, that Theodore Roosevelt would walk back in, or bound back in that front door, as he was known to do, running up two stairs at a time, and he would feel like he was home again," says Susan Sarna, the museum's curator.

PARTY LIKE IT'S 1899

Sunday's reopening should feel like Roosevelt himself is throwing the party. Expect all sorts of old-time games, such as potato-sack races, hoops, pony rides and crafts for kids.

Long Island Band Organ will give a Wurlitzer a whirl, and antique carriages and cars will be parked on the property.

Expected dignitaries include the president's great-grandsons Tweed Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt IV, says Martin Christiansen, chief of visitor services at Sagamore Hill.

Theodore Roosevelt, as portrayed by Sea Cliff resident James Foote, will lend a sense of history to the festivities, and an equestrian re-enactment of the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, Roosevelt's "Rough Riders," will take place at 1 p.m.

Visitors can walk the expansive property down to the water, and visit the Old Orchard Museum, where an interactive kiosk will be set up so visitors can learn about our 26th president and his extraordinary life as a world leader and conservationist.

Snacks, ice cream and lemonade will be for sale.

TOUR THE HOME

The real star, however, is Sagamore Hill itself, says Sarna.

Walk onto the large porch and through the front door. There, you'll see the library and first lady Edith Roosevelt's parlor with its feminine decor, jarred only by the little white bear head rugs on the floor. The dining room is set as it may have been for a family dinner.

The North Room, however, is the centerpiece. Many of Roosevelt's conquests, including bison and deer heads, are mounted on the oak-paneled walls, just as they were during his life.

"Ninety-nine percent of the pieces on the main floor are original," Sarna notes.

Free tours of the first floor will be available only on opening day. Beginning Monday, tours will include all three floors and cost $10 a person, with discounts for children and seniors.

THE RESTORATION

While the house had roof damage that affected some of the interior plaster walls, the most notable part of the restoration is the new lighting system, which seamlessly blends the historic notions of the home with visitors' desire to see deep into the rooms from the cordoned-off rails. All told, the improvements cost $8.5 million, mostly federal funds but also donations from the site's partner group, Friends of Sagamore Hill. More than 12,000 artifacts were stored and then unpacked, including gifts and other mementos of Roosevelt's time at the home, many of which were painstakingly restored.

Says Sarna, "You can almost tell his history, in chronological years . . . through the artifacts that he surrounded himself with in this house."

SAGAMORE HILL REOPENING

WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday with free shuttle-bus service from off-site parking areas: East Woods School, 31 Yellow Cote Rd.; Oyster Bay High School, 150 E. Main St.; James H. Vernon School, 880 Oyster Bay Rd., and Oyster Bay train station. Only handicapped vehicles are permitted on-site during the festival.

INFO 516-922-4788, nps.gov/sahi

ADMISSION Free ($10 tours begin July 13)

NOTE No large backpacks or photography allowed in the home.

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