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Books, furniture begin returning to Theodore Roosevelt's restored Sagamore Hill home

Sue Sarna, curator of Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill

Sue Sarna, curator of Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill home, unpacks some of the original books in the North Room on March 18, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

The carefully choreographed


of preparing to reopen Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill home

after a three-year restoration began yesterday.

The end of a $10-million

roof-to-basement overhaul and the start of a three-month transition back to an operating museum was marked by movers arriving in two trucks from


They carried 400 boxes containing animal trophies, books and other

objects -- the first round in returning more than 16,000 objects to the

house for its July 12 reopening.

As each box of artifacts -- starting with the heads of a whitetail deer and an antelope shot by Roosevelt -- crossed the threshold of the Cove Neck mansion, curator Susan Sarna checked it against a master list. The items had been stored at the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton.

"It's a sense of relief because we got everything done, and now the objects will be safe," said Sarna, who is managing the restoration. "We don't have to worry about water damage from leaks or a fire."

The objects returned Wednesday included 60 pieces of reproduction furniture and the entire 10,000-volume book collection.

"We need to get the books in the bookshelves before the big furniture comes back," Sarna said.

It will take about two weeks for staff and volunteers to re-shelve the books. Carpets and curtains must be reinstalled before the large paintings and animal trophies go back up. They will be followed in May by the remainder of the furniture, stored in Boston, and small objects housed at the Old Orchard Museum at Sagamore Hill.

"Then, in June, we will fine-tune," Sarna said.

There has been some fine-tuning since December as contractors finished the new roof; heating, lighting, security and other systems; and the re-creation of an original light and ventilation shaft and rear porch altered in the 1950s.

As new heating and dehumidification system came fully online, changes in the environment inside the house created some teething pains, Sarna said.

"The house is adjusting to the new heating system," she said. For the past two winters, the house was heated only by radiators. This winter, new supplemental blowers were turned on.

"It has been pumping a lot of dry air through the house at a higher velocity than there was in the past," Sarna said.

The result was reproduction wallpaper on the dining room ceiling peeling off, a brick in the library fireplace splitting and falling out, stains appearing in the hall ceiling and paint on a second-floor bathtub flaking.

The National Park Service awarded a last-minute contract to Decorada Wallpaper Installations of Brooklyn, which has worked on the White House and other historic structures, to reattach the replica wallpaper installed in the 1980s. The company last week put a special paper liner on the ceiling to help the wallpaper adhere better.

Visitors to the house when it reopens will see higher prices for the ranger-guided tour. The adult price will increase from $5 to $10 and the annual pass will double from $20 to $40.

The additional revenue will help pay for operations at Sagamore Hill, officials said.


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