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Sagamore Hill tree planted by President Theodore Roosevelt cut down

A chain saw buzzed through a tree next to Theodore Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill Tuesday, signaling the end of a 125-year-old copper beech planted by the former president. Tweed Roosevelt, great-grandson of the president and chief executive of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, said the association plans to save wood from the trunk to make park benches that will be installed at Sagamore Hill. The association is also looking at using the wood to make replicas of furniture found at the house. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

A chainsaw buzzed through a tree next to Theodore Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill on Tuesday, signaling the end of a 125-year-old copper beech planted by the former president.

When the worker, in a cherry picker lift, cut through, the branch fell toward the ground. A rope tied to the branch stopped it from hitting the ground before a worker slowly lowered it beside the trunk of of tree planted by Roosevelt in 1894.

“That tree grew up, grew tall and strong, like T.R., I guess,” said Tweed Roosevelt, great-grandson of the president and chief executive of the Theodore Roosevelt Association. “It's quite a formidable tree. But like all things, things come to an end.”

The tree, which stands close to the main entrance of the house, had become diseased and was a danger to the historic house and to visitors, said Paul Cecere, chief of preservation and maintenance of the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.

 "The tree has succumbed to disease [fungus] and age," National Parks Service spokeswoman Kathy Kupper wrote in an email. 

The branches were fed into a woodchipper after they were cut down. Cecere said those wood chips will be spread onto trails on the Sagamore Hill grounds.

The tree's trunk, which is taller than the house, is scheduled to come down on Monday when a crane will hold it up as workers cut it into four sections, Cecere said.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, lived at Sagamore Hill in Cove Neck from 1885 until 1919, the year he died. As president, he is remembered as a conservationist, having protected approximately 230 million acres of public land by establishing 150 national forests and five national parks, as well as national monuments and bird and game preserves, according to the National Parks Service website.

“If you look at pictures of T.R., many of them have him … in front of the house and there's the tree, smaller of course,” Tweed Roosevelt said. “It's very sad. It was kind of almost like the ghost of the house or the guardian angel of the house.”

Roosevelt said the association plans to save wood from the trunk to make park benches that will be installed at Sagamore Hill. The association is also looking at using the wood to make replicas of furniture found at the house such as rocking chairs, Windsor chairs, tables and mantel pieces. The furniture would be sold to raise money for preservation efforts at the house, he said.

“Someone can actually own a piece of Sagamore Hill, if everything … works the way we think it's going to work,” Roosevelt said.

The wood has to be cut and dried before it can be turned into furniture, a process expected to take a year, he said.

Saplings grown from the tree are expected to be planted near the spot where original tree was planted, Roosevelt said.

“It's basically the same tree genetically," he said, "so the tree will live on.”

Theodore Roosevelt's tree

Planted: 1894

Type: Copper beech

Died: 2019

Source: Theodore Roosevelt Association

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