Theodore Roosevelt’s Cove Neck will no longer open seven days a week to prevent wear and tear after a $10 million rehabilitation project.
The Queen Anne house of the 26th president, at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, reopened in July 2015 after a three-year roof-to-basement overhaul. Since then, it had been open every day through last winter and this past summer to accommodate the pent-up demand. This fall, the park resumed the Monday and Tuesday closing schedule it followed most years before the renovation.
Recently, Superintendent Kelly Fuhrmann and the staff decided it did not make sense for the house to be open again seven days a week next spring, although the grounds are and will remain open every day.
“It will allow us to maintain the historic home in an appropriate fashion,” Fuhrmann said. “Less traffic in the house is a good thing for the collection. From a staffing standpoint, it will save us money when we’re looking at flat budgets.” Fuhrmann hasn’t calculated the budget impact yet. The annual budget for the park is a little more than $1.5 million and it has a permanent staff of 14, plus about six seasonal employees.
Susan Sarna, the supervisory museum curator who managed the rehabilitation, said she needed two days a week throughout the year when the staff could do maintenance and conservation without having to work around visitors.
“When you have large groups come in for tours and stand in the same spots, after a while it starts to put wear and tear on the house,” she said. “There were certain things we need to do on a Monday or Tuesday that we can’t do when there are tours going through. We can’t clean the carpet if we’re open seven days a week. We also need to do work on the collection, conservation treatments.”
Before the house closed for rehabilitation, it attracted about 50,000 visitors a year. After it reopened, the total jumped to more than 60,000. Fuhrmann believes visitation will remain constant with those who would have come on Monday and Tuesday shifting to other days. He is also considering adding another tour in the morning and another at the end of the day to make up for the two-day closing if there is demand for it. Tours are currently given from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We will do it at least for a year as a trial period,” Fuhrmann said.
The change in the schedule has created some concern about a loss of tourist dollars in Oyster Bay.
“I’m not surprised that they are going to go down to five days a week after that lengthy rehabilitation,” said Oyster Bay Historical Society librarian-archivist Nicole Menchise. “They have to do what’s best for the house.”
Still, she worried about the economic impact on the nearby hamlet. “We’ll have to see in the summertime how much it does affect things here in Oyster Bay,” she said.