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Making merry with Sagamore Hill simplicity

Theodore Roosevelt, as portrayed by Sea Cliff's James

Theodore Roosevelt, as portrayed by Sea Cliff's James Foote, talks with Sagamore Hill visitor Sal Calamia, of Whitestone, Queens. (Dec. 3, 2011) Credit: T.C. McCarthy

Diana Singh has been bringing her kids to Sagamore Hill during the Christmas season for four years to enjoy the fresh air, the green grass across the site’s 88 acres and a sense of simplicity.

Singh, 28, of Oyster Bay, visited the Cove Neck site Saturday for the second annual Christmas with the Roosevelts, a celebration that shows how Sagamore Hill would have looked during the holidays in 1906. Simple. No decorations, except for a single wreath on the Roosevelt home’s front door.

“It takes us back to a simpler time when Christmas isn’t necessarily about all that,” said Singh, 28. “Just being with family and doing wholesome, natural things.”

Syosset’s Jeremi Hoyt, 35, the event’s organizer and a park ranger at the historical site, said the celebration features things like hot chocolate, hot cider and a female barbershop quartet singing Christmas carols.

Sagamore Hill officials avoid lavish decorations because during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency his family wasn’t at the Oyster Bay home to decorate it. Servants who lived at the home all year might have put a wreath on the door, but that would be it, Hoyt said.

Tourists from all over flocked to Sagamore Hill on Saturday to take advantage of free guided tours of the Roosevelt home -- their final opportunity to see the house before it closes for three years for a $6.2-million renovation. The house, more than 120 years old, will get a new roof, undergo foundation repairs and a partial electrical system upgrade, and have it's second-floor skylight restored.

Hoyt said the hiking trail, the Old Orchard House and other exhibits outside of the Roosevelt home, will remain open during the renovations.

Sal Calamia, 52, of Whitestone, Queens, made the trek to see the house after learning it would close for three years.

“I wanted to come out here and see the home and try to learn a little bit more about Mr. Roosevelt,” he said. “I figured I’d come out for a little Christmas festivity.”

Photo: Theodore Roosevelt, as portrayed by Sea Cliff's James Foote, talks with Sagamore Hill visitor Sal Calamia. (Dec. 3, 2011)

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