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Sagamore Hill find: Calling card from past

Richie Vischof, left, a carpenter with E +

Richie Vischof, left, a carpenter with E + A Restoration speaks with John Bruckner, of Oyster Bay, right, while inside the bedroom at the Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill mansion in Oyster Bay. (Nov. 8, 2013) Credit: Steve Pfost

Carpenter Richard Vischof was working on the major restoration of Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill mansion recently when he discovered calling cards from the past.

Vischof, 49, of Holtsville, works for E & A Restoration of Syosset, and was working in a second-floor bedroom when he found two business cards inside a window sash. On a whim, Vischof called the number printed on them and connected with John Bruckner, who helped overhaul the mansion nearly 40 years ago.

Bruckner, now 84, returned to visit the site last week. But he doesn't know why he decided to leave the card.

"Something made me do it," he said. "Never in a million years did I think anybody would ever call me."

Vischof's curiosity was piqued while replacing reconditioned original windows in the room where Roosevelt died.

"We were working on the sash weights in the windows and you have to open up a little hatch to get to the weights and inside there on the back of the door a card was pinned there," Vischof said. "We took the card out and I'm looking at it and I said, 'There's a number on there. I'm calling the guy.'"

A second card found in the same room was also from Bruckner, owner of Bruckner Carpentry of Oyster Bay. And that one had a date penciled on it: Jan. 17, 1975.

Vischof dialed and Bruckner's wife answered. "She said, 'The company closed down years ago,'" and her husband was taking a nap.

"He called me back about an hour later and he could recite exactly what he did" during the previous renovation, Vischof said.

Susan Sarna, National Park Service museum specialist overseeing the work, invited Bruckner to meet Vischof. He gave Bruckner a baseball cap from Carpenters' Local 290 and they talked shop.

Brucker, who also repaired the main staircase and later did odd jobs at the mansion, retired 20 years ago. But he still visits Sagamore Hill.

Although he helped build Levittown and erected mansions on the North Shore, Bruckner said, the Sagamore Hill job was the only place he ever left a card.

Vischof said he understands.

Three weeks before he found Bruckner's cards, Vischof signed a dollar bill and placed it behind air shaft wainscoting.

Sarna said Bruckner's business cards will become part of the Sagamore Hill collection along with tools, horseshoes and a 1902 calendar found inside the walls.

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