Sagamore Hill National Historic Site Long Island, N.Y., near Oyster Bay Visited: April 4, 2004 NPS Site Visited: 15 of 353 NPS Website; Local Website
WHAT IS IT? The home of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president, from 1901 to 1909.
BEAUTY (3/10) The sprawling 83-acre estate is not particularly striking. Given the house’s proximity to Long Island Sound, we expected a water view. There was none. The exterior 23-room Queen Anne-style house is unspectacular, especially in comparison to the newer mansions that line the drive to the Site.
The house’s interior is equally unimpressive with the exception of the dark wood and a plethora of animal trophies and pelts.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (4/10) Unlike the FDR House, the Eleanor Roosevelt NHS and the Mark Twain Home, Sagamore Hill does not scream personality. We did not feel the larger than life aura that Teddy exuded. We left with the feeling that yes, he lived here and loved his family here, but his great public endeavors were done elsewhere. Three other Sites bear TR’s name. We hope that we will find him there.
CROWDS (2/10) The tour was too crowded. Given Sagamore Hill’s narrow hallways and blocked off doorways 13 people was far too many to allow on a tour together. Because only four or so could actually look into most rooms at one time, the tour was a test of both memory and patience. The guide’s voice, quiet to begin with, tended to trail off near the end of his monologues. A smaller tour would have helped. Because of the crowd size our tour experience was lacking.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5) The house was not accessible to individuals with physical disabilities. The guide will warn you the tour consists of three flights of stairs. We had no problems getting to the Site. Plentiful brown signs off the highway to get you there and lots of room to park.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5) A substantial selection of Teddy Roosevelt biographies. No books on the creation of the National Park System and only one or two general history books on the period of Teddy’s life that did not focus on the man himself.
COSTS (3/5) If we had paid the $5 tour fee a person, we would have been disappointed.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5) Volunteers do most of the tours. We suppose that the cramped nature of the house limits the number of tours, but because of the number of people, we did not have many opportunities for questions.
In addition, we had bought a ticket for the 2:00 tour at 1:55. The Ranger at the Visitor Center said we were fine as long as we ran to the house. They would call ahead. We ran uphill to the house’s front door where a young Ranger greeted us. It was 1:57. He told us the tour had already started, slammed the door in our face and locked it behind him. We suppose that at Sagamore Hill the $5 a ticket customer is not the priority.
We went back to the Visitor Center where they apologized and exchanged our tickets for a 2:30 tour that had just been created because a large group had shown up. If they had not arrived, we would have had to wait until 3:00.
TOURS/CLASSES (4/10) The large size of the group hindered the tour.
The adjacent and newly remodeled Theodore Roosevelt museum did not meet expectations. The collection was limited and was not comprehensive in its explanation of his life. The Ranger on site was unapproachable for questions since she was loudly discussing ER episodes with a friend. While we were leaving, she asked us if we wanted to watch either the 10-minute DVD about Teddy’s personal life or the 10-minute DVD on his public life. We said ‘yes, we would love to see the DVD on his public life’.
After the private-life specific House Tour, we were desperate to learn something about Teddy and the creation of the National Park System. She said OK, but the DVD she started was the private life one. We asked if we could see the other and she said ‘it’ll be on right after this one, in 10 minutes’. A family had entered the viewing room at this point so we just got up and left.
FUN (5/10) It should have been a lot more fun. We are confident that with a different Ranger experience and a smaller tour, the Site would have been more enjoyable. Still, the House did not radiate life and fun in the way that we imagined anything Teddy-related would. Sagamore Hill fails to impress when seen in the same light as its contemporary, the Mark Twain Home.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (4/10) Yes, but it might be better to come during the week. Our expectations were high. Theodore Roosevelt’s gave us the National Park System. We had expected the National Park System to honor its patron in a more loving, stately and inclusive way. We were let down. Teddy was let down.
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