754Re: [tr-m] Sagamore Hill and TR Birthplace visits
- Jan 5, 2004Thanks for the kind words on the sites.
Yes, there is a concern about putting up decorations, and basically, plastic
just doesn't cut it.
TR and his family did decorate:
A ROOSEVELT FAMILY CHRISTMAS
LINDA E. MILANO
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, THEODORE ROOSEVELT ASSOCIATION
Christmas was an occasion of literally delirious joy. In the evening we
hung up our stockings - or rather the biggest stockings we could borrow from
the grown-ups - and before dawn we trooped in to open them while sitting on
father's and mother's bed; and the bigger presents were arranged, those for
each child on its own table, in the drawing-room, the doors to which were
thrown open after breakfast. I never knew any one else have what seemed to
me such attractive Christmases, and in the next generation I tried to
reproduce them exactly for my own children.
The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt
Da Capo Facsimile Edition, page 7
In his autobiography, Theodore Roosevelt remembered the almost insupportable
happiness of those childhood Christmas festivals and reproduced them, as
exactly as possible, for his own children. The Roosevelt Christmases at
Sagamore Hill were spent huddled about the fire. TR would go into the woods
with Ted, Jr. to find the finest tree which would be placed in the Gun Room,
where the presents were kept wrapped until after Christmas breakfast. The
house was cold and the children and Edith would wrap themselves in heavy
shawls while TR would bring out an old brocade jacket saved just for
holidays. On Christmas Eve, the family would take the wood-sled to the
little frame Christ Episcopal Church to sing carols. Years later, the
children would fondly remember a hymn which began "It's Christmas Eve on the
river, it's Christmas Eve on the bay," which seemed to be written just for
their Sagamore Hill, and which is still sung at Christ Church on Christmas
Eve. TR himself thought it was written for Oyster Bay until he heard of it
being sung in Michigan and Denver, Colorado.
Christmas Day would begin with the children coming into their parent's
bedroom, where their Christmas stockings were hung (either from the mantel
on the fireplace or tied to the footboard of the bed). After the stockings
were gone through, the whole family would go downstairs together for
breakfast, and then up to the Gun Room to open gifts. Each child's gifts
were placed on his or her own table, in much the same way that Theodore had
received his as a child. During Christmas 1891, right after Kermit had
turned two years old, he was startled when all his gifts turned out to be
squeaky toys - everything he touched on his table made strange noises at
It was on Christmas morning that Clara Doll made her yearly appearance.
Clara had been Mrs. Roosevelt's doll when she was young, and appeared near
the tree Christmas morning - only to disappear again for another year.
Clara Doll still lives at Sagamore Hill, occupying a place of honor in the
crib located in the Gate Room.
During the Christmas season, the Roosevelts did not forget that it was the
season of giving. TR himself would fill in for Santa Claus, so to speak, at
the Cove School, handing out presents that he and Mrs. Roosevelt had bought
for the students. The only year TR missed this opportunity was in 1918,
while he was hospitalized shortly before his death. His son Archie, home on
disability from World War I, took his place. After TR's death, Edith
Roosevelt continued the tradition, often consulting with the teacher to
determine the most appropriate gifts for the individual students. TR, when
he visited the Cove Neck School, often referred to the children as "my
When the Roosevelts occupied the White House, they would leave the Secret
Service aghast by insisting on decorating the tree with old fashioned
lighted tapers. They would see an enactment of "A Christmas Carol" in the
evening and, never forgetting the religious meaning, they would attend
church on Christmas.
Best wishes from Oyster Bay,
Linda E. Milano
Assistant Director (516) 921-6319
Theodore Roosevelt Association Fax: (516) 921-6481
P.O. Box 719 E-Mail: TRA_Milano@...
Oyster Bay, NY 11771-0719 web: www.theodoreroosevelt.org
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack" <JackyRed@...>
Sent: Sunday, January 04, 2004 12:13 PM
Subject: [tr-m] Sagamore Hill and TR Birthplace visits
> On 12-21-03, my wife, parents, and I had the pleasure of visiting
> Sagamore Hill. Both of the young ladies we came in contact with who
> were working that day - one at the visitor's center and one in the
> house - were great! I wish I could remember their names (one I
> believe was Julie), but the in-house tour guide was exceptional in
> her knowledge of TR, his family, and the house. She answered all of
> our questions and read all of the books on the family. Impressive!
> Then on 12-23-03, other family members and I journeyed to the
> Theodore Roosevelt birthplace in Manhattan. Rudy (I believe) gave us
> our tour there and, like his counterparts at Sagamore Hill, did a
> fantastic job.
> Anyone on this list who has yet to visit either place, get to it!
> Thanks to anyone involved in making both landmarks incredibly
> enjoyable daytrips.
> One question I never thought to ask earlier: with our visits so close
> to Christmas, I was wondering why there was so little holiday decor.
> I remember that at Sagamore there was a Nast Santa picture in one of
> the upstairs rooms. But were Christmas decorations not big at that
> time period in America? Or might it be too potentially damaging to
> everything in the houses to decorate and undecorate every year? Just
> a question (or two).
> Jack Lechelt
> Columbia, SC
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