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Old records help renovate John E. Roosevelt Estate

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  • erenehan@yahoo.com
    This story was sent to you by: Ed Renehan ... Old records help renovate John E. Roosevelt Estate ... By Bill Bleyer Staff Writer September 27, 2004 When John
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2004
      This story was sent to you by: Ed Renehan

      Old records help renovate John E. Roosevelt Estate

      By Bill Bleyer
      Staff Writer

      September 27, 2004

      When John E. Roosevelt began constructing his Meadow Croft estate in Sayville in 1891, he filled ledgers with the details.

      "He kept immaculate records of everything - what he paid for things and where he bought them," said Jill Hansen, a board member of Bayport Heritage Association, who heads its acquisitions committee for Meadow Croft.

      Those records have been a great help to Suffolk County, which owns the property, and Bayport Heritage as they refurnish the house reincarnated as a museum so that it closely matches its historical appearance.

      But Roosevelt also made the refurnishing harder because Hansen and her committee can't just go out and buy any antique when they know what was originally in each room of a house listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

      That's why Hansen has been spending months trying to find a set of silverware made in Meriden, Conn., to purchase because Roosevelt's ledgers show that's where he bought his tableware.

      But the county and Bayport Heritage, which have been working together since 1983 to restore the estate, is happy to have that kind of problem.

      It wasn't that long ago that the mansion was empty and so deteriorated that firefighters were planning to burn it down for training. But the restoration of the main house and outbuildings has come far enough that refurnishing the mansion has become the main focus in the past few years and is more than half complete.

      John Ellis Roosevelt was Theodore Roosevelt's first cousin and lawyer. After he died in 1939, the estate was virtually abandoned. In 1974, Suffolk acquired the 65 acres and by 1995 it had completed a 10-year, $1-million restoration of the 28-room colonial revival house and carriage house that had begun to collapse. After the restoration, the county hired a conservation consultant to prepare a furnishings plan based on old photos and Roosevelt's records. The house is being decorated as it looked in 1910 - the year the family made the last alterations.

      The county and Bayport Heritage had a head start with the furnishings. Several wicker chairs and a matching table were found in the attic and returned to their original locations in the parlor and hallway.

      The refurnishing got a boost three years ago from a $250,000 state grant that was used to install wallpaper and to buy lighting fixtures and antiques. Meanwhile, feelers have gone out to Roosevelt descendants about returning objects.

      Despite the restoration, new problems keep popping up, said Eric Crater, assistant director of the county's historic services division. Last year, a deteriorating foundation in the servants' wing was rebuilt along with the chimney with a $30,000 state grant.

      Meanwhile, restoration of the outbuildings continues.

      Copyright (c) 2004, Newsday, Inc.


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