NYC Outing: Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site

(Sometimes I like to play tourist in my own city. I like playing tourist in my own city even better when it’s inexpensive to do so. This is a cheap, quick little New York City activity; it won’t kill your budget or your feet.)

If you’re a fan of history, fusty old house tours, or Victoriana, I think you’d really like this museum. Ditto if you like spending $3 for an afternoon of entertainment, because that’s how much it costs to get in. And if you’re a fan of Theodore Roosevelt, well, you’ve probably already been here.

The brownstone on 20th St. is a National Park and the rangers there are quick to tell you that it’s not the actual house where Theodore was born. That one was demolished in the 1920s, but the structure that now stands on that spot is accurate to the original plans and contains a significant amount of furniture and artifacts that were original to the Roosevelt family.

The presidential history is just fine—Theodore’s hunting trophies, the Rough Rider uniform, the bullet-hole-riddled shirt he wore during the assassination attempt are all on display—but the most interesting information concerns the day-to-day life of a family of means in New York City. The guides highlight everything from the politics of calling cards to the finer points of New York City brownstone architecture (which is based on the Amsterdam canal house), but the beautifully re-created rooms are the highlight. The powder-blue front parlor is gaudy-gorgeous and dusty in the corners, as though to remind visitors that front-parlor life (and not just the velvet curtains) is history itself.

The house can only be seen by guided tour, but there are lots of them. Check the web site for details.

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