NYC celebrates Roosevelt's 150th

October 26, 2008 6:37:29 PM PDT
The National Park Service threw a block party Sunday to celebrate Theodore Roosevelt's 150th birthday in front of the town house where he was born. There were pony rides, a Gatling gun and costumed actors impersonating T.R. and his family.

"Six children we reared in the White House," Roosevelt re-enactor Joe Wiegand told visitors. "Mrs. Roosevelt says she reared seven!"

Roosevelt, who was governor of New York before becoming the 26th president, was born in a handsome Manhattan brownstone that is now a National Historic Site.

Usually open just Tuesday through Saturday, the house was festooned with bunting Sunday as it welcomed visitors for the birthday celebration. The visitors admired the original Roosevelt family furniture and china, the mounted hunting trophies and the display cases with artifacts from Roosevelt's career as a writer, soldier and conservationist.

"I didn't quite realize how much he had done to preserve nature," said Fran Ross, of Brooklyn. "And I didn't know much about his childhood. I didn't realize he was so delicate."

Roosevelt, asthmatic as a boy, was the second of four children born to the wealthy Roosevelt family. His birthday, Oct. 27, is Monday.

Festivities at his childhood home Sunday included cupcakes, pumpkin painting and speeches by high school students.

Mort Weisman, of Seattle, said he and his wife, Judy, have been visiting New York for 52 years and never knew about the Roosevelt house.

"He was a great man," Weisman said. "He was 50 years ahead of his time in terms of conservation."

The festivities continue Monday with free house tours and a talk by Roosevelt biographer Edmund Morris.

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