HISTORICAL HOMES

Leslie LŪHeureux McNeill

›››› This is not a paper about Theodore RooseveltŪs life.› This is not a paper about TeddyŪs accomplishments as President of The United States.› This is a paper about perception and history.› When you (the public) visit a historical home how much of that home is actually historically correct and how much is the curatorŪs perception of that time in history?

›››› Theodore Roosevelt was born in 1865, at 28 East 29th Street between Broadway and Park Avenue South.› At the time it was a posh, quiet, tree lined residential street.› Their house had a huge garden and the views beyond the garden were of nothing but endless fields of flowers and grass.› The family lived at that location until 1872; at that time they moved uptown to a more exclusive neighborhood.› The house was then sold and turned into a commercial property.› In the process it was severely altered to accommodate itŪs new commercial use.› It stayed that way until a few months after TheodoreŪs death in 1919.› It was then that a group of very wealthy and influential women decided to buy the property and turn it into a memorial.

›››› Theo date Pope Riddle, who at the time was the first female architect in The United States was given the job of replicating the home.› The women decided to return the home to the date of 1865; the year that the Roosevelt family had hired the famous cabinetmaker and interior designer Leon Marcotte.› Riddle measured inch by inch the adjoining home #26.› This home was used as a model because it was identical to the Roosevelt home and because it was completely unaltered from its original building date of 1818.› The hard part came when Pope went two duplicate the interiors.› All the original furniture was gone, and there were no pictures and or descriptions of the inside of the home to draw from.› Riddle was left to the memory of Theodore RooseveltŪs two sisters and RooseveltŪs widow; who had visited the house as a child.› The current on site manager Charles Marcus claims that the replication of the interiors was/is about ninety nine percent correct.› A proximally forty percent of the furniture that was actually in the house was retuned to the home, and the additional sixty percent was either family pieces or period pieces not connected to the house.

›››› The period between 1920 and 1970 saw the decline of the site.› Wallpaper was put up over existing wallpaper that had nothing to do with the house or the history of the time.› Random pieces of furniture, from random people, where often placed miscellaneously around the house.› Basically a lot of the original intent and design of the house was lost.› Charles Marcus says this was due to the lack of a strong curator direction; just the opposite of what I originally thought.

›››› In the seventies a major restoration, a major over haul of the house was commissioned.› The original house had been restored back to a very specific time frame in history.› The restoration was designed to only show the public the house as it stood in 1865; nothing more nothing less.› The goal of the over haul in the seventies was to bring the house back to itŪs former glory of 1865, from what I gather from Charles Marcus the job was meticulously done.› All the fake wallpaper was stripped; original swatches were found in archives and duplicated by the original manufacture of the paper.› Any and all furniture that did not belong to the house and the time frame of 1865 was promptly removed.› Carpet that had been laid over original floors was all taken up and disposed of.› Florescent lighting was replaced with replications of chandeliers that once would have hung in the house.›

›››› It is evident from my interview with the current site manager Charles Marcus, and two tours of the house that the curator of the seventies did not use his power and influence as a barometer for change.› Rather he let historical documents, and pictures guide him in his recreation of the house to its restoration date of 1865.› The false perception that was present in the house from the 1920Ūs to the 1970Ūs was replaced with the most accurate account possible.


BACK TO SYLLABUS