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Teddy Roosevelt's Birthplace to Reopen After Six Months of Renovations

By Mary Johnson | November 18, 2011 7:31am

FLATIRON — History buffs will have reason to celebrate on Nov. 22, when the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site reopens after a six-month closure.

The museum, located on East 20th Street between Park Avenue and Broadway, shut its doors in May after an inspection revealed safety code violations. The site had a “deficient metal fire escape stair tower attached to the back of the building,” according to a National Park Service press release announcing the reopening.

Those repairs have now been completed, and the site will once again welcome visitors from Tues., Nov. 22. 

“The safety of our visitors is our top priority,” said Shirley McKinney, superintendent of Manhattan sites for the National Park Service, in a statement.

“So while it was unfortunate we had to close the site entirely during this process, we made sure that the repairs were done to the highest standards and as swiftly as possible. And now, we are very excited to be able welcome the public back.”

Theodore Roosevelt is the only U.S. president who was born in New York City.

He lived in a townhouse on East 20th Street — which was torn down in 1916 but reconstructed to resemble the original structure — for the first 14 years of his life, from 1858 to around 1872. The interior of the building has been renovated to include details reminiscent of life in the 1860s.

The Roosevelt family donated several pieces of memorabilia to help fill the building’s five period rooms and two galleries. The galleries will remain closed to the public while they undergo further renovations unrelated to the safety problems, including the addition of state-of-the-art lighting and a security system.

Among the items on display inside the museum are several Theodore Roosevelt political cartoons and animal heads from the president’s many hunting expeditions.

But perhaps the most popular artifact in the house is the shirt Roosevelt was wearing when he was shot during an assassination attempt in 1912. The bullet pierced the 50-page speech Roosevelt was carrying and punctured the president’s shirt before getting lodged in his chest.

Roosevelt finished the 90-minute speech he had planned to make that day, leaving the bullet in his chest where it landed before famously proclaiming, “It takes a lot more than a bullet to stop a bull moose.”

That piece of memorabilia — with the bullet hole still clearly visible — was listed as a favorite in numerous reviews on Yelp, many of which hailed the site as one of New York City’s “hidden gems.” It’s free to enter, and the site is credited with nurturing fascination with the 26th president.

“Stumbled upon it while shopping, but decided to take a [peek],” one Yelp reviewer wrote last year.

“It has spawned my fascination with Teddy, which has [led] to an improper amount of reading over the last month. Umm, can I live here? Pretty please?”

Beginning on Nov. 22, visitors can take ranger-led tours of the period rooms Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.