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Restored Teddy Roosevelt Memorial Opens to Public Saturday

By Emily Frost | October 26, 2012 9:07am

UPPER WEST SIDE — Three years and $40 million later, The American Museum of Natural History will finally open its Central Park West entrance to the restored Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Saturday.

The two-story memorial, which includes the Central Park West facade, the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, were dedicated to the former president, whose 154th birthday would be Saturday, and serves to honor his work as a preservationist.

The memorial is also a celebration of the field of environmental conservation, said museum President Ellen Futter Thursday.

"Theodore Roosevelt was the only U.S. president from New York City and he is also this country's conservation president," she said. "His spirit continues to infuse the museum."

Under his leadership, 230 million acres became federally protected and 18 national monuments were created across the country, including Muir Woods in California and the Grand Canyon.

On Thursday, Douglas Brinkley, a Roosevelt historian and Rice University professor, spoke enthusiastically about Roosevelt's contributions in creating bird sanctuaries, noting that the fashion of Roosevelt's day was more about using birds to feather hats rather than save them.

Futter said the project was the latest example of the museum's mission to revitalize all of its exhibits. 

At the center of the Memorial Hall, which is full of beautifully restored dioramas from the Hall of North American Mammals, Biodiversity, Ocean Life and of Forests, is a new sculpture of the bespectacled Theodore Roosevelt lost in thought and seated on a bench where visitors can join him.

On Thursday, Roosevelt's great grandson, Theodore Roosevelt IV, Deputy Mayor Patti Harris and City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, among others, did just that as they celebrated the accomplishment for the Upper West Side cultural space.

Harris called the museum a "cultural gem" and lauded the reopening of the "dynamic entryway" on Central Park West on which the City invested $11.5 million and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) $23 million to restore.

Both Harris and Ken Adams, president of the ESDC, the state's development agency, spoke of the financial rewards reaped from investing in the museum. 

Not only do five million tourists visit the museum each year, Adams said, but the renovated wing can serve to inspire students to participate in the "innovation economy" as future scientists and engineers.