GRAMERCY — Theodore Roosevelt's birthplace is getting a major renovation to upgrade its fire and electric systems and make the museum more ADA accessible, officials said.
The national historic site at 28 East 20th St. — where the nation's 26th president was born in 1858 — closed earlier this month and is expected to remain closed for a year, according to the The National Park Service (NPS), which owns the site.
“It is very delicate work," said NPS spokesman Liam Strain, who said crews began removing artifacts from the home and relocating them to a secure facility and plan to begin renovation work this summer.
"We need to do work that doesn’t destroy the fabric of the home, it’s not like a private home where you could just remove walls. We have to be as minimally invasive as possible."
The brownstone — which features five period rooms, two museum galleries and a bookstore — had been demolished in 1916. It was then rebuilt in 1919 by the Women's Roosevelt Memorial Association with the help of Roosevelt's widow and sister in a bid to look as similar to the original as possible.
Before the closure, Park Rangers offered tours of Roosevelt's birthplace five days a week. The entire site will remain closed until work is completed next year, officials said.
The federal agency, which had been wanting to do the renovation work for the past several years, recently received 3.7 million to conduct "necessary and important improvements" at the historical site, officials said.
The museum's entire electric system, which dates back to when it opened to the public in the 1920's, will be replaced, Strain said. The fire alarm and sprinklers will also be swapped out for modern ones, which will be less likely to damage the museum's collection in the case they go off, he added.
The changes will also make the house more accessible to mobility-impaired visitors by adding two chair-lifts, one on the stairwell at the entrance level and another one that will go from the third floor to the auditorium on the fourth floor.
There is currently an elevator in the building, but it only goes up to the third floor of the four-story building. In addition, the auditorium hasn't been used for at least three years because the space wasn't accessible to everyone, Liam said.
A contractor for the work hasn't been chosen yet. NPS will put out a request for bids in July, with work expected to commence in August, Strain said.
Roosevelt, the only United States President born in the city, was born in the brownstone in 1858 and lived there until he was 14 years old.