T.R. Teddy. Rough Rider. Outdoorsman. Conservationist. Soft talker. Big Stick carrier.
The 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, was one of early 20th Century America’s most colorful and bombastic characters, “Teddy” embraced many passions in his influential life.
Born and raised in New York and educated at the finest schools on the east coast (Harvard, Columbia), President Roosevelt is widely known in lore for abandoning this toney upbringing and embracing the rough and tumble, still-wild, as-yet-untamed American West.
His tales of adventure are legends, and his legacy lasts to this day as a part of the very essence of the American spirit.
An early champion of conservationism, President Roosevelt was responsible for the founding of the U.S.Forest Service and signing into law the creation of the first national parks. His presidency saw the preservation of over 230 million acres of public land.
Today, plans are in motion to build a presidential library in Roosevelt’s honor near one of the very national parks for which he paved the way, the aptly named Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The library, located near Medora, North Dakota, will be a museum and facility for the records of the 26th president and the keeper of the flame of his epic life and legacy.
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation is responsible for the oversight, planning, and building operations for the forthcoming facilities, and their purpose is clearly defined as:
- Mission: To explore Theodore Roosevelt’s life, legacy, and enduring relevance.
- Vision: Inspire action and fearless participation “in the arena.”
- Values: Dare greatly. Think boldly. Life passionately. Care deeply.
In September 2020, the foundation announced the Norway-founded design firm Snøhettathe as competition winner that would design and build the library. Snøhetta is an internationally renowned architecture and landscape firm with more than 240 employees from 32 nations.
The chair of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation, Cathilea Robinett, said in a press release announcing the decision, “Snøhetta has created cultural institutions known less by the name of the studio that designed them and more for people’s experience living over, under, and through them.”
She continued, explaining the relevance of this particular location to the former president, “The experience of the Badlands changed Theodore Roosevelt, and we are inspired by the idea that this special place and this special architect can do the same for so many more.”
In winning this competition, Snøhetta is the first architectural firm with global roots outside of the United States to design a presidential library. This is of particular poignance, as Theodore Roosevelt was the first U.S. president to travel outside the states while in office. As an interesting side note, almost half of the population of North Dakota boasts Scandinavian roots.
In addition to public grants, private fundraising continues with donations flowing in from all corners of the world, as the foundation reached $100 million in private donations last year.
When completed, the library will give visitors access to the connecting trails around the grounds as well as the nearby national park. There will also be access to a rooftop viewing area which will showcase the stunning vistas surrounding the facilities. Viewing the intense and rugged landscape will provide visitors the opportunity to imagine how this scenery must have influenced a young Roosevelt during his time here in the late 1880s.
Notably, the library design functions in harmony with the region’s unique ecology and expresses the conservation ethos for which Theodore Roosevelt is remembered. Its construction will use locally sourced, and renewable materials, and its sophisticated energy systems will set a new standard for sustainable design in the region. The design also mitigates the impact of wind and other climatic factors so that the library will be accessible in all seasons.
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation is intent on embracing the unique ethos of the man the library will celebrate, while combining it with the singular spirit of the land on which it resides. This place was formative and important to the 26th president of the United States and will continue to be important for the generations that follow.