The fabulous new Theodore Roosevelt National Presidential Library in Dickinson, North Dakota, is building momentum. Our goal is to open a $50+ million dollar museum, library, and study center on January 6, 2019, the centennial of TR’s death. When he died in his sleep on that January day one hundred years ago, Vice President Thomas Marshall said, “Death had to take him in his sleep. If he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”
Our first endeavor will be to re-construct Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Cabin. The 30×60 foot ranch house has long since been dismantled at the Elkhorn Ranch site 35 miles north of Medora, North Dakota. Our intention is to rebuild the cabin in Dickinson, on the campus of the Theodore Roosevelt National Library. We have obtained North Dakota cottonwoods. Our plan is to mill them by hand, using the same tools Roosevelt used when he and his hired men built the house in the fall of 1884 and the spring of 1885.
Our new friend Richard of Scull Construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota has begun to experiment with milling cottonwood logs with authentic 1884-era tools. In the photograph affixed here, he stands next to a short experimental section, which he was able to shape in just over four hours, with a broad saw, broad ax, regular ax, and a few other tools. He reckons that we should be able to mill the 30-foot logs at therate of a linear board foot in forty to sixty minutes.
Construction will begin sometime this fall, but the main work may not take place until next spring. We are looking for a team of four draft horses so that we can avoid the use of the internal combustion engine altogether.
We want to produce a replica of the Elkhorn Ranch house that is so authentic that it virtually staggers the imagination. We want visitors to our national library to feel that TR has just stepped out of the cabin, and may return at any moment. We want everyone who visits our facilities to understand that our mission is to tell the story of the life, vision, achievement, and character of one of the most remarkable men in American history. And that we intend to tell the story with such fidelity to the known facts, and such rigor and creativity, that we will set the standard for presidential libraries in the twenty-first century.
Meanwhile, our basic work of digitizing all of the Roosevelt papers, and providing the metadata that will make those documents meaningful to people all over the world, continues. By the time we are finished, we will have created the first comprehensive digital presidential library in America. Stay tuned.