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Sagamore Hill Renovations Ongoing

In spite of the federal closings of all national parks work is being done at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site by private contractors. There is a sign indicating there is parking for their contractors’ vehicles, as opposed to the general public who are not welcome during the closure. You can hear the knocking and banging sounds of construction when going along the entrance road to the park.

What is important to the hamlet of Oyster Bay is that what happens to Sagamore Hill happens to the hamlet, too.

Philip Blocklyn, Oyster Bay Historical Society executive director has been concerned about the federal closing of Sagamore Hill.  “Not the house,” he added, “The house really needed a restoration.”  But he said, the park is a destination and even with the house closed, other parts of the site were open and people were going there. And, important to the OBHS, they were then visiting their buildings, of which the Earle Wightman House, is under renovation.

“Sagamore Hill is in Oyster Bay and it is a part of the community and when it is closed it is a big deal,” he said. “It is a part of us. Visitors who come to Sagamore Hill do come to the hamlet for lunch or to see the other museums. It is my personal opinion that Sagamore Hill is a great asset to Oyster Bay. It is one more great asset besides the harbor, the national seashore, Raynham Hall Museum and the Earle-Wightman House and Koenig Center. This is Theodore Roosevelt’s hometown and it is a part of presidential history.

“Wherever you are in the world, Oyster Bay only means something when you say it is the hometown of TR. It is the national identity we have; everyone in the western world knows of TR. Imagine other places that would like to have that cachet. Philadelphia has the Liberty Bell and we have Sagamore Hill. That is the reason he is the favorite son who welcomes people into the hamlet of Oyster Bay, and his hometown,” said Blocklyn.

That opinion is shared by local businesses. Bernie DelBello of Jack Halyards American restaurant said he was aware of the influence of Sagamore Hill on the downtown area. He said people who come to Sagamore Hill usually come for the day and stay and dine. Many come with bus tours that go to Sagamore Hill from New Jersey and Queens. “The government’s closing is not helping us. I already lost a Christmas Party from the Coast Guard Auxiliary as a result of the shut down.” [They are a branch of Homeland Security and work closely with the Coast Guard.]

At Wild Honey restaurant they too are feeling the lack of Sagamore Hill’s visitors, said Susan, one of the wait staff. “They would come in after visiting Sagamore Hill and have lunch,” she said.

 A recent article in the Enterprise Pilot was an interview of a teacher and two of her students who came to Gooseberry Grove to enjoy their homemade ice cream after a visit to Sagamore Hill. It is an easy stop along Cove Road as it becomes East Main Street.

At Buckingham’s Village Jamie Dick, manager said, “Sagamore Hill really has an effect on Oyster Bay.” She said hotels in New York City send guests here to see Sagamore Hill and when they find the house is closed they are disappointed. And although the Old Orchard Museum and the Nature Trail are open, she said, an elderly person who came with relatives said it was too far for her to walk to either one.

As for the government closing of the national park, she said, “A family member works there and has been furloughed.”

The voice message at Sagamore Hill states that they are closed and the personal numbers of staff members include the information that they are not allowed to check their messages during the closure.

  As a result there is no information on whether the farewell party planned for the retirement celebration for Administrative Technician, Bob Wulfhorst took place. It was planned for Thursday, Oct. 10, in the conference Room at the Old Orchard Museum. Hopefully the closure will end soon and communication with Sagamore Hill will begin again. It is an integral part of Oyster Bay and news is welcome.