In front of more than half a million people, New York’s landmark is joined with the monument to President Theodore Roosevelt at the United States Historical Society in the White House complex
When the New York City skyline reflected the cold day in February 1984, New Yorkers raised a shocked eyebrow at the sight of a 92-foot-tall wood and glass statue of Theodore Roosevelt they couldn’t pronounce, a figure so steeped in mass-market American history that they gave it a sarcastically dated name – Teddy.
But now, almost three decades later, after a long battle between New York’s leading rightwing groups and a global hippie forest movement, the New York City skyline has been cast with a vivacious array of real wood and glass, and the statue called one of the US’s most accessible presidents and a booster of human rights.
The crowning achievement of the US Historical Society, which opened its doors to the public on Thursday, is the rising New York skyline of a 61ft-tall bronzed restored statue, along with the larger Roosevelt in Washington, D.C.
The statue is accompanied in North Dakota by the same two statues, telling another tale of conservation that joins the two leaders in private graves, in two small private libraries, an art gallery at the United States Historical Society and in their respective museums.
President Roosevelt was born on the outskirts of Easton, Pennsylvania, with few of the trappings of status, but became both president and finally one of the most known figures on the planet. Among his accomplishments, he led the breakup of the British empire, became one of the first presidents to visit China and protected millions of acres of wilderness, conserving a summer camp for hundreds of boys in upstate New York.
“He is a hero in New York,” said Neil Rosenthal, executive director of the Historical Society, referring to the statue, which stands in Manhattan, as well as to an exhibition about Roosevelt’s life and presidency. “There are 400 New York City landmarks, but very few of them are rightly known outside of New York City.”
Unlike Roosevelt, who was known for a famous line – “Let the little children come to me” – President Trump was widely despised by New Yorkers, many of whom mocked him over his hotels and strip clubs, and his name is still highly recognizable on buildings around the city. The statue is in a part of Central Park where Trump has been repeatedly condemned by state and local officials.
The location of the statue also pointed to political differences of the park’s namesake, President Dwight Eisenhower, and Theodore Roosevelt, a rugged, rugged leader.
“He spent a lot of time in the West,” Rosenthal said. “He was very close to Roosevelt.”
The new hall is backed by a vast gallery of the lives of numerous presidents, both living and dead, and includes the museum’s first permanent exhibit – about Robert E Lee, the Confederate president who marched on Washington when he was president, and whom historians consider the greatest postwar assassination threat.
Some objects in the exhibition include a statue from the 1600s of Theodore Roosevelt by the Italian artist Francesco Manacchio, along with the Manhattan monument he designed when he died in 1919 of cancer. It has been restored, including a full section of the President’s signature, large swaths of wood and an inscription that reads, “The man for the public good”.
“It’s one of the very few portraits that have been recovered of the president’s signature,” Rosenthal said.
The Roosevelt sculptures are especially well-loved for their resemblance to each other, with the statue of Roosevelt, some read, including the British sculptor John Henry Thomas, wearing a perfect mask of the statue of President Theodore Roosevelt.
“It is one of the most reproduced sculptures around,” Rosenthal said. “So, there are people walking around town with a Robert E Lee mask.”