The Story of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library

Yesteryear and the days ahead of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library

Theodore Roosevelt’s first journey to Dakota Territory in September of 1883 was prompted by the adventures of a buffalo and game hunt. It’s unknown if the hunt was a success, but the Badlands of North Dakota certainly made an impression. Fifteen days later, he returned to New York after investing $14,000 in the Maltese Cross Ranch near the town of Medora, ND.

Just a few months later, on Valentine’s Day in 1884, Theodore Roosevelt’s wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, and his mother, Mittie Roosevelt, died on the same day in the same house. Devastated and in mourning, T.R. famously wrote in his diary, “The light has gone out of my life.”

T.R. finished his third term as a New York assemblyman and fled to the Badlands of Western North Dakota, this time on the hunt for peace and purpose. Here, he learned the healing value of nature, “perfect freedom,” and “hard work worth doing.” Immersing himself in a strenuous life of ranching and the rugged landscape of the Badlands, T.R.’s ideals would go on to inspire a conservation policy that would ultimately shape and benefit the country we know today.

“I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.” – Theodore Roosevelt

After many years of travel between his home state and North Dakota, during our 26th President’s administration, T.R. oversaw the creation of the Department of Commerce and Labor and National Forest Service, signing the Antiquities Act and creating the first federal bird sanctuary; a life event that would earn him a 1906 Nobel Peace Prize. T.R.’s love for the “great free ranches” and nature’s “perfect freedom” reinforced his life’s dedication to the conservation of our country’s natural resources.

JLG is proud to be the Architect-of-Record for the upcoming Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library (TRPL) in Medora, ND – alongside the international Design Architect and Design Landscape Architect, Snøhetta, landscape architects at Confluence, and JE Dunn Construction Group.

The upcoming Presidential Library isn’t solely designed to commemorate our 26th President, it is designed to communicate the life-altering values he embraced in Western North Dakota – to Dare Greatly, Think Boldly, Live Passionately, and Care Deeply. To honor the journey, TRPL will be a reflection of Conservation, Leadership, and Citizenship.

If you’re ready to start planning your trip to Western North Dakota, get ready for a captivating adventure!  T.R.’s Presidential Library will fuse advanced digital library technology with a dynamic destination for immersive storytelling, understanding the human beyond the presidency, and discovering the journey that inspired his legacy. Once completed, the Presidential Library will be an inclusive platform for embracing civic dialogue, thoughtful debate, and inspiration around the globe. T.R. shared his life, loss, and love with North Dakota, and at TRPL, we’re proud to share a glimpse into his incredible Badlands adventures.        


Tracy Nicholson, JLG Architects