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Theodore Roosevelt Signed Deed Transferring His Birthplace Within Family
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This small collection of deeds is related to the transfer of ownership of the Roosevelt Family home on 20th Street in Gramercy Park, Manhattan, the birthplace of President Theodore Roosevelt. The site, though ravaged by fire, was renovated and restored. It now operates as a museum under the authority of the National Park Service.

The first deed, from October 1854, transfers the home from President Roosevelt’s grandfather and grandmother to his father and namesake, Theodore Roosevelt Sr. for $1. A second deed, from May 1884, transfers the home from the executors of Theodore Roosevelt Sr.’s estate to his oldest child Anna L. Roosevelt. The third deed, executed on the same day as the second, transfers any interest in the property of Anna L. Roosevelt’s siblings—future President Theodore Roosevelt, Elliott Roosevelt, and Corinne Roosevelt Robinson (and the spouses of the latter two)—to her.

The deeds mark important milestones in the Roosevelt family. The first made a wedding present of the home to Theodore Roosevelt Sr. from his parents after he married Martha Bulloch in December 1853. The second and third deeds are dated just months after the death in February 1884 of Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, future President Roosevelt’s mother.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT. Partially Printed Document Signed, Quit-Claim Deed to 28 E. 20th Street (a 25' x 92' parcel of land) and interest in Piers 9 and 10 on the East River to Anna L. Roosevelt for $1, May 28, 1884, New York. Also signed by Elliott Roosevelt, Anna H. Roosevelt, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, and Douglas Robinson Jr. 3 pp., 10½ x 16½ in. Also includes: CORNELIUS VAN SCHAACK ROOSEVELT and MARGARET ROOSEVELT. Partially Printed Document Signed, Quit-Claim Deed to 28 E. 20th Street (a 25' x 92' parcel of land) to Theodore Roosevelt Sr. for $1, October 4, 1854, New York. 2 pp., 10½ x 16¼ in. JAMES A. ROOSEVELT and JAMES K. GRACIE, executors of THEODORE ROOSEVELT SR. Partially Printed Document Signed, Executors’ Deed to 28 E. 20th Street (a 25' x 92' parcel of land) to Anna L. Roosevelt for $34,000, May 28, 1884, New York. 3 pp., 10½ x 16½ in.

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Historical Background
One year after they married in 1853, Theodore Roosevelt Sr. (1831-1878) and his wife Martha Bulloch Roosevelt (1835-1884) from Georgia moved to a Manhattan city house at 28 East 20th Street. All four of their children were born there. The house was a three-story brownstone with a mansard roof, a high stoop above the basement, and Gothic Revival moldings above the windows and doorway. The Roosevelts moved in 1872 to another house at 6 West 57th Street but retained ownership of the 20th Street house.

Because her mother was often ill or busy with an active social life, Anna “Bamie” Roosevelt (1855-1931) assumed a central role in running the Roosevelt household and caring for her younger siblings, Theodore Jr. (1858-1919), Elliott (1860-1894), and Corinne (1861-1933). When their father Theodore Roosevelt Sr. died at the age of forty-six, she assumed even more responsibilities. These 1884 deeds transferred ownership of the 20th Street house to Bamie Roosevelt.

In his 1913 autobiography, Theodore Roosevelt described the home’s interior:

"On October 27, 1858, I was born at No. 28 East Twentieth Street, New York City, in the house in which we lived during the time that my two sisters and my brother and I were small children. It was furnished in the canonical taste of the New York which George William Curtis described in the Potiphar Papers. The black haircloth furniture in the dining-room scratched the bare legs of the children when they sat on it. The middle room was a library, with tables, chairs, and bookcases of gloomy respectability. It was without windows, and so was available only at night. The front room, the parlor, seemed to us children to be a room of much splendor, but was open for general use only on Sunday evening or on rare occasions when there were parties. The Sunday evening family gathering was the redeeming feature in a day which otherwise we children did not enjoy--chiefly because we were all of us made to wear clean clothes and keep neat. The ornaments of that parlor I remember now, including the glass chandelier decorated with a great quantity of cut-glass prisms. These prisms struck me as possessing peculiar magnificence. One of them fell off one day, and I hastily grabbed it and stowed it away, passing several days of furtive delight in the treasure, a delight always alloyed with fear that I would be found out and convicted of larceny."[1]

The house was demolished in 1916 to make way for retail space. However, after President Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919, the Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association purchased the vacant lot and tasked female American architect Theodate Pope Riddle (1867-1946) with recreating the house in 1920. She used the row house at 26 East 20th Street, a twin of the Roosevelts’ home, as a model. It was later demolished to make room for a museum. The Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association merged with the Roosevelt Memorial Association in 1953 to form the Theodore Roosevelt Association. In 1963, that organization donated the site to the National Park Service, which now operates it as the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site.

Condition: Some offsetting from red wax seals where documents were folded. Usual tears along old folds, largest measuring 2 in. to document signed by Theodore Roosevelt. Toned and rubbed in places with some creasing.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (1858-1919) was born in New York City, graduated from Harvard University in 1880, and attended Columbia Law School. He served in the New York State Assembly from 1882 to 1884, and as president of the New York City Police Commissioners in 1895 and 1896, then as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1897 to 1898. After service in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, he won election as Governor of New York and served from 1899 to 1900. He ran as Vice President to William McKinley in 1900 and became President in September 1901, when McKinley was assassinated. Reelected in 1904, Roosevelt was President until 1909. A prolific author and naturalist, Roosevelt was instrumental in the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century, helped preserve the nation’s natural resources, and extended American power throughout the world with a focus on a modern navy. In 1912, he again sought the Republican nomination for President, but when the convention chose incumbent William Howard Taft, Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party and outpolled Taft in the general election. The Republican division allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency.

Anna L. “Bamie” Roosevelt Cowles (1855-1931) was born in New York City, the oldest child of Theodore Roosevelt Sr. and Martha Stewart Bulloch Roosevelt. Because of her mother’s distractions due to illness or social engagements, Bamie Roosevelt took an early role in managing the Roosevelt household, which increased after the death of her father in 1878. When her brother Theodore Roosevelt Jr.’s wife Alice died following childbirth, Bamie Roosevelt took custody of their daughter, Alice. She also played an important role in the life of another niece, Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), the future First Lady of the United States. In 1895, Bamie Roosevelt married U.S. Navy Lt. Commander William Sheffield Cowles (1846-1923), and they had one son.

Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt (1794-1871) was born in New York City, the grandson of Johannes Roosevelt, the founder of the Oyster Bay branch of the Roosevelt family. He attended Columbia College but left without graduating. In 1818, he became his father’s partner in importing hardware and helped transition the focus of the business to plate glass. At his father’s death in 1840, he inherited a large fortune, making him one of the five richest men in New York City. He continued to work in the business until his retirement in 1865. He was among the first directors of the Chemical Bank of New York in 1844, a company that eventually became the present-day Chase Bank. He married Margaret Barnhill (1799-1861) in 1821, and they had six sons. When each of their sons married, the Roosevelts gave them a house in New York City.

Theodore Roosevelt Sr. (1831-1878) was born in Albany to businessman Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt and his wife Margaret Barnhill Roosevelt. In December 1853, he married Martha Stewart Bulloch (1835-1884) in Roswell, Georgia. He was an active supporter of the Union during the Civil War, though two of his wife’s brothers were in the Confederate Army. He hired a replacement to fulfill his draft obligation. Roosevelt was a businessman in the plate-glass importing and banking business of Roosevelt & Son. He was also a prominent philanthropist who helped found the New York City Children’s Aid Society, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Children’s Orthopedic Hospital. President Rutherford B. Hayes nominated him as Collector of the Port of New York, but Senator Roscoe Conkling blocked his nomination, and Roosevelt died a few months later at age 46.

Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt (1860-1894) was born in New York City, the third child of Theodore Roosevelt Sr. and Martha Stewart Bulloch Roosevelt. Elliott Roosevelt excelled academically and enrolled in St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, in 1875. He soon had to withdraw after becoming ill. In 1876 and 1877, he made hunting trips to West Texas. After his father died in 1878, he inherited a fortune and soon became idle and developed a problem with alcohol that soon became alcoholism. In 1883, he married Anna Rebecca Hall (1863-1892), with whom he had three children, including future First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962). Because of his alcoholism, Elliott Roosevelt was placed in an insane asylum in France. After spending several weeks at the Keeley Center in Dwight, Illinois, to treat his alcoholism, he managed some land for his brother-in-law in Abingdon, Virginia. He would occasionally visit New York City and wrote numerous letters to his daughter Eleanor. His wife died in 1892, and his older son and namesake died at age five of scarlet fever in 1893. Elliott Roosevelt moved back to New York City, and in 1894, he attempted suicide by jumping out his apartment window. Although he survived the initial fall, he had a seizure and died a few days later.

Corinne Roosevelt Robinson (1861-1933) was born in New York City, the youngest child of Theodore Roosevelt Sr. and Martha Stewart Bulloch Roosevelt, and was educated by private tutors. Among her closest friends was her neighbor Edith Kermit Carow (1861-1948), the second wife of her brother Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and later First Lady of the United States. In 1882, she married businessman Douglas Robinson Jr. (1855-1918), and together they had four children. Corinne Roosevelt Robinson began writing at an early age and published several volumes of poetry between 1912 and 1930. She also published a memoir entitled My Brother Theodore Roosevelt in 1924. She served as a member of the executive committee of the Republican National Committee and actively supported the candidacies of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. In 1932, she voted for her nephew Franklin D. Roosevelt and because she admired President Herbert Hoover refused to take an active part in the presidential campaign on either side.

[1] Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (New York: Macmillan Company, 1913), 6-7.