Dedicated to the legacy of America’s 26th President, the Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial is a 91-acre wooded island, located in the Potomac River between Arlington Memorial Bridge and Key Bridge. A natural geological feature (in contrast with the highly planned city of Washington, D.C.) the island has been used by Native Americans as a fishing village, granted to Lord Baltimore by King Charles I, owned by a Caribbean sea captain, inhabited by the Mason family (who built a brick mansion and cultivated extensive gardens), protected by Union troops during the Civil War, and enjoyed as a picnic venue. In 1932, The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association purchased the island with the idea of creating a memorial to the American political leader and renowned conservationist. The island was re-naturalized into mature woodland through the efforts of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Architect Eric Gugler sited the memorial at the island’s northern end. He designed an oval space with upper and lower terraces planted densely with boxwood and surrounded by a moat and a double hedge of willow oak trees. The grove-like quality creates a spirit of solitude and contemplation to the formal memorial. A seventeen-foot bronze statue of the former president designed by sculptor Paul Manship is prominently featured as the memorial’s centerpiece, while four 21-foot granite stelae are inscribed with quotations expressing Roosevelt’s philosophy on manhood, youth, nature, and the nation.
This wildlife sanctuary serves as a living memorial to Roosevelt’s leadership in land and resource conservation. Managed by the National Park Service, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 and dedicated in 1967.