Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidential Library, which will rise in the Badlands of Western Dakota, where the 26th president hunted and ranched, will proudly use a mass timber and steel frame.
The choice of a timber-rich building is fitting – it really couldn’t be anything but.
President Roosevelt, affectionately known as Teddy, is universally known as ‘The Conservation President.’
Presiding from 1901 until 1909, after the assassination of William McKinley, Roosevelt used his authority to establish the United States Forest Service in 1905.
As President, he established 150 national forests, 51 bird reserves, four national game preserves and 18 national monuments as part of the 1906 American Antiquities Act.
According to the US National Park Service, Roosevelt’s actions led to the protecting of more than 230 million acres (or 93 million hectares) of public land – with more than 150 million acres (or 60 million hectares) of the land preserved as forest.
In September 2020, Snøhetta secured the commission for the Library over Studio Gang and Henning Larsen.
Sohetta’s design is informed by Roosevelt’s “personal reflections on the landscape, his commitment to environmental stewardship, and the periods of quiet introspection and civic engagement that marked his life.”
The Library’s construction uses locally sourced mass timber, with its sophisticated energy systems setting a new standard for sustainable design in the region.
The design also mitigates the impact of wind and other climatic factors, making the Library accessible in all seasons.
Drawing a continuum between past and present, the “design captures the legacy of Teddy while also committing to the longevity and health of the region.”
The work on the Library commenced in mid-June following the removal of the topsoil for the project’s cut-fill plan.
Builders are now working on the Library’s eastern retaining wall, with an initial concrete pour completed Monday, according to Ed O’Keefe, the CEO of Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.
“If you were to come out on-site, you’re seeing a sequence that began with the topsoil, started with the east wing, moves to the west wing and then will move back to the east wing,” he said.
The project is on a 93-acre site near the venue of the famous Medora Musical and the scenic national park that bears Roosevelt’s name.
Last year, the US Forest Service finalised the land parcel sale after Congress approved the land sale in 2020.
The total construction of the Libary will cost USD 180 million, with construction continuing through the winter, barring severe weather.
“We’re hardy and resilient,” Mr O’Keefe quipped.
For Mr O’Keefe, the proudest moment of construction will be the delivery of mass timber and steel in spring 2024.
“By next summer, you’re going to see a very substantial structure on site,” O’Keefe said.
Library organisers are planning a grand library opening for July 4, 2026, the 250th anniversary of America’s founding.
In 2019, North Dakota’s Republican-controlled Legislature approved a USD 50 million operations endowment for the Library, contingent upon its organisers raising USD 100 million in private donations.
That goal was reached in the autumn of 2020.
O’Keefe said the project had already “exceeded over USD 200 million in fundraising and commitments.”
Fundraising “doesn’t ever end,” he said.
The Legislature earlier this year approved a USD 70 million line of credit through the state-owned Bank of North Dakota for the project, intended as a backstop for beginning construction.
Organisers haven’t tapped the line of credit yet, O’Keefe declared.
Oil magnate Harold Hamm, a major player in the state’s Bakken oil field, has donated USD 50 million to the project, which Republican Gov. Doug Burgum announced Doug Burgum.
Burgum, a wealthy software entrepreneur, has thrown his hat into the ring for the Republican Presidential primaries, championed the library proposal in the 2019 session, and donated USD 1 million to the project.
There are currently 13 Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives, which serve as the archives and museum for the legacy of each of the respective administrations.
In addition, there are private Presidential Libraries and Museums throughout the US, including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and the Jefferson Library.
President Roosevelt’s fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), was the 32nd president of the US (1933-1945).
It was the first Presidential Library established in the US.