New Frontier: Teddy’s Mass Timber Library Anchored to Giant Rock

President Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th US President and is just the 13th president to be honoured with a Presidential Library.

Thu 18 Apr 24


Work has begun on Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidential Library, the first to use a mass timber and steel hybrid frame.

Yesterday, US-based Mercer International announced that it will provide 1,800 cubic metres of cross-laminated timber and glulam in a project that honours the 26th president’s legacy for conservation – with the new library to be the first to achieve zero energy, water, emissions and waste.

“We’re honoured to be part of this groundbreaking project, recognised as one of the most significant cultural institutions globally,” according to Brian Merwin, Senior Vice President of MMT, Mercer’s Mass Timber division, with work on the new frame expected to begin in the next few weeks. Who added that “the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library exemplifies MMT’s commitment to push the boundaries in sustainable construction.”

Inside the Mercer Mass Timber Factory, located in Spokane Valley, Washington. Footage courtesy of @mercermasstimber.

Mr Merwin said that the first stage, will include the library’s frame and roof, while the second stage, expected to start next year, will incorporate cross-laminated timber and glulam in exterior features, including footbridges and canopies sheltering photo voltaic rays.

“This represents a transition we’re seeing in modern building and architectural design, where community spaces are being designed with long-term sustainability in mind,” Nick Milestone, MMT’s Vice President of Projects and Construction, said, “with mass timber the perfect fit…to bring this important landmark to life, on schedule, on budget, and meeting its sustainability goals.”

The choice of a timber-rich building is fitting—it really couldn’t be anything else. 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 protected 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.

Footage courtesy of @KFYR-TV.

In September 2020, Snøhetta secured the library commission 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 throughout the year.

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 Library’s construction commenced in mid-June (last year) following the removal of the topsoil for the project’s cut-fill plan – with construction on the massive build, including the steel and mass timber frame, later this month.

According to Ed O’Keefe, the CEO of Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, builders have been working on the library’s eastern retaining wall since last fall. “If you were to come out on-site, you’d see 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 late last year.

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. The US Forest Service finalised the land parcel sale in 2022 after Congress approved it in 2020.

The Roosevelt family secured the 93-acre land parcel after US Congress approved its sale.

The total construction of the Libary will cost US $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, starting later this month. “By next summer, you’ll see a very substantial structure on site,” O’Keefe said.

Renderings of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in the western North Dakota Badlands.(Image Credit: Sohetta)

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 US $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, with Mr O’Keefe confirming the project had already “exceeded over US $200 million in fundraising and commitments,” adding that “fundraising never ends.”

In April, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum shared plans to create President Theodore Roosevelt’s library in his state. Footage courtesy of @FoxNews.

Last year, the legislature approved a US $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 US $50 million to the project, which Republican Gov. Doug Burgum announced Doug Burgum.

Mr Burgum, a wealthy software entrepreneur who had thrown his hat into the ring for the Republican Presidential primaries, championed the library proposal in the 2019 session and donated US $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).

Despite Teddy Roosevelt being a Republican and FDR a Democrat, the two were very close. Footage courtesy of @HISTORY.

Located on the grounds of Springwood, the Roosevelt family estate in Hyde Park, New York, FDR’s Library was built under the President’s direction in 1939–1940 and dedicated on June 30, 1941. It was the first Presidential Library established in the US.


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