ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Teddy Roosevelt's island memorial

Updated on July 14, 2012

Another hidden treasure

I have written about several Washington-area treasures that are “hidden in plain sight.” Two examples are the towering George Washington National Memorial in Alexandria and the historic Fort Lesley J. McNair, home of the National War College that stands proudly at the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers in southwest D.C. Another such site, as familiar as it invisible to Kennedy Center visitors and travelers on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, is Theodore Roosevelt Island, an 88.5 acre wildlife preserve and virtually unknown national memorial in honor of the 26th American president.

Pedestrian access (no bicycles or other wheeled vehicles are allowed) to this obscure memorial to the first president to make conservation a national priority is via a walkway across the Virginia-side channel of the Potomac,

from a parking lot just north of Roosevelt Bridge and accessible only from the northbound lane of the GW Parkway. You could also bike there on the Mount Vernon Bike Path, or it's a short walk on the path, which is only a few blocks north of the Rosslyn Metro stop.

Walkway to Roosevelt Island
Walkway to Roosevelt Island | Source
The west channel of the Potomac, with Georgetown top center. Roosevelt Island is at right.
The west channel of the Potomac, with Georgetown top center. Roosevelt Island is at right. | Source

WIldlife preserve in the Potomac

That it is a wildlife refuge under the care of the National Park Service is a fitting tribute to Teddy Roosevelt, who established five national parks and brought nearly 230 million acres under federal protection during his presidency.

In the mid 17th century, Nacotchtank Indians briefly inhabited the island they called Anacostine, but in short order, Lord Baltimore gave the island to Randolph Brandt, a captain in the Maryland Militia, as a reward for his service.

marshes | Source

George Mason bought the island

Now known as Theodore Roosevelt Island, the wildlife preserve in the Potomac River between Rosslyn and the Kennedy Center was long known as Mason’s Island, home to George Mason’s grandson John, who farmed the island. Union troops briefly occupied the island during the Civil War, but after the Masons left in 1832, the island passed through several owners before the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association bought it in 1931. The next year, the association transferred title to the federal government to create the memorial.

The Mason mansion was largely destroyed by fire early in the 20th century and now only part of the foundation remains.

Boardwak through the marshes
Boardwak through the marshes | Source
Roosevelt Memorial plaza. A tablet is to the left. Just add water to make the fountain flow.
Roosevelt Memorial plaza. A tablet is to the left. Just add water to make the fountain flow. | Source

The Roosevelt Memorial

The memorial to the “Great Conservationist” comprises a natural landscape that includes woodland, marsh and swamp on the fall line of the Potomac, and a memorial plaza with a 17-foot statue of Roosevelt toward the north end of the island. The plaza originally was planned for the southern end with a view of some of the monuments, but the decision to build the Roosevelt Bridge at that end caused a change in plans.

The large plaza, which comes as a great surprise to the uninformed visitor wandering the woodland, includes Paul Manship’s bronze statue of Roosevelt, his arm raised as if in mid-declamation. Four 21-foot high granite tablets near Roosevelt’s statue display quotations from his writings.

The statue overlooks a large granite-paved plaza embellished with two large fountains. Footbridges across the surrounding moat provide access to the plaza and statue.

The 17-foot statue of Teddy Roosevelt stands on a bully pulpit
The 17-foot statue of Teddy Roosevelt stands on a bully pulpit | Source

Unnatural natural flora

While the landscape appears to be natural, renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and an associate, Henry Hubbard, returned the farmland to woodland that represents the forests that originally covered islands in the Potomac, and about two and a half miles of paths and trails that meander through the island. From 1934-1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps cleared the island and replanted about 20,000 native trees and bushes. The work was halted during World War II, but completed shortly after.

Today, some non-native species have invaded, but spring wildflowers abound and throughout the year a variety of birds make it an attractive destination for bird-watchers.

Benches on the plaza offer a quiet spot to ponder TR's quotations--or why the moat is dry.
Benches on the plaza offer a quiet spot to ponder TR's quotations--or why the moat is dry. | Source
A bridge too near, The Roosevelt Bridge descends very near the southernmost tip of the island.
A bridge too near, The Roosevelt Bridge descends very near the southernmost tip of the island. | Source
Is that an osprey heading toward National Airport?
Is that an osprey heading toward National Airport? | Source

It's a bird! It's a plane!

Walking through the serene woodland, with small animals scurrying nearby, or along the boardwalk that stretches across marshland, allowing visitors to enjoy the flora and fauna with dry feet, it is easy to imagine that you are far from an urban area. Mostly at sea level, much of the island floods several times a year, especially in the spring. The mansion house was on the high point of the island was about 44-feet above sea level.

From time to time an airplane flies over the boardwalk as a reminder that civilization is not too distant, but more often it is a heron. Approaching the east side of the island, the Kennedy Center and Georgetown appear just across the main channel of the Potomac, as surprising as a close-range mirage.

Approaching the southern end of the island, though, the sound of ocean waves is revealed as traffic on the Roosevelt Bridge that looms unfortunately close and intrusively large, violating the idyllic atmosphere of the woodland.

Roosevelt Island is open every day, from dawn to dusk.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)