February 2024

A Library Fit for a President: The Teddy Roosevelt Project

On the western edge of North Dakota, with Theodore Roosevelt National Park as its backdrop, is the town of Medora. Here, in the Badlands, is the future home of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.  

With a population of only 121, Medora might seem like an odd selection for the 26th president’s library project. As it turns out, President Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy is seen throughout Medora, as he traveled there to hunt buffalo in 1883. He then returned a year later, following the deaths of his wife and his mother, who both passed away on Valentine’s Day 1884. He stayed for three years, saying he would have never become president without the time he spent in Medora. 

As general contractor for the project, JE Dunn Construction began building the library’s 93,000-square-foot facility in June 2023. Rather than books and periodicals, the library will be home to immersive exhibits that spark conversation and curiosity surrounding lessons learned from Roosevelt’s time. The design takes on an experiential vision while taking into account the landscape of the surrounding Badlands. 

The structure will be made of steel and massive Douglas Fir timbers. The goal is to use as many materials as possible within a radius of 500 miles from Medora. One notable exception to that goal: slabs from a copper beech tree that Roosevelt planted at his Sagamore Hill home in New York that will be used for a lectern, a conference table, and the main front entry desk. 

The interior will also include community spaces, a café, and an auditorium that meets the requirements for hosting presidential debates. Douglas Fir also will be used to make custom ceiling baffles to dampen sounds in high-traffic areas. The ceilings are designed by ARUP Group, an acoustic engineering firm that is working with Snöhetta, the lead design architect for the project. 

“Our vision is to inspire action and fearless participation ‘In the Arena,’ and our values are to dare greatly, think boldly, live passionately, and care deeply,” said Edward O’Keefe, Chief Executive Officer of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation.  

The project sits on a 93-acre site near the scenic national park that bears Roosevelt’s name. The library is set to open on July 4, 2026, America’s 250th birthday.