Written by D.F. Karppi Friday, 24 December 2010 00:00
The Theodore Roosevelt Association is moving to a new office in Oyster Bay. It has also gained a new–free office in New York City. Terry Brown, TRA executive director said, “Please note that the TRA will be transitioning its current offices over the next two months. By March 1, it will be located in a two office suite at 50 Audrey Avenue in Oyster Bay. It will also maintain the P.O. Box (719) in Oyster Bay as its primary mailing address.”
This is something the TRA did when Dr. John Gable was the executive director and moved the office from 20 Audrey Avenue to Nassau Hall in Muttontown. He wanted to maintain the Oyster Bay relationship to the TRA, something Mr. Brown also intends to do.
“That building at 50 Audrey Avenue originally housed a florist shop at one point. [It was also the offices of OB-EN School Board Attorney Ed Robinson.] It’s a handsome attractive brick building. Before that the TRA had their offices in North Shore Bank building (now the Coin Gallery) when Leonard Wood Hall had his offices there,” said Main Street Association Executive Director Isaac Kremer. “The TRA is well established all over Oyster Bay,” he added.
Mr. Brown said, “In addition the TRA will have an office in the Theodore Roosevelt National Historic Site at 28 East 20th Street in Manhattan at the invitation of Shirley McKinney, superintendent of Manhattan Sites for the National Parks Service – TR’s birthplace.”
Mr. Brown acknowledged that his lease with Renaissance Properties is up at the end of February. “It was signed during the rush to build the museum and would have been a wonderful space for that. But since the museum is on hold indefinitely, according to the TRA board, there is no need for the large space.”
On the other hand, he said of the museum project, “If someone else steps forward we will support them.”
Mr. Brown said the TRA gallery is already closed. He said, “I am happy to have presented it as an art venue and am sad it is empty. But I hope Renaissance Properties will find a wonderful tenant.”
The new TRA offices are down the street, heading west past Canterbury Ales, on the third floor of the building.
Mr. Brown said, “I will be here, as a presence weekly - as often as I can, to visit with the Rotary or at Friends of Sagamore Hill presentations. You are sharing me with Manhattan, the result of the wonderful Ms. McKinney’s invitation for me to use the space there.
“The city will be a good location,” he said. “We have a number of donors that live in Manhattan; and board of trustee members that come to NY that seem to be Manhattan-centric. That is where the important people have to be and it will be a good place to take them around, such as the birthplace for lunch. That is how donations are nurtured,” said Mr. Brown who has done this type of job before.
Mr. Brown came to the TRA on Sept. 13 of this year, after 34 years of successful leadership at the Society of Illustrators, the last 24 as director. Since 2007, he also served as executive director of the American Society of Illustrators Partnership, a nonprofit established to collect and distribute reprographic royalties to individual American illustrators.
The TRA is sharing its office largesse with the other Oyster Bay nonprofit community groups and their sites. “We still have wonderful support from the people of Oyster Bay. It is important to recognize the fine, exciting level of office material, the furniture, exquisite tables and leather chairs was from money donated to the museum project.
“It is important for Oyster Bay – so it was made available as donations to the Oyster Bay Historical Society; Raynham Hall Museum and the Boys & Girls Club of Oyster Bay-East Norwich. I wasn’t going to sell it. That was not right. We will take some of the modest stuff for our next office. “This furniture was made possible by the generous people of Oyster Bay,” he said. With the OBHS moving to new headquarters it would seem would have the largest need and the largest space to fill.
Mr. Brown said, “Phil did give the biggest list. We can accommodate all three wish lists, which is great – right down to the last eraser. They are good people and we are all a group. It is good that the leather chairs and exquisite conference table will end up being in the town. It’s the right thing to do.
OBHS Executive Director Phil Blocklyn said, “It was a very big office, the entire first floor, from the street front gallery on Audrey Avenue to Marie’s office in the rear of the building. She was the office manager and in charge of membership.
“When Terry said he was moving and had a lot of things he wasn’t going to bring with him, that’s when we talked to him for the society to put in a bid for things hoping we would get some stuff for our new building.
“Terry and Howard Ehrlich, (who was the interim acting director before Terry,) came to the society one day and Terry got an idea of how much stuff we needed and he was nice to make that offer. And the TRA has a connection with Yvonne Noonan Cifarelli, our curator. She curated the art shows at the TRA Gallery, so it is nice to maintain a cordial and helpful arrangement. It’s a little continuum of Oyster Bay history: a natural connection with the society providing the stage and background for TR. So the connection with the TRA is very important to us,” said Mr. Blocklyn.
Raynham Hall Museum Director Harriet Gerard Clark said that museum, too, was in need of a little TLC. She said, “A lot of our furniture is probably as old as the museum and a little uncomfortable. We’ve asked for their office chairs. I am hoping for four - one for each of us.”
Of Mr. Brown, she said, “He’s such a great guy and so easy to work with around Oyster Bay.”
She too was familiar with the new location. “His new TRA office is above the architect’s office, next to the general store. “He’s a very likeable guy, not that any of us aren’t,” she added.
Mr. Brown said John Hammond invited him to a Rotary luncheon to get to know some people. “I like it here. It is far from where I live, he said.” Mr. Brown and his wife, Catherine Citarella Brown, reside in Pleasantville, New York.
“But it’s a community I want to support, like Sagamore Graphics and Canterbury Ales - so we want to keep all our vendors. [Canterbury Ales has its ‘library room’ dedicated to photographs of TR.]
“Marie Kutch [the office manager and in charge of membership] will be leaving at the end of December, to take a breather before she starts her next working chapter. She’s been here about eight years and been terrific. She lives in Sea Cliff. The town was lucky to have her here. And I have a good debt of gratitude for her for being the backbone of the office for the last eight years. She will be looking for a new endeavor and re-charging her batteries.”
As for the rumors about a new TR Museum group he said, “I’m not really in the loop. Occasionally I get a suggestion that something is up, but we are focused on our mission. We are rebuilding our core programs; building membership; and our academic Journal with our core mission. Any other project is on hold. It takes a while to get up to speed.”
When Terry Brown came onboard, Tweed Roosevelt, president of the TRA and Chair of the Executive Director Search Committee said, “We also know he will help create a new TRA which will build membership, expand programs, build an effective web presence, and establish partnerships with many similar organizations to achieve our shared goals. With Terry’s help, we know the TRA will become an effective organization for our members, the community, and the country.”
Phil Blocklyn said, “I do believe if they don’t put a TR Museum in Oyster Bay, maybe the best place is the one they already have at Dickenson State University – a virtual museum on the Internet. It is the right place for a national museum, especially because of conservation and open space and the connection with his Dakota ranch. Those elements are all the non-political stuff about Roosevelt that people relate to. It’s not about San Juan Hill or the presidential parts of him, but the parts that are so appealing as well.
“Then too, they can go over to Mount Rushmore.
“But only if they can’t do it in Oyster Bay. They could also expand Sagamore Hill if they decide to re-interpret the site which is now as it was during his presidency.
“A national museum on Roosevelt would have to cover the whole enchilada, from beginning to end. I don’t know if Sagmore Hill could do that. It would be harder for them - but they have the Old Orchard Museum that might be possible to expand,” added Mr. Blocklyn thoughtfully.
The TRA already has a nationwide presence with their Teddy Bear project for children in hospitals.
The TRA has been busy this year. Mr. Brown said, “Almost 1,400 bears will be distributed in NYC hospitals now through January. We held our fundraiser for the program on Dec. 1 at the birthplace. Another 2,000 are going across the country now, as fast as their furry hands can trot, for giving in 2011. We raise the funds, buy the bears and send them out as our schedule permits. The TRA has distributed almost 75,000 bears. It has taken us 25 years to do so. We will be making an announcement when we get to that 75,000th bear,” he promised.
The TRA currently preserves sites that are significant to the life and times of Theodore Roosevelt, including the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in New York City; Sagamore Hill, TR’s home in Oyster Bay, New York; Youngs Memorial Cemetery, TR’s burial place in Oyster Bay, New York; Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay, New York; Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Historic Site in Buffalo, New York; Theodore Roosevelt Island on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.; Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch in Medora, North Dakota; and Pine Knot, TR’s rustic, 100-acre presidential retreat in Albemarle County, Virginia, according to their website.