Roosevelt Library continues to become a reality

Snøhetta, known worldwide for its architecture and landscape projects, is working to perfect its design of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, slated to open later this decade in Medora, N.D.

While the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library isn’t yet ready for construction, organizers and supporters are excited about the project’s progress.

The library, to open at a future date in Medora, North Dakota, is currently in the concept design phase. Snøhetta, known worldwide for its architecture and landscape projects, is working to perfect its winning library design.

Shortly after Snøhetta was chosen as the design architect in September 2020, Craig Dykers reflected on the experience. Dykers is one of the firm’s founding partners.

“We integrated the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library into the landscape of the North Dakota Badlands,” Dykers said. “The main library building rises from the butte, echoing the surrounding landforms. Visitors are invited on a journey through a preserved landscape of diverse habitats, punctuated with small pavilions providing spaces for reflection and activity.”

Courtland Miller, originally from Wahpeton, is an associate director for project development with the library foundation. His responsibilities include outreach within Medora; Billings County, North Dakota; and statewide.

“I’ve been on this project for just over a year,” Miller said. “When I got started, the world looked a lot differently. We were not sure how the pandemic would affect this project. But what we’ve found is that the appetite is there, to not just learn about, but learn from T.R.”

The library is slated to be the first digitally native library, a highly relevant and timely concept, Miller said. Equally important are the attitudes the library will present.

“How can be we better stewards? How can we be better citizens? We’ve seen lots of support for this project, and I think it’s reflective of that hunger for the lessons that we can glean from T.R., his life and his work,” Miller said.

There is still much to learn about Roosevelt, Dykers said. Snøhetta looks forward to working with all involved “to translate this knowledge into an immersive place to learn about T.R.’s life and legacy.”

In October, the library’s foundation announced $100 million in commitments and a $50 million endowment from the state of North Dakota.

“The 2019 North Dakota Legislature approved a $50 million endowment contingent on the foundation’s ability to raise $100 million in private funds,” the foundation stated. “(We) will certify $100 million in commitments in a letter to Gov. Doug Burgum with an appendix detailing those commitments.”

Burgum has called the library project ambitious, visionary and beneficial to North Dakotans and Americans for generations to come.

“We are deeply grateful to the Legislature for supporting this vision that began more than a decade ago, and to the North Dakotans and those with deep roots in our state who responded to the challenge by committing $100 million in private philanthropy to the project,” Burgum stated in October.

Edward F. O’Keefe is chief executive officer of the library foundation. Two questions have frequently been asked, O’Keefe wrote: “Wait, Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t have a presidential library?” and “Why North Dakota?”

My family has been in North Dakota since the Dakota Territory became a state so let me explain,” O’Keefe wrote. “North Dakota is the fulcrum of the hero’s journey in T.R.’s almost unbelievable life story.”

Roosevelt mourned his late wife, Alice, and mother, Mittie, while in the Dakota Badlands. He met people unlike himself and learned the value of hard work worth doing.

“He sat under the stars, appreciated nature and loneliness in the vast, open space. He lived the strenuous life, and in doing so found reason to go on living. T.R. said, of course, that he never would have been president without his experience in North Dakota,” O’Keefe wrote.

In August, Miller and fellow foundation employees traveled North Dakota, going to institutions and discussing the library’s purpose beyond its four walls.

“We talked about how it can serve, how we can partner together, how it can really be this engine of growth. It’s a fun element that I’ve had the privilege of working on,” Miller said.

Daily News will continue to follow the progress of the Roosevelt Library. Miller anticipates construction will begin in either late 2022 or early 2023, with a 2025 opening.

“We’re going to be respectful of the land and the local community, sourcing work locally whenever we can. We’re being really intentional with this,” he said.

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