A presidential retreat . . .
At the beginning of Roosevelt's first full term as President his wife Edith wanted a place where she and the President could get away from public life and enjoy the kinds of recreation appealing to them both. A rustic "camp-like" retreat fit the style and character of TR, who relished "the strenuous life" and close contact with nature.
Finding the perfect property. . .
Affectionately known as Archie's Spring, this location down
the hill from the cabin was the source of water for the family.
Plumbing was NOT a feature of this President's retreat.
The family enjoyed simple times here in close contact with nature.
The Roosevelt's friendship with two bachelor brothers, Joseph and William Wilmer, owners of the Albemarle County, VA estates of "Round Top" and "Plain Dealing", influenced the choice of location for the retreat.
In May 1905, Mrs. Roosevelt purchased from William Wilmer's "Plain Dealing" estate a small parcel containing 15 acres with a recently built farm worker's cottage. She named it "Pine Knot", reflecting the many surrounding pine trees, and ordered alterations to it before the President ever saw it. Including the alterations, the property cost $280. After their first visit there together in June 1905, TR wrote to one of his sons, "Mother is a great deal more pleased with it than any child with any toy I ever saw." Pine Knot meant as much or more to Edith as it did to TR.
Family arrives . . .
Front porch of Pine Knot as glimpsed throught the foliage
in fall of 1999
after stabilization and early restoration.
At the time the "retreat" was acquired, there were 6 children in the family, ranging in age from 7 up to 21. All of the children, except for Alice, visited Pine Knot at least once, but it was most enjoyable for Kermit and Archie.
From Washington it was about a 4-hour ride by train to the depot at North Garden, their usual destination. From there they rode the 10 or so miles to Pine Knot in a carriage or on horseback.
In addition to Edith's initial visit to inspect the property prior to the purchase, she and the President made 8 visits here, usually lasting from 2 to 6 days, before he left office in 1909. [June 1905; Thanksgiving 1905; just after Christmas 1905; early November 1906; just after Christmas 1907; May 1907; just after Christmas 1908; May 1908]
In July of 1911, Edith purchased 75 more acres at Pine Knot, anticipating TR's intention to run for a second full term as President. But they never visited the property again after their last visit in May 1908.
Inside the cabin. . .
One of the two downstairs fireplaces. The lower level features
one larger area where all the Roosevelt's would gather.
When Edith bought it, the existing unfinished farm worker's cottage offered 12'x32' of space on each of two floors. It had been started in 1903, and had no stove, chimney, well or "privy".
Immediately after buying the property Edith Roosevelt arranged to have a ground floor partition removed and end fireplaces added to make a single lodge room. The central stair was moved to the side.
A "piazza" was constructed along the rear of the building with support posts of untrimmed cedar (not pine despite local legend that this is the origin of the name). At the time they owned the property, there were fewer trees obstructing the view, and they could look out over the fields from this vantage point.
The furnishings were very simple and today the only piece remaining from the Roosevelt's years is a large farm table.
An amusing contemporary newspaper description of the interior tells us more about the space, including the President's bedroom: " The first floor consists of a single large room. . . From this room to the two above is a stairway of primitive pattern, not even boxed in. The room into which this stairway or plank ladder leads contains a meager complement of furniture - merely a double bed of cheap style, an oak bureau that cost a few dollars, a washstand of the plainest kind, probably worth a dollar and a half, and a goods box cheaply tricked out as a table." [Daily Progress, Times Dispatch and Washington Post, 20 May 1907]
Two of the three sleeping spaces upstairs, warmed by the large fireplaces in the chimneys at either end of the house. Repair of these chimneys was part of the early stabilization program.
Pine Knot today. . .
In 1996, long-term plans for the development of Pine Knot as an historic site, open to the general public, were developed and approved by the Theodore Roosevelt Association. As a result of the Association's efforts and a grant from the State of Virginia, work on improvements to stabilize the property and provide limited public access are well underway.
Chimneys were repaired and pressured back into plumb with the building, foundations reinforced, and numerous large and small holes in the walls of the building, made by the "little forest folk" whose night calls gave such pleasure to Edith Roosevelt, were sealed and caulked.
Extensive testing revealed the color scheme of the building. Clapboard siding, cornices, and beams were originally light yellow, the doors and window sashes, a grayish, reddish orange, and the louvered shutters a dark olive green.
Appointments for visits should be made in advance. Inquiries about Pine Knot may be made by writing to Pine Knot, PO Box 213, Keene, VA, 22946.
Contributions earmarked for the support of Pine Knot are tax deductible as provided by law and may be made toThe Edith & Theodore Roosevelt Pine Knot Foundation
P.O. Box 213, Keene, Virginia 22946.
Back side of Pine Knot as seen in the fall of 1999.
Edith and Theodore Roosevelt Pine Knot Foundation
PO Box 213
Keene, VA 22946
Pine Knot, a small treasure of Presidential history in Abemarle County
711 Coles Rolling Road, Keene, Virginia
Program to benefit the preservation of Pine Knot
990 forms and Tax Status Letter