Theodore Roosevelt Statue Dismantled in the Dead of Night

By Carol Tannenhauser

Wednesday night at the American Museum of Natural History (80th and CPW), the work of dismantling and carting away the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt continued.

The temperature was practically balmy around 9:30PM, and a small group had gathered — many from the Museum — to watch the proceedings, which took on a performative feeling. A guy straddling a bike with a large American flag flying from the back, narrated through a megaphone.

“You can’t erase history. God Bless America.”

“It’s bittersweet,” one of the Museum staffers said. “I walked past the statue every day.”

But so did millions of visitors, many of them children, who gazed up at Teddy on his steed, flanked by two half-clad men of minority races, who are walking. For decades it was deemed colonialist or racist by some, defiled by others, and finally, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the decision was made by the Museum, the City, and the Roosevelt family — “there’s a Theodore Roosevelt IV and V,” the staffer said — to send the statue to Medora, North Dakota, where the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library is scheduled to open in 2026.

Theodore Roosevelt will still be omnipresent at the AMNH, which contains the official New York State memorial to him, including the Museum’s Central Park West entrance, the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall.

“The total removal of the statue will take a few weeks,” someone from the Museum said, “and the restoration of the steps will take until spring.” A plaque is planned, as well as an outline of the retired statue.

But why is this being done in the dead of night? The museum sent a statement explaining that “conducting this type of work at night is standard Department of Transportation procedure [and] a condition of obtaining a permit. The work was scheduled during nighttime hours for safety reasons and to minimize disruption to traffic and pedestrians.”

People sat on benches, listening to workers yell to each other, and watching machinery move to their commands.

“It’s like a Broadway show,” the man with the megaphone said.

The statue stood for 81 years. Photograph by Edward H. Blake via WikipediaCommons.

Thanks to Mark Alpert for the tip.

ART, HISTORY, NEWS | 56 comments | permalink
    1. ST says:

      Will never forgive them.

    2. Nani says:

      That’s just awful. It’s art and a piece of history, it also could have led to critical discussions. Taking the sculpture away takes away from NYC as a cultural hub. What a shame.

      • Isaac says:

        Ha be realistic – agree with removal or not, NYC’s status as a cultural hub is in no way influenced by the presence of that statue.

      • Paul says:

        History?

        In what “history” did TR, our first modern president, ride horses with an Indian in full headdress and a half-clad African-American walking alongside?

        The precise reason for removal is that the statue is offensive to the concept of “history.”

    3. Papa Ra'Della says:

      Maybe next time don’t make such a racist sculpture. Just sayin

      • SNY says:

        Wouldn’t it be great if one of New York great art benefactors (M. Bloomberg or S.Cohen, perhaps?) commissioned, say, JEFF KOONS to replace the Theodore Roosevelt statue in front of the AMNH?
        Imagine a giant green reflective metallic DINOSAUR
        by Jeff Koons on Central Park West?
        He can create his greatest art commission since Michael Jackson’s “Bubbles” …or his fabulous giant sculptural Poodle that’s in front of the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain!

    4. WIll says:

      Good.

    5. Josh P. says:

      The “dead of night” headline feels pretty unfair. The implication is that the museum is trying to hide something by removing the statue while no one is looking, when they have discussed the statue and it’s potential removal for months, if not years. One of the first things you see when you walk in the museum is a big banner that says “addressing the statue.” It was removed at 9:30pm (not even that late!) because CPW is a busy street. Should they have aimed to inconvenience as many people as possibly by doing it during the morning rush?

      • Huh says:

        I don’t think they are trying to hide the fact that they are doing it. But aside from being less inconvenient for pedestrians and motorists, doing it without fanfare at night means fewer crowds of looker ons or protestors. Once the decision has been made, it must be easier and faster to just get it done with fewer disruptions .

      • Kim says:

        Totally agree with this. What were they supposed to do? Close down a lane of traffic on CPW during the day? That would have caused one huge traffic jam. The headline is really unfair.

      • Jsc says:

        Completely agree. The scaffolding has been up for weeks. And it’s not like this could be taken down during museum hours – or at rush hour. There is no hush-hush nature to this.

    6. 72RSD says:

      Interesting to see the man with a flag and megaphone mentioned. He’s been a nuisance up and down 72nd street for months, putting anti-vax stickers on storefronts, bellowing anti-vax statements into his megaphone and pretending to manage traffic in intersections with his megaphone.

      He’s becoming a loud bore, and I’m surprised the cops don’t stop him.

      • Claire says:

        The cops are only ever interested in stopping and harassing one type of pedestrian and it ain’t the white man with the American flag.

    7. Dori says:

      One man’s “racism” is another’s work of art. Get rid of everything that steps on one of your pet “isms” and we won’t have any human artwork left, because human beings aren’t perfect. Solution: Grow a thicker skin and realize that free speech, like other civil liberties, carries a price tag. It makes some people feel uncomfortable some of the time.

      • don kedick says:

        Art belongs in museums–which is exactly where this work is going!

        Not everyone deserves a statue, Dori. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.

    8. Paul says:

      Go to Egypt you see statues of pharaohs,, with African slaves to the south and Asian slaves to the north.
      Erect a statue of a pharaoh today? There won’t be slaves.

      Put a statue of TR on horseback if you want, in front of the museum. Just TR.

    9. wombatNYC says:

      Roosevelt was a hero, adventurer and a great american . Too bad we’re too Woke as a society to allow that statute to stand. Ridiculous that we chose to remove it.

    10. What is Imperialism says:

      The museum IS Teddy Roosevelt, so removing the statue won’t do much anyways.

    11. Crawdad says:

      This is so dumb. They could have put a plaque explaining the context. Instead this globally iconic museum will have a giant bare spot right at the front entrance.

    12. Mark Moore says:

      Was the statue really “dismantled”?

    13. Cato says:

      “Do you realize that the past, starting from yesterday, has been actually abolished? ….. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

      Oh, come on, you know who wrote that and where it’s from, right? And that’s my point — you know what’s going on here; you’ve probably read the road map.

      • Ye Olde Englife Teechere says:

        Very clever, Cato!
        Of course, it’s from Orwell’s “1984”!
        Also appropriate, in this case, is Huxley’s “Brave New World”, especially the source of that title: “Oh, brave new world that has such people in it” (“The Tempest”).
        Yes, SUCH people: the SASfPC (Self-Appointed-Squad for Political-Correctness)

    14. Vincent says:

      If this is the kind of thing that makes you upset, I wish you a long, enjoyable retirement in Florida.

    15. Jack says:

      Public monuments represent cultural values. If a group feels, after reasoned discussion, that a monument no longer represents their culture and values, they are free to take it down.

      I personally disagree with the decision to alter monuments, but it’s their property and they are perfectly within their rights to do with it as they wish.

      Where I draw the line is mob violence directed at statues, which was common in 2020 (and was avidly supported by many prominent figures). That merely privileges the loudest and most violent group of people, and is not the right way to make these decisions.

    16. SJ says:

      “Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.”

      -George Carlin

    17. Gym goer says:

      From athletic point of view on the statue, two guys on sides have more attractive build. Long legs, thick chest and wide shoulders. Theodor riding on house is a shorty with thin skeleton.
      Colonizer must have admired native Indian and imported African bodies.
      Your vision is a refection of what you have in your mind. The statue didn’t look racial till someone said so.

      • Phoebe says:

        Good observation.
        Having the statue there showed the truth, as it stood, from a viewpoint that existed (and still sometimes/somewhere still does) and taking it away removes opportunity for discourse.
        A good plaque would have sufficed. Even a changing plaque could have been workable.
        And to the person who commented about retiring to Florida: If we remain interested, we needn’t use that stigmatizing term at all. It’s anti-intellectual and agist. Talk about “woke.” There are many ways to be woke, but telling people to, figuratively, stay in the kitchen is just flat-earth nonsense.

    18. Jaime Rosa says:

      As a native New Yorker, I believe the white supremacy ‘toys’ all need to all be replaced with the truth. Over 400 years of misinformation has given us all a false sense of ‘white supremacy’. The truth is marching on. Peace & love.

    19. charles says:

      It is terrible the way people are trying to eradicate history. Is this the kind of society we want to live in?

    20. Ian Alterman says:

      It is one thing to be sensitive to history and culture. It is another to be overly P.C. Of course, the White supremacists and racists in the South use the same argument about the removal of Confederate statues; i.e., why not leave them and have a plaque or other way of leading to a discussion, etc., etc.? Are those here who are lamenting the removal of this statue also lamenting the removal of Confederate statues? Why one and not the other? Are they both victims of “cancel culture” or is one okay and the other not? I ask this for discussion purposes only.

    21. Steevie says:

      Just from the standpoint of national self-preservation we ought to go very easy on the criticism of American historical figures. Our population knows very little history. And as you may have noticed, things seem to be coming apart. We are becoming 2 different countries.

    22. wearedoomed says:

      The real tragedy here is that we have let the vocal minority, the smallest sliver of the population, the non-representatives take over the media and hence the country. The curious thing is that even with a diverse peer/work group, I have never actually encountered a real person behind these claims. It feels so manufactured.

    23. Joe says:

      I think they should tear the whole racist museum down and build public housing.
      JMHO

    24. Steven says:

      Have JEFF KOONS design a fantastic replacement of the T. Roosevelt statue.
      What about a giant green metallic DINOSAUR?
      An art commission that would generate more excitement on CPW than the Macy’s balloons. And maybe NYC’s greatest art benefactors can fund it? (M.Bloomberg or S. Cohen?)
      After all, there’s a giant Jeff Koons “Poodle” sculpture in front of the Guggenheim in Bilbao Spain. Imagine the excitement if the AMNH commissioning Mr. Koons for this project?

    25. Kathleen says:

      Glad to see it gone, it was disgusting.

    26. Carol says:

      It depends on where your head is whether you liked the statue or not! I saw it as history. I saw it as Teddy creating the American Museum of Natural History encompassing Native Americans and Blacks – oppressed races – to build a foundation of natural history…..it was a beautiful statue – very apropos – I feel sorry for people who see only what they want to see. I saw many things in that statue.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        Did American Blacks in 1940, when the statue was installed, routinely walk around naked? Or did they do so when TR was President? Is that something you “see” in the statue?

        Also, while TR was relatively enlightened for his era towards Blacks, you might want to check out his brutal and atrocious record towards Native Americans.

        I’m not anti TR, but this statue is a big mess, and thanks to the Roosevelt family and Museum trustees for having it removed.

    27. Joan Lurie says:

      Our desire to erase our heritage is awful. Do people really forget that if we bury the past, we are doomed to repeat all our mistakes?

      • Paul says:

        Did TR ever sit on a horse flanked by a stereotypical Indian Chief in full headdress and a stereotypical proto-enslaved African American clad in a loincloth?

        If so, we’re destroying history.

        If not, the myth should be destroyed as any derogatory myth should be.

    28. Context-man says:

      Don’t people understand TR is on horseback not because of race, but because of rank? He’s one of the most powerful men on earth, on an expedition, and is being guided by trackers on foot. A white George Washington was on horseback during the Rev. War, surrounded by white troops on foot (literal foot-soldiers). White supremacy / racism? Of course not. He was the general leading the troops!

    29. notsofast says:

      I used to think the UWS was a “liberal” neighborhood. Can’t believe how naïve I was. I might as well move to Mississippi.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        To @notsofast:

        The UWS is not as progressive as it used to be, but neither is it as reactionary as the WSR comments would have you believe. For example, in the last election, if you polled comments on WSR, one would think Gale Brewer was extremely unpopular. But she won in a landslide. And the “law and order / lock ‘em up” candidate for DA got a tiny sliver of the vote.

        So many of the comments above regarding this statue are unaware, at best, and over the line as racist, at worst. This is not representative of the UWS population as a whole. But it’s sad that even 20% of our population thinks this way, and is compelled to express it, always anonymously.

    30. Carol Harris says:

      I wish I could move out of this city. I am a registered Democrat who HATES the democrat party and it’s leftward trend.
      I LOVED that statue and see it’s removals a warning about times to come.