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.
Thanks to Mark Alpert for the tip.