There are few people in the town today who know about the speech given by President Theodore Roosevelt on July 4, 1903, in what was then an open field just north of the present day intersection of New York Avenue and Gerard Street in Huntington village. TR was on hand as the guest speaker at the 250th anniversary celebration of the town’s founding.
Huntington High School seniors Kaitlyn Sage and Luke Farrell spent the past year researching the event and documenting the visit. The two teenagers spoke at the unveiling of a historical marker at the site of the presidential speech late last Thursday afternoon during a ceremony attended by a crowd of 100, including town and school district officials.
Huntington UFSD Chairman of Humanities, 7-12 Joseph Leavy recruited Ms. Sage and Mr. Farrell to work on the project and develop the research and he helped guide them through the process. The results have been simply magnificent.
“The Teddy Roosevelt project has been underway for about a year now,” Ms. Sage said. “Mr. Leavy, Luke Farrell and I researched and organized this project in order to commemorate an important historical event that not only happened in our town, but was never properly commemorated. Through many hours of research and trips to the Huntington Historical Society, we have also been able to uncover details about founding members of the Huntington Historical Society who came together to invite Mr. Roosevelt and prepare the town for the 250th anniversary celebration. Through their work, a parade, gala and presidential speech was arranged, not to mention their dedication to securing artifacts, pictures and details of the town’s history to showcase at the event.”
After the Huntington duo brought the fruits of their research and the issue of the lack of adequate commemoration of the historic event to the town’s attention, officials agreed that erection of a permanent historical marker recognizing President Roosevelt’s speech was in order.
“We also outlined our plans to the Huntington High School student government, which funded the acquisition of the marker,” Ms. Sage said. “Although it has taken a lot of effort, time and planning, I am extremely happy that we were able to commemorate Teddy Roosevelt’s visit and I am proud to know that my efforts will always serve as a reminder of our town’s rich history.”
Ms. Sage and Mr. Farrell are both members of Huntington’s Social Studies Honor Society chapter. Mr. Leavy had originally hoped to have some Class of 2018 members tackle the project, but when that effort faltered the two exceptional teenagers stepped in.
“We had to start off researching about the event,” Mr. Farrell said. “Mr. Leavy had already obtained a copy of the speech, which he gave us and he was able to get a still photograph of President Roosevelt speaking that day. I then looked through a historical newspaper database that the school has provided us with and managed to find numerous news articles to corroborate this event happening.”
Ms. Sage and Mr. Farrell then headed to the Huntington Historical Society’s headquarters on Main Street. “They provided us with wonderful information, such as an original pamphlet of the day’s proceedings, which included parades, live music, festivals and the president’s arrival,” Mr. Farrell said. “We also discovered the founders of the Huntington Historical Society and were able to identify some of them in the photo the society provided us with and the one Mr. Leavy had also found.”
The Huntington High School student government, which was represented at the unveiling by Class of 2019 President Dominick Stanley, provided the funding needed to install the historical marker.
“The plaque was done in the new style that is similar to the washed-up whale plaque in the town, rather than the standard blue plaque to help truly commemorate the event that occurred,” Mr. Farrell said. “This will end up being a great lesson for those who wish to learn about our special history and how our small town played a big role in shaping our nation for years to come.”
Speakers at the event also included Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky, Town Councilman Eugene Cook and Town Historian Robert Hughes.
A color guard from Boy Scout Troop 12 was on hand with a member leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Film actor Leer Leary was on hand dressed as Theodore Roosevelt. He animatedly read a short excerpt from President Roosevelt’s July 4, 1903 speech and later posed for photos with the Huntington students and presided over the unveiling of the historical marker.
Ms. Sage has participated in the Chinese exchange program and the Chinese culture club spearheaded by Mr. Leavy for the past four years. A casual conversation started the two Huntington seniors on their way, culminating in the unveiling ceremony.
“Mr. Leavy said he had found a great speech by Teddy Roosevelt,” Ms. Sage said. “When I mentioned I was interested in learning more, he encouraged me to get involved with this project. I was shocked and amazed to find out that the speech was actually given in Huntington, and felt compelled to make others aware of this unique event in our town’s history.”
Huntington junior Christopher Bavaro was on hand to film the event. A small group of woman dressed in white, including some period clothing stood nearby to commemorate the seated “women in white” that were on the stage adjacent to President Roosevelt on July 4, 1903.
Mr. Roosevelt arrived in Huntington on the presidential yacht, which sailed from his estate at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay. He was transported from the waterfront to the stage at the empty field where he spoke by horse drawn carriage.
The Library of Congress’ collection includes a nearly three minute silent film clip of Mr. Roosevelt on stage in Huntington and his departure by the same horse drawn carriage that ferried him to the site. To view the film visit this link:
The town celebrated the 250th anniversary of its founding with a three-day celebration over the Fourth of July weekend in 1903. The speech by Teddy Roosevelt was the highlight of the event. It’s finally been commemorated and will become known to passersby thanks to Huntington seniors Kaitlyn Sage and Luke Farrell and their mentor, Joseph Leavy.