Maltese Cross Cabin
Theodore Roosevelt Nt. Park – Medora, North Dakota
Appropriately Theodore Roosevelt’s first North Dakota cabin rests beneath cottonwoods in the National Park bearing his name. Roosevelt first came to the region in 1883 to bag a bison; before returning to New York he acquired interests in the Maltese Cross Ranch on the banks of the Little Missouri River. Two ranch managers were hired and instructed to build a cabin. Our park guide relates that the cabin initially was a single room with a dirt floor. By the following summer three separate rooms were finished with wood floors, an additional 1/2 story provided a sleeping loft for the ranch hands, root cellar and shingled roof. Locals considered the enhanced construction as nearly a mansion.
Several of Roosevelt’s own belongings are included in the Maltese Cross Cabin period furnishings. In the bedroom a leather trunk marked with “TR” on the lid was the one he used when traveling to and from North Dakota, an elaborate hunting outfit costing $1,000. packed inside. A white hutch original to the cabin served as both bookcase and writing desk. Roosevelt spent much time recording impressions of his time in the hills at the writing desk from his second ranch, the Ellkhorn. His favorite piece of furniture was a rocking chair – believing, “What true American does not enjoy a rocking-chair?”
The cabin has quite a traveling history of it’s own. During Roosevelt’s presidency it was exhibited at the World’s Fair in St. Louis and at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon. The state fair grounds in Fargo and the state capitol grounds in Bismarck also hosted the Maltese Cross Cabin. In 1959 it was loaded onto a flatbed truck for a trip to Medora and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park just seven miles from its original location.
When You Go: The Maltese Cross Cabin is located near the Visitor’s Center of the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora, North Dakota. Ranger guided tours of the cabin given daily during the summer. More information at http://www.nps.gov/thro/index.htm.