Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial

Also known as: Mason's Island, Analostan Island
S of Key Bridge in the Potomac River, Washington, District of Columbia



Theodore Roosevelt Island's primary significance rests on its role as a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt and his devotion to the conservation of America's natural resources. However, the site also enjoys a rich history with several additional periods of significance. Throughout its evolution, topography and geology have always mandated settlement patterns on and the development of the island landscape. Archeological evidence shows that the island was in use by the area's Native American tribes from prehistory until the early eighteenth century. Furthermore, the island's alternate name of Analostan likely originated through an association with the Necostin (Anacostian) Indians. In 1717, Revolutionary Patriot George Mason IV, author of the Virginia Bill of Rights, acquired the Island and established a ferry there in 1748. His son, John Mason, developed the island as a plantation estate and built a causeway connecting with the Virginia coast and a large Federal-style mansion, also named Analostan. The alternate historical name of Mason's Island stems from the Mason family's ownership of the site. Later, during the Civil War, Union forces occupied Theodore Roosevelt Island. During the summer of 1863 the island functioned as the camp of the 1st United States Colored Troops, an African American regiment composed of free blacks and escaped slaves. From May 1864-June 1865 a freedmen's refugee camp occupied much of the island, including the Mason mansion. Following a long period of transient ownership, short-term tenancy, and disuse, the Roosevelt Memorial Association (RMA) purchased the island in 1931 as a national memorial to the former president. The following year the RMA gave the island to the federal government, but maintained planting and development rights. Between 1934-1945 the RMA retained renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to replant the island as a planned wilderness"to be preserved as nearly as possible as in its natural state." This concept of designed nature is significant in that it forces people to rethink the human relationship with the natural world, and indeed, what constitutes nature. Less abstractly, the planting plan, carried out by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers,"represents one of the most complete expressions of Olmsted's ideals on scenic preservation, through his attempt to recreate the island's presumed former appearance so that it could continue its natural evolution to a stable, 'climax' forest." Finally, Gugler's plaza and Manship's Theodore Roosevelt sculpture represent a distinct step in the development of presidential memorials within Washington, D.C. -- Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS DC-12)

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966
Reference number
Architectural style
Modern Movement
Areas of significance
Landscape Architecture; Conservation; Art; Entertainment/Recreation; Military; Politics/Government; Community Planning and Development; Social History; Transportation
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction; D - Information Potential
Property type
Historic functions
Single dwelling; Agricultural fields; Horticulture facility; Military facility; Garden; Water-related; Road-related
Current functions
Work of art (sculpture, carving, rock art); Outdoor recreation; Monument/marker; Park; Conservation area; Unoccupied land; Forest
Periods of significance
1700-1749; 1750-1799; 1800-1824; 1825-1849; 1850-1874; 1875-1899; 1925-1949
Significant years
1792; 1861; 1932
Number of properties
Contributing structures: 10
Contributing sites: 6
Contributing objects: 11
Non-contributing buildings: 3
Non-contributing structures: 8
Non-contributing objects: 43