Maltese Cross Cabin: Theodore Roosevelt’s Mobile Home
On Theodore Roosevelt’s first trip to North Dakota in 1883, before he made Elkhorn Ranch his home, he stayed in a modest frontier cabin about seven miles south of Medora at Chimney Butte. It was still the Dakota Territory then and the future President was bolstering his rawhide credentials. The National Park Service has a nice page on the cabin here.
Above, the Maltese Cross Cabin at Chimney Butte, circa 1904, photo by Jospeh Kitchin. The cabin originally had a steep, pitched roof but according to a report by the Historic American Buildings Survey, it underwent structural changes in 1884 or ’85 and again in 1897 or ’98. Other modifications to the cabin are also visible in the photo above. You can make out the timbers that were used to patch the doorway in the wall. Compare to the photo at the bottom… the door has been restored today.
During Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidency, the Maltese Cross Cabin began touring the country. It is shown here at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and it was also shown at the Portland World’s Fair the following year.
After traveling the country, the Maltese Cross Cabin came back to North Dakota and resided at what was then the State Fairgrounds in Fargo for a couple years before moving to the grounds of the State Capitol in Bismarck.
Above, the Maltese Cross Cabin when it was at the State Capitol in Bismarck, approximately 1909 to 1959.
Today, the Maltese Cross Cabin stands behind the visitor center at the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora and the original pitched roof has been recreated. Admission is free, there are guided tours and a very talented Theodore Roosevelt impersonator.
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