Sagamore Hill

Back in 2004, Brookhaven researchers contacted the National Parks Service (NPS) with an interesting request — let us test a biodiesel blend at one of your Long Island sites so we can determine its effectiveness. After some discussion, the NPS agreed to participate in a pilot program at its Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, on the scenic North Shore of Long Island in Oyster Bay.

Theodore Roosevelt statue at the Sagamore Hill estate.

Sagamore Hill was the home of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, from 1886 until his death in 1919. In 1880, at the age of 22, Roosevelt purchased 155 acres of land on Cove Neck, a small peninsula roughly 2 miles northeast of the village, and shortly after hired the New York architectural firm Lamb & Rich to design a shingle-style, Queen Anne home for the property.

The house and its surrounding farmland became the primary residence of Theodore and Edith Roosevelt for the rest of their lives. It became known as the “Summer White House” during the seven summers (1902-1908) Roosevelt spent there while President. Roosevelt died at Sagamore Hill in January 1919 and was buried in the small Youngs Memorial Cemetery, just one mile from his home.

The Sagamore Hill National Historic Site was established by Congress in 1962, and has since hosted thousands of visitors per year who come to see the main house, which still contains many of its original furnishings, and the Teddy Roosevelt museum. The complex includes several outbuildings, and three of these, including the site superintendent’s residence, were selected for the pilot program. In 2004, each of the three buildings was switched over to “B-20,” a blend of low-sulphur heating oil and 20-percent soy biodiesel, and the BNL researchers studied burner performance, emissions, maintenance, and tank status over the next two years.

According to Krishna, the results have been extremely positive. “We see no changes in terms of heating efficiency, no maintenance issues, and substantial reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions,” he said. “The Parks Service has been extremely happy with the project — in fact, the maintenance supervisor wants to start using biodiesel in his upstate residence.”

This may be the time to switch. Governor Pataki recently signed into law legislation that provides a residential bioheat tax credit for home and business owners who use a biodiesel blend in their heating systems. The credit is based on the percentage of biodiesel in the blend, up to 20 cents per gallon for B-20, and, when combined with an existing federal tax credit, should bring the net cost of residential bioheat below the market price for conventional number 2 oil.