How to Visit Teddy Roosevelt’s Pine Knot near Charlottesville
What is Pine Knot?
High on the list of unique experiences in Charlottesville is Pine Knot, Teddy Roosevelt’s outdoorsy retreat in southern Albemarle County.
Beginning in 1905 First Lady Edith Roosevelt acquired 95 acres and a house near Keene. Dubbed “Pine Knot,” the property was reachable from the White House in a day—four hours by train to Charlottesville and another four hours on horseback from Red Hill. That was convenient but remote enough to furnish what she called “rest and repairs” to salve the inevitable wounds of the presidency. Today the trip is easier—just 20 minutes from Charlottesville down Route 20 into wine country on the way to Scottsville.
How to Visit
Visiting Pine Knot is by appointment only. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.
The site is owned and managed by The Edith and Theodore Roosevelt Pine Knot Foundation, a volunteer group of friends, enthusiasts and scholars, established in 2001. Visitors may apply for an appointment via a simple form on the Pine Knot website.
Do so as far in advance as possible — we recommend at least 2 days ahead. Your reservation will be confirmed by email, and a docent will meet you at the gate, show you where to park and escort you along your visit. While there’s no limit to the size of your party, groups of 2-12 are ideal.
What to Expect
Once you’ve parked your vehicle beneath a stand of tall pines, your excursion begins with a simple stroll through the woods. This stoll, however, will be different. This stroll centers upon a unique and dominating purpose: to reflect on a singular American presidential icon, and pay homage to what must have been for him an early escape into an unplugged world.
Pine Knot preceded Camp Hoover, another presidential retreat in nearby Shenandoah National Park, by two decades. Shangri La, now Camp David in Maryland, came later. It’s not a stretch that Pine Knot represents the first Presidential escape from the White House and the interminable affairs of a Head of State.
You will make the instant connection between Teddy Roosevelt, the paramount “outdoor” President who “created” 150 national parks and conserved over 250 million American acres, and this humble but lovely setting. A New York Harvard man, TR was his best in the open with the possibilities of wildlife. He killed his only turkey here and rambled on foot and horseback many hours during his White House years from 1905-1909.
That cell phone-free possibility will impress you as you walk along the six hiking trails that circumvent Pine Knot, the same trails TR and his family walked to decompress and explore. Suddenly the red clay and rolling fields visible through the woods adopt a new character for us. This is a setting TR himself fell in love with, and one that we shouldn’t take for granted today.
The house itself is divinely spartan. Meticulously conserved, it has a sturdy tin roof but zero modern amenities. Two stone fireplaces in a single room downstairs, three simple bedrooms upstairs. Heart pine floors, no kitchen or bathrooms. Just a simple space to live and be together. Imagining the Roosevelts in such an uncomplicated way is both restful and restorative.
A visit to Pine Knot will transport you into our original Albemarle countryside. It will transform your consciousness, for a time, into a world long ago and far away. And it will encourage you to better know one of America’s great Presidents and the fondness he shared with a place we love.
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