Roosevelt had just turned fifteen when he and his mother and siblings arrived back in New York from Germany in the autumn of 1873. In early adolescence he was a bundle of contradictory traits. Still subject to bouts of asthma and other ailments, he was a body-builder and all-around enthusiast of physical fitness. Bookish and a budding writer, he lived for the outdoors, for the chase and the kill. Sheltered from social intercourse with almost everyone outside his family sphere, he had ranged widely across the Western world and seen nearly everything thought important by his generation of Americans. Adolescence is an age of contradictions, but even by the standards of fifteen-year- olds, Theodore Roosevelt was a study in contrasts.
Mittie and the Roosevelt children returned to a neighborhood different from than the one they had left. During the two decades since Theodore Sr. and Mittie had taken up housekeeping at the residence on Twentieth Street, the center of fashionable gravity in the city had continued to migrate north. For a time the old money had resisted the migration, but property values downtown continued to rise until even the old money couldn't afford not to move. The Theodore Roosevelts, trading uptown in the early 1870s to a new house at 6 West Fifty- seventh Street, were in good company.
Life in Manhattan has always held its excitements, but in the 1870s the middle part of the island produced peculiar thrills. Compared to the lower reaches, the newly settled portions required considerable cosmetic work before they were habitable. In another time or culture, the builders might have worked around the rocky outcrops and bluffs,