Following our stay in Cooperstown, we headed back to the east and the Hudson River Valley. Our goal following the Firefighter's Museum was Hyde Park New York and the first American Presidential Library originally paid for through fund raising by the President himself and his supporters.
This life size bronze sculpture of President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor is in the courtyard of the Library. Once the Library was finished, it was donated to the U.S. Government to be operated by the National Archives & Records Administration. In 1955, this process became law when the U.S. Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act.
NARA’s other Presidential Libraries include those for Herbert Hoover (Iowa); Harry Truman (Missouri); Dwight Eisenhower (Kansas); John Kennedy (Massachusetts); Lyndon Johnson (Texas); Richard Nixon (California); Gerald Ford (Michigan); Jimmy Carter (Georgia); Ronald Regan (California); George H.W. Bush (Texas) and; William Clinton (Arkansas).
Laurie and I had previously visited the Truman Presidential Library in Independence Missouri…and we really enjoyed our visit to that Library.
This is Springwood, the Roosevelt family home. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born here in 1882 and it was his lifelong home. James Roosevelt, FDR’s father, bought the house and the 1 square mile estate in 1866 for $40,000… FDR’s mother was Sara Delano Roosevelt. While James died in 1900, Sara lived here until her sudden death in September of 1941.
There were a couple of problems that limited our experience while on the tour of the home. First of all, the rooms were so dark that it was difficult to really appreciate what we were looking at… In addition, unfortunately, someone on tour on the second floor had a medical emergency and we were limited to the first floor. For a look at some interior photos of the Roosevelt’s home, just go to http://travelphotobase.com/s/NYHH.HTM.
The living room and library was the most interesting room that we saw. It was in this room that FDR worked on his private collections. He had a personal library of roughly 14,000 volumes, over 2,000 naval paintings, prints and lithographs, over 300 bird specimens, 200 + ship models, a collection of 1.2 million stamps, plus thousands of coins, banknotes, campaign buttons and medallions.
The center portion of the house was formed by a large farmhouse that was built ca. 1800. The original estate covered over 24 square miles and it was part of the ‘Great Nine Partners Patent’ granted by the English Crown in 1697. When James Roosevelt bought the property, it included stables and a race track.
This is the family carriage house and stable. It’s located fairly close to the home itself. We almost didn’t get to see inside because the Park Service locked it up early. But Laurie approached one of the Park Service Rangers and she talked her into letting us inside through a side door. Another couple tagged along. People should live as well as the Roosevelt horses did!
While the Presidential Museum and Library are operated by the National Archives & Records Administration, the Roosevelt Home plus the estate, Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage, ‘Val-Kill’, FDR’s ‘Top Cottage’ and the nearby Vanderbilt Estate are all operated by the National Park Service. Park Service tours actually begin at the Museum & Library.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt are buried at Springwood. He died in office in April 1945, actually at his other hideaway in Warm Springs Georgia, while Eleanor lived until 1962. (Note: His former mistress was with him when he died in Warm Springs)
Springwood functioned as the Summer White House throughout FDR’s presidency. He and Eleanor entertained and conducted many important meetings at their home. Guests included King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, the Canadian Prime Minister, William Mackenzie, Winston Churchill, Queen Wilhelmina and her daughters, Crown Prince Olaf of Norway and many others. During his presidency, FDR made almost 200 visits to Springwood…
The next few photos were taken in the Museum portion of the Presidential Library. The kilt and the little outfit were worn by FDR when he was a child. Another photo showed the little boy in a dress…a common thing for a young boys back in the 1800’s. This and the following photo were taken as we toured FDR’s: The Early Years Gallery.
This was one of Laurie’s favorites…young FDR’s rocking horse. While not as rich as the Rockefeller’s, FDR’s family weren’t exactly poor. He was home schooled by his parents and private tutors. He then attended Groton, a prestigious prep school, followed by a degree from Harvard and then he attended law school at Columbia. He passed the bar examination and then he practiced law in New York City for 3 years. In 1910, at the age of 28, he was elected to the New York State Senate…and the rest truly is history.
From the Early Years Gallery, we moved on to the Presidential Years Gallery. This was actually FDR’s private study at the Presidential Library. This is the only presidential library ever used by a sitting president. The study is preserved just as he left it in 1945.
Here is President Roosevelt’s Oval Office Desk from the White House. He used this desk for the entire time that he was America’s Chief Executive…March 3, 1933 until April 12, 1945. The items on his desk, various mementos and knickknacks, are arranged roughly as they were at the time of his death.
Love him or hate him, FDR was our President during 2 of the most traumatic events in American history…the Great Depression and World War II.
There is another segment of the Library that is set aside to honor Eleanor Roosevelt. She was active in public affairs and many, many causes almost until she died. Her nearby cottage, Val-Kill, is the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady.
This is President Roosevelt’s 1936 Ford Phaeton. It was specially outfitted with hand controls, which allowed the President to drive despite the crippling effects of his bout with polio, (infantile paralysis), that he contracted in 1921. FDR enjoyed driving this car on his estate and along the back roads of Dutchess County. He even took the King and Queen of England for a ride in his car. His favorite driving companion however, was his dog Fala…
This little statue right by the Visitors Desk in the Library’s Visitor’s Center is a likeness of Fala. Fala was born in April 1940. FDR named him “Murray the Outlaw of Falahill” after a Scottish ancestor. Fala went almost everywhere with the President… He attended the Atlantic Charter Conference in Newfoundland, inspection trips of defense plants, Mexico to meet with that country’s President, the Quebec Conference, the Aleutian Islands in 1944.
Fala received thousands of fan letters and he had his own secretary. Two movies about Fala were produced, one at the White House and one a Hyde Park. The Republicans accused FDR of spending millions of taxpayer’s dollars on taking his dog with him on these trips. FDR actually made a speech defending Fala! Fala retired to Val-Kill in Hyde Park. He passed away on his 12th birthday and is buried next to the sun dial not far from FDR and Eleanor’s graves.
We were vaguely dissatisfied with our visit to the Presidential Library and Springwood. It just didn’t seem to come together. I think that we expected more interesting displays, information, or whatever. Something was missing. After all, FDR did serve more than 12 years as our President…
Of course, we did miss the 2nd floor of the family home. Work was being done on the grounds. Construction was underway in an effort to upgrade and expand the Library and Museum. Perhaps the powers that be recognized that this facility could have much more impact…and change is coming!
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum as well as the Franklin D. Roosevelt Historic Site are both located on US Rte. 9 at 4079 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park New York. Both facilities are open year around. Admission is charged. For more information on the Library & Museum, just go to www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/. Information regarding the Historic Site/Roosevelt’s Home, go to www.nps.gov/hofr/index.htm. For a relatively short biography on FDR, just go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_D._Roosevelt#Campaign_for_Vice-President.
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a longer than normal visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave