7/31/14 Thursday in Florida, NY (Black Bear Campground-Private/$60/night)
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are part of the National Park System, so I got my Passport stamped at Ellis Island (fyi). Those were free (except for the ferry of course). FDR’s Home and Library are NPS as well, so we saved in fees here with our Senior Pass.
Also because it’s NPS we got a tour and I got to take photos of FDR’s home!
We left at 9:30 am. I’m so glad we didn’t leave any later because we got there just in time for the 11 am tour and stayed until almost 4 pm. Another long day, but worth it.
What’s special is that we’d seen FDR’s “Little White House” in Warm Springs, GA and knew about his summer retreat at Campobello in Canada. The latter was just too far from our campground to make the drive. So now we got to see his actual home in Hyde Park.
His father James bought this house in 1867. FDR was born here in 1882 (their only child because the doctor said Sara shouldn’t have any more) at 10 lbs! They were wealthy, but not in the scale of their neighbor the Vanderbilts. We could have see that mansion but there wasn’t time. After James died in 1900, Sara and Franklin, then a freshman at Harvard, continued to live in the house. When he married Eleanor in 1905, the young couple moved in with Sara, in whose name the house remained until her death in 1941. Eleanor willed the home to the NPS when no family members wanted to live in it and so it was when she died. Franklin had died, his children were adults and happy in their own homes and Eleanor was happier living in Val-Kill, the cottage that truly felt like her home. Eleanor never felt comfortable in Sara’s home, as you’ll note by her austere bedroom. We could have seen Val-Kill but again, just didn’t have the time. Your ticket lasts for 2 days but we just didn’t want to drive up again. Even though Franklin served for almost 4 terms (he died during his 4th term) the last few years he yearned to return to his home on the Hudson River.
First floor rooms. The first is a sculpture of FDR at 29. He loved the sea and had naval pictures all over the home. Even what looked like an original Turner watercolor on the 2nd floor. Note the wheelchair in the back of the last 2 images.
2nd floor rooms. FDR used an old trunk elevator to get to the second floor. He’d pull himself up using a rope pulley. Then he had a ramp over the stairs for the 3rd floor where his bedroom was. That was his most favorite room. It was the largest and had a great view of the Hudson River Valley.
The birth room where Franklin was born
Eleanor’s room. They slept together until he got polio.
We exited on the 3rd floor, near FDR’s room. You can see the kind of view he had.
The coach house where they kept the horses is on the right, the carriage house (for carriages then cars) on the left. Inside the coach house you could play a tape where Eleanor shares a story. Franklin let her ride his horse Bobby, but didn’t tell her what he’d trained Bobby to do. This horse only followed that training. So when she turned to head home that horse just ran as hard as he could, nothing she could do would stop him.
Nearby is Sara’s garden, where FDR and ER are buried. His grave has the larger flag, her’s the small flags.
At this point we took a break for lunch, finding picnic tables under a shelter right near our car. You’d think we’d planned it that way! Then, as we brought our picnic bag to the table we saw a couple already sitting there, so we asked if we could join them. They said yes. They were a young couple, later joined by a friend, who were attending a workshop there at Hyde Park. We had such a great conversation, it really added fun to our lunch time. They even told us about places we could see works of the Hudson Valley River Painters at Vassar College and the homes of Cole and Church with their paintings. We just never got the time to go there.
On to the Presidential Library. I was not prepared for the vast extent of exhibits here and what we saw was just the Museum part. This is America’s first presidential library – and the only one used by a sitting president. Designed by FDR himself, in the dutch colonial style, it opened in 1941 right here at Hyde Park. By donating his papers to the Library, he established the precedent for public ownership of presidential papers. This library became a model for the nation’s presidential library system, now part of the National Archives. It’s the world’s premier research center for the study of the Roosevelt era. The room is the study he used here, the actual office, not a re creation.
It was after he’d lost a political bid that FDR when to Campobellow to get some rest. One night he said he felt tired and had a headache so he went to bed early. When he woke up he was paralyzed from the neck down. After great efforts with doctors and physical therapy he managed to get movement in his upper body and never gave up hope for his legs for the rest of his life. Thus when he campaigned and all through his presidency he had polio.
3rd Term. It seemed that we may get caught up in a war-Germany was already gobbling up European countries at this point and Japan was starting to conquer many in the East. So it also seemed good to keep the same guy in office that pulled us through the Depression. Other nations apparently were dealing with the bad after effects of World War I by extreme nationalism. Trusting one person to lead them to better times. So arose Nazism and Fascism.
4th Term where he only served 3 months, then died in Warm Springs, GA.
Now that we were involved in World War II it seemed best to keep the president who knew all that was going on and was leading us all this time.
The 4 Freedoms that Roosevelt felt were essential to peace:
FDR loved all things of the sea (he was head of the Navy at one point) and collected models of ships all his life. This was his favorite, the USS Constitution. Mine too.
Nearly 4 pm when we left here too. A glimpse along the Hudson River as we dashed home.