The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is a four-acre (1.6 ha) memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt that celebrates the Four Freedoms he articulated in his 1941 State of the Union address. It is located adjacent to the historic Smallpox Hospital in New York City at the southernmost point of Roosevelt Island, in the East River between Manhattan Island and Queens. It was designed by the architect Louis Kahn.
Shaped by the architect Louis I. Kahn, Four Freedoms Park is situated directly across from the United Nations and was completed in honor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech that changed history.
Four Freedoms park is named for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s sobering Four Freedoms speech. Learn the story of how a landfill became a New York landmark.
President Roosevelt made his Four Freedoms speech to the United States Congress in 1941. The Four Freedoms speech has inspired and been incorporated in the Four Freedoms Monument in Florida, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., and Norman Rockwell’s series of paintings called the Four Freedoms.
The four-acre park stands at the southernmost point of Roosevelt Island. Looking south, the visitor has a clear view of the United Nations building; to the north of the park is the Queensboro Bridge, which spans the East River. Approaching from the north, the visitor passes between a double row of trees that narrow as they approach the point, framing views of the New York skyline and the harbor. The memorial is a procession of elegant open-air spaces, culminating in a 3,600-square-foot (330 m2) plaza surrounded by 28 blocks of North Carolina granite, each weighing 36 tons. The courtyard contains a bust of Roosevelt, sculpted in 1933 by Jo Davidson.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only child of James Roosevelt and Sara Ann Delano. The family lived at Springwood, their estate in the Hudson River Valley.
At age 23, in 1905, FDR married Eleanor Roosevelt, with whom he had six children.
FDR served as New York State Senator and Governor. This photo was taken in 1910 around the time he became New York State Senator.
The Great Depression hit in the middle of FDR’s governorship. Roosevelt lowered utility rates, reduced taxes and created a state agency to aid the unemployed. Photo: FDR and family
When FDR was elected president in 1932, he enacted an even more ambitious plan for the nation’s economic recovery: The New Deal. Photo: FDR and his Mother in Hyde Park, NY (1933).
In 1941, FDR prepared a bold response to critics of U.S. involvement in WWII: His Four Freedoms Speech. Video: Construction on Four Freedoms Park.
FDR died in 1945, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that Welfare Island became Roosevelt Island and architect Louis I. Kahn was commissioned to design a monument. Video: Construction on Four Freedoms Park.
“It was the commission of a lifetime and he took it very very seriously.” – Nathaniel Kahn (son of Louis I. Kahn). Image: An early sketch of Four Freedoms Park via Louis I. Kahn.
But, in 1974, Louis I. Kahn died and the project was put on hold. It wasn’t until early 2010 that workers broke ground on Four Freedoms Park. Photo: FDR statue construction.
In the 1990s, Louis I. Kahn’s son made a documentary about his father. In researching his fathers blueprints, he came across designs that had never been built. Among them: The Roosevelt Memorial.
Building the park and memorial on an island presented logistical challenges for the builders. Video: Construction on Four Freedoms Park.
On October 17, 2012, almost three years after construction began, Four Freedoms Park opened to the public.
“As familiar as I was with construction drawings and the design, there are all these amazing things that we discovered as we built the project” – Gina Pollara (Supervising Architect, Four Freedoms Park).
The New York Times wrote that the FDR memorial on Roosevelt Island would “face the sea he loved, the Atlantic he bridged, the Europe he helped to save, the United Nations he inspired.”
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt (excerpted from his Four Freedoms Speech).
At the point, the monument itself is a simplified, roofless version of a Greek temple in granite. Excerpts from Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech are carved on the walls of this room-like space, which is open to the sky above.
The memorial is constructed entirely in Mount Airy Granite sourced from the North Carolina Granite Corporation. Over 140,000 cubic feet (4,000 m3) of Mount Airy Granite was used in the memorial’s construction. In contrast with the hard granite forms, Kahn placed five copper-beech trees at the memorial’s entrance and 120 little-leaf lindens in allées leading up to the monument.