The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site preserves the Springwood estate in Hyde Park, New York. Springwood was the birthplace, lifelong home, and burial place of the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The National Historic Site was established in 1945.
“All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River” This quote captures Franklin D. Roosevelt’s connection to Springwood, the estate that he loved & the place he considered home. The first US Presidential Library was started by Franklin D. Roosevelt here.
Few figures in American public life have been so closely identified with a particular place as President Franklin D. Roosevelt with his home in Hyde Park, New York. FDR was born here in 1882 and remained closely connected to the place for his entire life. The property, located in the historic Hudson Valley, was home and political headquarters, a haven for spiritual renewal, and, after he was stricken with polio, a place for physical rehabilitation. At Hyde Park, he participated in community life, welcomed dignitaries, and conducted the work of the presidency.
In 1697, the English Crown gave a 220 square miles (570 km2) land grant (the “Great Nine Partners Patent”) to a group of nine businessmen from New York City. The land extended from the Hudson River on the west to the border with Connecticut on the East. To ensure equal access to the river for all partners, the land on the shore of the river was divided into nine “Water Lots”, one of which Springwood was located on and was granted to William Creed, one of the nine partners.
While the early history of the house on the Springwood estate remains unclear, it is believed that the central portion of the present day house is formed by a large farmhouse which was constructed around the year 1800 in the Federal style. In 1845, the estate was purchased by Josiah Wheeler, a merchant from New York City. Wheeler undertook a remodeling of the house, giving it a then fashionable Italianate style with a three-story tower at the south end as well as front and rear piazzas spanning the entire length of the house. After this remodeling, the house comprised a total of 15 rooms.
In 1866, the estate which had been reduced to approximately one square mile (2.5 square kilometers), was bought by James Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s father, for US$ 40,000, at a time when a textile worker’s earnings were less than a dollar a day. The property featured a stable and horse track, which was important to James because he took great interest in horse breeding. From the date of purchase until his death 34 years later in 1900, James made many improvements of the house and property. He enlarged the servants’ wing of the building, adding two rooms, and had a spacious carriage house built in the vicinity.
In 1882, Franklin was born in what was then the second floor tower bedroom at the south end of the house. At the time, it functioned as the master bedroom; the bedroom which he, and later his sons, used during boyhood is nearby on the same floor. In 1905, after he and Eleanor Roosevelt married, the young couple moved in with his mother. The estate remained the center of Roosevelt’s life in all stages of his career.
In 1915, Franklin D. Roosevelt, together with his mother Sara, undertook a final major enlargement and remodeling of the home. This was done in order to accommodate his growing family, but also to create an environment for entertaining his political associates which fitted his ambitions. Roosevelt contributed many ideas for the new design, but since the building work was paid for by his mother Sara, she had to find compromises which also took the financial aspect into account. She commissioned the design work from the firm of Hoppin & Koen, of New York City. The size of the house was more than doubled by adding two large fieldstone wings (designed by Roosevelt), a tower, and a third story with a flat roof. The clapboard exterior of the house was replaced with stucco and most of the porch was replaced with a fieldstone terrace with a balustrade and a small columned portico around the entrance. These alterations gave the exterior of the house the look of a mansion in the Colonial Revival Style. The interior, while retaining much of the layout of the old family home, was redesigned primarily with the aim of housing Roosevelt’s growing collections of books, paintings, stamps, and coins. The remodeling work was finished within one year in 1916. Roosevelt also changed the appearance of the surrounding land by extensive planting of trees. Between 1911, when the large scale planting started and Roosevelt’s death in 1945, more than 400,000 trees were planted on the estate. Eventually, large portions of the estate were turned into an experimental forestry station under an agreement with the Forestry Department of the Syracuse University.
During his presidency from March 4, 1933 until his death on April 12, 1945, Franklin made almost 200 visits to Springwood, although he eventually built Top Cottage nearby as a home of his own, separate from his mother’s. The main estate functioned as a “Summer White House” where the President hosted his political associates as well as other prominent national and international figures. In June 1939, when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King as minister in attendance, made the first visit of a reigning Canadian monarch to the United States, they were hosted at Springwood. Other guests included Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill, as well as European royalty such as Queen Wilhelmina, Princess Juliana, and Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, and Crown Prince Olaf and Crown Princess Märtha of Norway. Further, Roosevelt used the estate as a retreat for himself and his political associates on the eves of three of the four[clarification needed] elections in which he ran for president. When the incoming results indicated that he had won the election, he would go outside onto the front terrace to deliver his victory speech.
Roosevelt made his last visit to Springwood in the last week of March 1945, about two weeks before his death. At his own wish, he was buried near the sundial in the Rose Garden on April 15, 1945. His wife was buried at his side after her death in 1962. Also buried here are Fala, the famous scottish terrier, and Chief, a German Shepherd also owned by FDR.
In 1943, Roosevelt donated the estate to the American people under the condition that his family maintained a lifetime right to usage of the property. On November 21, 1945, after the family had relinquished their rights, the estate was transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior. Since then, the estate has been administered by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site and is open to the public. In 2005, the site covered a total area of more than 3 square kilometers and received 108,611 visitors.
The walls of the entrance hall are mostly covered with pieces from Roosevelt’s collection of paintings. On display are mainly naval paintings as well as some historical cartoons. Specimens from his boyhood collection of birds are also on display as well as a sculpture of him when he was 29. In the corner behind the main staircase is a manually operated trunk elevator, which the disabled president used to move between floors.
Living room and library:
This room was the place where Roosevelt worked on his private collections; he accumulated a personal library of approximately 14,000 volumes, over 2,000 naval paintings, prints, and lithographs, over 300 bird specimens, over 200 ship models, 1.2 million stamps, as well as thousands of coins, banknotes, campaign buttons, and medallions.
The music room (also known as the “Dresden Room” for the origin of some of the porcelain) is a formal parlor which contains many Chinese pieces of porcelain and lacquerware. These were acquired when the family of Roosevelt’s mother stayed in China, where her father made a fortune in the China trade. Together with the adjacent dining room, this part of the house was the setting for the formal entertaining of guests. A collection of autographed photographs of some of the Roosevelts’ more famous guests is kept in the room on the piano.
Bedrooms of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt:
During the enlargement of the house in 1915, a suite of rooms was created for Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt in one of the new wings. Originally, these rooms included a sitting room and two dressing rooms, but after Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921, one of the dressing rooms was converted into a separate bedroom for his wife Eleanor and the sitting room into a bedroom for his mother Sara.
This room was used by Roosevelt’s mother, Sara, for beginning her day and conducting her business of running the household. The room was created in its present form during the extensive remodeling of 1915 by a division of the old South Parlor into a gallery and the Snuggery. Because most of the furniture of the old parlor was retained despite the reduction in size, the Snuggery has a cluttered appearance.
Conservation and preservation often go hand in hand. FDR protected many unique areas across the country. When created in 1916, the National Park Service focused primarily on the conservation of spectacular landscapes, mostly in the West, and prehistoric native sites. FDR expanded the National Park Service mission in 1933 to include not only parks and monuments but also national cemeteries, national memorials, and national military parks. He also added the parks in Washington, D.C. The reorganization paved the way for inclusion of historic sites such as the Vanderbilt Mansion and FDR’s own home, which he made part of the national park system in 1939 and 1943. With sweeping legislation, FDR was responsible for adding over one-quarter of the 411 areas in today’s National Park Service system.
Equally important, the 1933 reorganization introduced new regions of the country to the National Park Service. FDR diversified the definition of national treasures. As he saw it, history, culture, and nature all played roles in the exceptional saga and unfolding legacy of the United States. “There is nothing so American,” he said, “as our national parks.”
Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, combined with his enthusiasm for conservation, laid a firm foundation for protecting the nation’s natural bounty. The extent of the conservation projects carried on during the New Deal was far more reaching than anything attempted before. Soil erosion control, water conservation, the preservation of wildlife, and other environmental protection activities became a part of the everyday life and activities of American citizens. The importance of the work was new and inspiring. Under his leadership, FDR’s programs introduced new concepts on a national level in planning for the responsible use of our natural and historic resources.