FDR in Hyde Park

Springwood, FDR's House on the Hudson
Springwood, FDR’s House on the Hudson

Springwood, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home on the Hudson, is in Hyde Park, N.Y. We visited on the last day of our trip to upstate New York. The house, as he instructed, was left exactly as it was in 1945, the year he died.  Nearby are Val-Kill, owned by Eleanor, and Top Ridge, a small retreat favored by FDR. All, except the library, are under the care of the National Park Service. The library and museum are administered by the National Archives.

The House is not much to look at, but the trees and the grounds are lovely. Like other famous houses on the Hudson(see my post on Kykuit–http://wp.me/p3cJ8X-lG ), it has a beautiful view of the river to the west.

Looking west, toward the Hudson River
Looking west, toward the Hudson River

Springwood is not a fancy place, but it reeks of Roosevelt. The entry, for instance, contains an entire wall with his childhood stuffed bird collection.  All the rest of the walls are covered with portraits of ancestors and naval prints,  and ship models are everywhere. He collected them.  FDR was an adored only child of a mother who saved everything, and the house and the museum are overflowing with his possessions.

Roosevelt's childhood bedroom
Roosevelt’s childhood bedroom

In another room, FDR’s stamp collection is set out as if he just stepped away… except he wheeled.  And got from one floor to another in a dumb waiter–in his wheel chair, pulling himself up with ropes. Isn’t it amazing that some people at the time did not even know he was wheel-chair dependent?

Hyde Park Living Room
Hyde Park living room–note the wheel chair

The living room at Hyde Park looks ripe for cocktails and cigarettes, which he enjoyed, and during which “shop talk” was forbidden. Eleanor was not often a participant.  She, I think, valued more serious pursuits, with good reason.

The museum attached to the library displays the President’s silver cocktail shaker.  I’ll have a martini, please, dry. I would have loved drinking in the presence of one of the most charming men there ever was.  You must admit, the Roosevelt men were very handsome.

FDR Portrait
FDR Portrait

The museum at Hyde Park contains just about everything that relates to FDR’s life and his four terms in office.  It is so detailed that it would take more than a day to see it all.

100 Days, 100 Nights
100 Days, 100 Nights

For someone who didn’t live through the Great Depression or World War II, it’s mind boggling.  I especially loved the museum’s recreation of a 1930s household kitchen with the radio broadcasting one of his radio chats. I could imagine gathering round and listening to his voice–rich and cultured, but not too much–all in all, something warm and comforting in a really scarey time.

Recreation of kitchen, circa 1930
Recreation of kitchen, circa 1930







Radio was the social media
Radio was the social media


Ken Burns’ wonderful series on the Roosevelts, Teddy, Eleanor and FDR–was on PBS soon after we visited Hyde Park (http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-roosevelts/watch-videos/. ) What complex individuals they all were!  My own relatives thought FDR was Satan incarnate. They were all  Republicans and thought he was a traitor to his class because he was a Democrat.  Except we weren’t of that class, just pretenders and wannabes. American history is so twisted–sometimes people vote against their best interests.

But back in FDR’s time,  we won a war partly on sheer guts and “we can do it” spirit.  And FDR believed in the power of community and the need for government not only as protector, but as stimulus and mover, helper and leader. We are still fighting those battles. Social Security is still reviled by some, but I left that flock long ago.  Count me among those who admire the Roosevelts. And highly recommend a visit to Hyde Park.

And when you’re in Washington, DC, visit the FDR Memorial near the Tidal Basin.  It is one of my favorites, right down to his little dog Fala.  And read FDR’s words–they hit home.



Too much, too little
Too much, too little



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Retired journalist, writer, editor and teacher. Our lives were lived in the Washington DC area, but I was born in upstate New York. Love nature, birding and reading. Volunteer at Ding Darling NWR . Proud mom of two, married to a wildlife photographer.

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