Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Springwood)-National Historic Site
4097 Albany Post Road
Hyde Park, NY 12538
My review on TripAdvisor:
I have visited the childhood home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt many times over the years. It is an interesting part of not just Hudson River Valley history but of American history.
Parts of the house were built in the late 1700’s and added on later by the families who lived in the house. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s father bought the house and continued to add on to it. Most of the estate is still intact as well as the homes that the President built separate from the main house to give he and his wife some privacy from his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, who owned the home until her death.
Visiting Springwood is like a step back in time. Unlike the grand mansions of the Mill’s and Vanderbilt’s up and down Route 9, Springwood looks more like a home just on a larger scale. The self-guided tour takes you through the first story of the house which includes the dining room, living room, sitting rooms and offices of the President and of his mother, who ran the staff and the household.
The house is done in dark woods, representing a time before the Victorian age when the Federalist look was in and the later additions represent the trends in Victorian style. The furnishings were functional and very homey not like the elaborate ‘over the top’ furnishes in some of the other mansions. The Roosevelt’s were old money Hudson River Valley compared to the Vanderbilt’s who money was earned after the Civil War and did not have to prove themselves to Upper Crust Society.
I was impressed with the amount of sporting goods, stuffed animal species and just the general hominess of the house. It looked like someone still lived there. The downstairs area for the servants and the kitchen are functional and not huge. This is a house that was built for a family and for entertainment but not on the scale of the Astor’s or Vanderbilt’s. It ran for a growing family that lived in the house.
Even the upstairs bedrooms looked like any other American home at the time but a touch bigger. I could see by Eleanor’s room that she did not spend much time there. You can see where the adjustments were made when the President developed polio. I am glad that the man showed determination and did not let that stop him in his life. It proved to me that a disability limits you only if you let it.
The grounds were interesting. The formal rose gardens are beautiful when in season and the estate does have views of the river. On the grounds of the estate as well is the Presidential Library, Museum and the grave sites of the President and his wife, Eleanor.
The Springwood Estate
The only problem we faced on our recent visit to the house was that a sweltering heat wave hit the Valley and the humidity hit 98 degrees. The house was boiling hot because they could not open the windows for fresh air and the whole house smelled musty and old. That is the bad part of all that wood trimming and paneling, it does smell when it is hot.
At the holidays when I visited in 2019, the house was going to be closed in April of 2020 for a full restoration and renovation of the lights, interior alarms and plumbing for about a year so the only Christmas decorations in the house was a tree in the library (the books had started to be removed from the shelves) and the formal dining room had been set for dinner.
The Christmas Tree in the library
Still the ranger talked about the history of the house and the role it played not just with the government influence during WWII but at the holidays and how Sara Delano Roosevelt had influence on her family.
The Dining Room set for dinner
Still it was an interesting tour that takes about 45 minutes and is an important part of the foundation of a very important family.
History of FDR at Springwood:
Franklin’s father, James Roosevelt purchased the 110 acre estate in 1867 for $40,000. The property included a house overlooking the Hudson River and a working farm. FDR was born in the house on January 30, 1882, the only child of Sara and James Roosevelt. Growing up with a view of the majestic Hudson River, he developed a love of the river and the valley through which it flowed. By age eight, he was sailing the Hudson. As a young adult, racing his ice yacht “Hawk” was a favorite winter pastime.
Franklin accompanied his father on daily horseback rides. During these times, he became immersed in the land, its history and particularly the trees. In later years, he expanded his parents’ land holding to nearly 1,500 acres and planted over half a million trees. His interest in tree farming translated into a New Deal program, the Civilian Conservative Corps (CCC). The CCC provided jobs to unemployed men age 17-28. Over 10 years, enrollees planted over three billion trees and built over 800 parks nationwide.
Surrounded by the rich agricultural heritage of the Hudson Valley all his life, FDR felt a strong affinity with farmers. One of the first New Deal programs instituted during the Great Depression, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, was designed to help farmers retain their land. His subsistence homestead projects relocated poverty-stricken families into government subsidized rural communities that provided decent housing, cooperative work and farming and schools.
When Franklin Roosevelt married Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905, they resided in both at Hyde Park and their New York townhouse. Franklin and Eleanor had six children, one who died in infancy. FDR supervised the expansion and redesign of the house to accommodate his growing family and his political ambitions, ensuring it reflected the Dutch Colonial architecture of the Hudson Valley.
FDR contracted polio in 1921 and was paralyzed from the waist down. He held out hope for a cure but was never able to walk again unaided. The multi-level home was adapted to his needs with ramps along the short steps. The trunk lift, installed years before the onset of FDR’s polio became his transportation to the second floor.
In 1932, FDR was elected to the first of an unprecedented four terms as President of the United States. His presidency redefined the role of government in America, establishing programs designed to improve the lives of all Americans. These programs included Social Security, the Federal Deposit and Insurance Corporation, the Securities & Exchange Commission, the establishment of minimum wage and unemployment insurance.
During his 12 years as President, FDR led the nation through an economic crisis of enormous proportions and the Second World War. He continually returned to this home he loved, seeking strength and relaxation. He entertained foreign dignitaries here including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In the small study, FDR and Churchill initiated a document known as the “Hyde Park Aide Memoire”, that outlined possible future uses of the atomic bomb.
On the afternoon of April 12, 1945, FDR died from a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, GA. He was laid to rest on April 15th in the rose garden here. One year after his death on April 12, 1946, the home was opened to the public. At the dedication, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “I think Franklin realized that people would understand the rest and peace and strength which he gained here and perhaps go away with some sense of healing and courage themselves.”
(Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Historic Site pamphlet)
History of the Springwood:
The estate was part of the 1697 agreement of the English Crown that gave 220 square miles to a group of nine businessmen from New York City. To ensure that everyone had access to the river, the land was divided into “Water Lots”, one of which was deeded to William Creed, one of the nine partners.
The central part of Springwood is believed to have been formed from 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 town at the south end as well as front and rear piazzas spanning the entire length of the house.
In 1866, the estate which has been reduced to one square mile, James Roosevelt bought the house and expanded the main house adding the servants wing, two more rooms and the carriage house. James Roosevelt passed away in 1900.
In 1915, FDR and his mother, Sara made the final additions and renovations to the house for the growing family and for entertaining political and family friends. Sara Roosevelt used the New York firm of Hoppin & Koen and doubled the size of the house by adding two large fieldstone wings (designed by FDR), a tower and a third story with a flat roof. The clapboard exterior of the house was replaced by stucco and most of the porch was replaced with a fieldstone terrace with a balustrade and a small columned portico around the entrance. The inside layout of the house was redesigned also to accommodate FDR’s growing collections of books, paintings, stamps and coins.
The grounds were also changed with the planting of almost 400,000 trees all over the estate in a thirty year period. Today large portions of the estate have been turned over to the Forestry Department of Syracuse University.
Disclaimer: The history of the Springwood and of FDR are living there was taken from Wiki writings and the pamphlet of The Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Site and I give their writers full credit for the information. Please see the attachments from the National Park site for more information.