Historic Sites and Buildings
This rambling country house, overlooking the Hudson River, was the birthplace and lifelong home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although his law career and public service made it necessary for him to maintain several other residences throughout his life, he always considered Hyde Park his permanent home and returned to it as often as possible. His grave as well as that of his wife, is on the grounds of the estate, as is also the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.
From the time of his birth at Hyde Park in 1882, Roosevelt traveled extensively with his parents, James and Sara Delano Roosevelt. They maintained a winter apartment in New York City; a summer cottage on Campobello Island, in New Brunswick, Canada; and frequently toured Europe. Nonetheless, Franklin, who received his elementary education from governesses and tutors, spent considerable time at his birthplace home. These interludes diminished during the years 1896-1904 when he was away at Groton School, a private boarding establishment at Groton, Mass., and Harvard University.
Meantime, in 1900 James Roosevelt had died and his widow received lifetime use of the 500-acre estate, actually bequeathed to Franklin. In 1904 the latter entered law school at Columbia University, in New York City, where the next year he married his fifth cousin Eleanor. Thereafter, his career kept him away from Hyde Park for extended periods, especially after he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913. On several occasions he utilized it as a campaign headquarters. And it was an invaluable retreat for him following 1921, the year after he was defeated for the U.S. Vice-Presidency, when he was stricken with infantile paralysis, though beginning in 1924 he frequently visited Warm Springs, Ga.
As a "summer White House" during the Presidential years (1933-45), Hyde Park provided Roosevelt with respite from the turmoil of public life and was the scene of several conferences and events of national and international significance. Notables he entertained there include Winston Churchill, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Britain, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.
In 1941, when Sara Delano Roosevelt died at the age of 87, Franklin assumed full jurisdiction over the estate. Three years earlier, he and his it as a gift to the Federal Government provided that Eleanor Roosevelt and her children would retain the right to live out their lives there. In 1944, after appropriate congressional action, the Secretary of the Interior declared the property a national historic site. The next year, shortly after Franklin's death, his widow waived the family's residence rights. The following year, the National Park Service opened the house and grounds to the public.
The oldest portion of the house, incorporated into the front central section of the present structure, dates to the early 1800's. It was a modest, two-story Victorian residence, 46 feet long and 39 feet wide. The walls, constructed of vertical heavy timbers and crude brick filling, were covered with wide clapboards. Two tall end chimneys projected from the gable roof. The first floor contained an entrance hall and four rooms; the second floor, four rooms and a large closet. Josiah Wheeler, who occupied the house from 1845 until 1867, attached a three-story tower to its south side and a two-story service wing to the north. Other improvements included the addition of a garden, incorporating a greenhouse and grapery; a carriage house over a stable; and a gardener's cottage.
In 1867 James Roosevelt acquired this 116-acre estate, which he named Springwood. In 1887, or 7 years after his second marriage, to Sara Delano, he added a two-story bay to the rear of the central section. At one end of the bay, he attached a one-story, octagonal smoking room, later raised to two stories to provide a second-floor bedroom. In 1893 he extended an existing veranda from the front around the south end of the house to the dining room door at the rear, and in 1900 enlarged the service wing.
In 1915-16 Franklin and his mother renovated and enlarged the house, which at that time assumed its present H-shape. Laborers stripped off the clapboards and covered the exterior with gray stucco to match two, two-story stone wings that they constructed at the north and south ends of the structure; lowered the tower on the south side and added another on the north service wing to match it; raised the roof between the towers to provide an additional third-floor room; flattened the gable roof; and removed the veranda from the front and south end of the building. At the front of the main house, between the towers, a small Doric-columned portico and large balustraded stone terrace were constructed. As finished in 1916, the residence consisted of 35 rooms and 9 baths. Its facade was Georgian. During subsequent years, the Roosevelts made no major structural alterations.
Today, the house, its furnishings, and the grounds appear essentially as they did at the time of Roosevelt's death. The main living areas on the first two floors are open to the public; servants' rooms, utility and work rooms, and the third floor are closed. Most of the furnishings date from the 1850's through the 1920's and only a few items postdate 1930. Portraits include those of various family members, and many of the paintings reflect Franklin's nautical interest.
The central section of the first floor contains a substantial entrance hall, and Dresden, dining, and smoking rooms. Between the main house and the south wing, which contains a huge living room-library that was added in 1916, is a hallway and small "snuggery," the sitting and writing room of Sara Roosevelt. Franklin presented several of his radio "fireside chats" from the living room-library. In the north wing are his study (the "summer White House"), the kitchen, servants' hall, and various utility rooms. In the study, in 1942, Roosevelt and Churchill decided to launch the research program that created the atomic bomb; and, from there, Roosevelt gave his last campaign speech of the 1944 Presidential campaign over the radio. The second floor is comprised of nine bedrooms (including the one where Roosevelt was born) and guestrooms, plus servants' quarters. Three additional bedrooms, a nursery, and a playroom are on the third floor.
Outbuildings include the coachhouse, built by James Roosevelt in 1886 to shelter riding and work horses; the stable-garage put up by Josiah Wheeler about 1850 to accommodate trotting horses and used by James Roosevelt for the same purpose, but after 1910 converted into a garage; a laundry erected about 1850; an equipment shed dating from 1911; a small icehouse built before 1867 and a larger one constructed in 1898; a greenhouse erected in 1906; and two cottages for servants. The graves of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt are a short distance to the northeast of the house in the rose garden, which is enclosed by a century-old hemlock hedge and assumed its present design in 1912.
Also on the grounds is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, built in 1939-40, the first such Presidential institution administered by the Federal Government. He used an office in it during the last few years of his life. The library not only houses thousands of books and papers relating to his era, but also provides public research facilities and serves as a museum of Roosevelt memorabilia. It is administered by the General Services Administration.
Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004