Farmgirl Roadtrip: A Visit With The Roosevelts

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When I was a child, my parents and teachers first sparked my lifelong interest in history, especially American history. I’ve always hoped my daughter would share that passion. My family and I have visited some amazing historical places all over the world, but the road trip we took recently to visit the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and to our nation’s first US presidential library in Hyde Park, New York, is one of the most interesting and memorable places we’ve ever been.

Mention New York, and people immediately visualize New York City, but there’s also many rural areas in New York State. The National Historic site of FDR’s birthplace, home and resting site, as well as the FDR Presidential Library and museum (http://www.nps.gov/hofr/index.htm and http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/), are located by the Hudson River in the scenic town of Hyde Park, New York. Hyde Park is close enough for my family to take a day trip, so we decided to visit for our last road trip before school started.

We can't wait for our tour to start!

We can’t wait for our tour to start!

When we arrived, we decided to first take the guided tour of Springwood, FDR’s historic home, maintained by the National Park Service. Our tour guide was wonderful; he was entertaining and personable while telling us the history behind the stunning estate and the great man who called it home.

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We walked through the front door, crossing the same threshold that many great figures in history had walked through. The property was purchased by Roosevelt’s father, and is the home where FDR was born.

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If walls could talk!

If walls could talk!

Touring the home and learning its history, one can’t help but visualize the Roosevelt family and their day to day life there. We saw some of FDR’s collections, his library, dining room, and “The Snuggery” – the cozy, charming room FDR’s mother, Sara used for breakfast and tasks such as giving the servants orders for the day or bill paying.

"The Snuggery"

“The Snuggery”

President Roosevelt was strong and athletic before paralysis occurred in his legs when he contracted polio as an adult at age 39. FDR would retire to the upstairs of the home, using his great upper body strength, by pulling a rope to operate the elevator.

The hand-pulled elevator and the President's wheelchair

The hand-pulled elevator and the President’s wheelchair

Once out of the elevator, FDR would still need to make his way up these stairs.

Once out of the elevator, FDR would still need to make his way up these stairs.

Upstairs, we viewed rooms such as the bedroom that President Roosevelt was born in, and his and Eleanor’s private chambers. I enjoyed also seeing personal items such as family photographs and art.

The room and bed where  President Roosevelt was born.

The room and bed where President Roosevelt was born.

The First Lady's room

The First Lady’s room

What a view from upstairs!

What a view from upstairs!

The grounds outside the estate and library were beautiful; the rose garden breathtaking.

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The President and First Lady are buried in the rose garden.

The President and First Lady are buried in the rose garden.

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My husband and daughter catch up while walking among the amazing flowers.

My husband and daughter chat while walking among the amazing flowers.

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This was made from a piece of the Berlin wall by Winston Churchill's granddaughter, Edwinda Sandys. The companion piece is found at the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library, Fulton, Missouri.

This was made from a piece of the Berlin wall by Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, Edwina Sandys. The companion piece is found at the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library, Fulton, Missouri.

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Next, we decided to tour the self-guided tour of the FDR presidential library, part of the National Archives and Records Administration. From outside, it did not look to be as large as it is on the inside. What historical treasures are seen here!

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The Eleanor Roosevelt quilt sent to the First Lady from Calla Jeffries, Sulphur Springs, TX in 1940.

The Eleanor Roosevelt quilt sent to the First Lady from Calla Jeffries, Sulphur Springs, TX in 1940.

My daughter's favorite item on display was this movie still signed and given to the President for his birthday from Walt Disney...

My daughter’s favorite item on display was this movie still signed and given to the President for his birthday from Walt Disney…

while my favorite was the badge presented to FDR by Shirley Temple in 1938. On the set of "Heidi", she was dubbed the "chief" for her ability to keep the others in order.

…while my favorite was the badge presented to FDR by Shirley Temple in 1938. On the set of “Heidi”, she was dubbed the “chief” for her ability to keep the others in order.

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This is an aquamarine!

This is an aquamarine!

When we would think we had seen it all, we would find more to view. There were things to see like letters from people such as Albert Einstein or heads of state, priceless items from all over the world, memorabilia from the war, and personal effects of the President and First Lady. At one interactive display, there was a lever to lift, illustrating how heavy President Roosevelt’s leg braces had been. The weight was astounding! There were places to sit a spell while watching short movies about FDR and his years as president, and rooms set up to illustrate what American homes would have looked like during that era. At one display, while listening to one of Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats being broadcast, I couldn’t help but think of  my grandparents, imagining them listening to the original broadcast, and what they were thinking at the time.

My daughter stands in one of the long halls filled with American history. It was like being in a time machine.

My daughter stands in one of the long halls filled with American history. It was like being in a time machine.

"Mama, what IS this thing, and how did it work? Audrey ponders the rotary phone at an interactive display.

“Mama, what IS this thing, and how did it work?” My thirteen year old ponders the rotary phone at an interactive display.

Eleanor's presence was here, as well. She was one of my favorite First Ladies to read about.

Eleanor’s presence was also greatly recorded here. She’s one of my favorite First Ladies.

The Roosevelt's famous first dog was represented, too.

The Roosevelt’s famous dog was represented, too.

There was more to see than we’d realized. Before we knew it, time had flown by, we’d spent the entire day, and it was almost closing time.

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Because a joint ticket is offered by the National Park Service and National Archives for touring both the FDR home and FDR presidential library and museum for only $18 for adults, we were pleasantly surprised that we spent an educating and entertaining family day for under $40 (children under 15 are free). If you have a fourth grader or fourth grade level home schooler, check out https://www.everykidinapark.gov/, and get free admission for your family. We were also pleased that our thirteen year old daughter was so engaged. She couldn’t wait to meet this school year’s history teacher, and find out if she would get to learn more about President Roosevelt.

Also in Hyde Park, NY is the Vanderbilt mansion and park. We will save that for another time, but did drive through the park.

Also in Hyde Park, NY is the Vanderbilt mansion and park. We saved that tour for another time, but did drive through the park.

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Next time we visit Hyde Park, we also hope to tour Roosevelt’s “Top Cottage” (his retreat from the bustle of Springwood, and Eleanor’s home, “Val-Kill”, as we ran out of time.

The home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Presidential Library is somewhere all ages can enjoy, and we can’t wait to visit again.

 Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 20 Comments

  1. Denise says:

    Gosh what an Amazing place. I love history too. If I ever make it to the states one day it’s on my bucket list to see. Looking forward to seeing more of your history when you post :)
    Hugs from Australia

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Denise! I am so glad you enjoyed our “visit”. I’ve now got a new place on my list to bring visiting friends and family. And if you ever visit the East Coast of the United States, you be sure and let me know! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

      • Denise Ross says:

        Thank you Nicole, I certainly will.
        I’ll offer the same to you and your family, if you ever come my way, please let me know I’d love to show some of my country too :)

        • Nicole Christensen says:

          Hi Denise…You never know…Australia is on my daughter’s list of places she’d like to visit, and I have always wanted to go there too. Maybe someday we will meet! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Nicole, I really enjoyed reading your blog about FDR! I remember my father talking a lot about him and admiring him. I was too small so my first memory is of Harry Truman. But Roosevelt was President when I and my twin sister were born. We were five months old when Pearl Harbor was bombed and FDR declared us in World War II. I did like Eleanor Roosevelt and feel she did a lot of good things for our country. Beautiful rose gardens as you showed. Love, Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mom! Next time you visit, we will take you there. I know you will really enjoy it. Oh, and I did think of Grandma Shug and her roses there – many of them were her favorite colors. Love you, Nicole

  3. Susana says:

    AND I THOUGHT JEFFERSONS PLANTATION Was large.. nice. Blog…..now I know where to. Go for a. Nice. Sightseeing trip. In My state to see in my state I wasn’t aware of. Thanks. Susana

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Susana, And I should put Jefferson’s plantation on my list of “must see’s”, too. Thanks for the comment! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Diane says:

    If you loved the Roosevelt estimate, you are going to love Valkill which was Eleanor’s house. My daughter and I went to both and we really loved Valkill. I live about 30 minutes away and we had a great time there too. Also, you may want to know and try out one time, on the Roosevelt estate they have a “Knit In” which Eleanor always tried to make items for the soldiers. This usually happens in May and it is a great group of ladies that get together one afternoon and knit or crochet 7×9 rectangles. Then other women stitch them together to make blankets for local charities. Some of us already bring finished rectangles so that we are ahead of the game. If you would like more information – let me know. Have a great day! Diane

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Diane, Yes, we definitely need to see Val-Kill. We just ran out of time, but gives us something to look forward to. Please tell me more about the knit in! I’d love that! I will email you directly. Thanks for sharing! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. lynn says:

    Wow, that looks like a fascinating place to go visit. Thanks for sharing all the details.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Lynn, It truly was! I can’t wait to go back and see what I missed. I’ve also been told we should dine at the Culinary Institute nearby, though I have not researched it myself yet. Glad you enjoyed the post…thanks for dropping by. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Joan says:

    Thank you for a tour of sites I have always wanted to visit. So interesting. Glad you got to do this tour and hope Hyde Park and the others will be your next ones. Thanks again. God bless.

  7. Diane says:

    I look forward to telling you more about Valkill and the Knit In. If you and your daughter do come, my daughter and I would love to meet you there. We loved it so much that we would love to do it again. Do you love Cross Stitch – I also have a friend who owns a store close by. I think it would be a lot of fun to meet you! Have a great weekend! Diane

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Diane, I would love to hear more. Maybe we farmgirls CAN meet up! Wouldn’t that be so much fun? Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  8. Susabelle says:

    What a neat day trip! I had the pleasure of taking my kids and hubby to Springfield, Illinois, to tour the Lincoln Presidential Museum a few years back. We lived in St. Louis at the time. It was well worth what we paid and we learned so much!

    If your daughter would like to learn more about the Roosevelts, see if you can get a DVD from the library of PBS’s Roosevelt mini series that ran last fall. I watched it with my mom (she’s 75, I’m 54) and I learned so much! It covers all the Roosevelts, so Teddy as well as FDR. Fascinating stuff!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Susabelle, Thank you for the suggestion! My whole family likes to watch series like that together, so I will definitely look for it. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  9. Sheila says:

    Having grown up in the Hudson Valley, I have visited both the Roosevelt and Vanderbilt mansions many times. They are so full of interesting things that each time one visits, more and more is discovered. It is akin to re-reading a favorite book or watching a favorite movie again. As one gets older, the points of interest change and each trip gives opportunities for further knowledge. The Newport Mansions have the same effect. One year the interest is in the gardens, the next perhaps is dedicated to the architecture. I am glad you enjoyed your trip and am also very glad you mentioned going to the Vanderbilt Mansion. It is spectacular also, but on a different scale. I now feel the urge to go on a road trip…and after all, the Hudson Valley is beautiful in the fall.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Sheila, Isn’t that true? I love to visit sites more than once, if I can. I always see something I’ve missed, or something different. Great comment…thank you! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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