1867, 15 years before Franklin Roosevelt was born,
his father, James Roosevelt, bought the house at Springwood.
It was a large farmhouse built around 1800, but James,
and later Sara and Franklin, transformed it into something
grander. The previous owner had already built a three-story
tower and a full-length covered porch. James added
two rooms, enlarged the servants' wing, and built
a large carriage house for his prized horses and carriages.
In 1915, Franklin and
his mother added a tower on the right and large fieldstone
wings, replaced the clapboard exterior with stucco,
raised the pitched roof to create a flat-roofed third
story, and replaced most of the porch with a large
fieldstone terrace with balustrade and a small columned
portico. Franklin also planted many varieties of trees
on the grounds, eventually turning large sections
of the estate into an experimental forestry station.
Some of his work is still in evidence.
The house, too, retains
his stamp. Four times he stood on the terrace on election
nights to greet well-wishers. When he was there, he
conducted the business of the presidency from his
office. In the main hall are his boyhood collection
of stuffed birds and a bronze sculpture of him in
1911 when he was 29 and serving his first term in
the New York State Senate.
Formal entertaining took
place in the Dresden Room and Dining Room, while the
family liked to gather in the more casual Living Room/Library.
Here, too, Roosevelt could pursue his hobbies, poring
over his stamp collection or building ship models.
Upstairs is the Birth Room, with the bed in which
he was born, and his Boyhood Bedroom, later used by
each of his sons in turn.
Prime Minister Winston
Churchill and King George VI, among other notables,
stayed in other rooms off the same hall. The bedroom
he used as President remains as it was during his
last stay in March 1945, shortly before his death,
with the magazines and books he was reading just as
he left them. He loved this room, partly because of
the beautiful view across the south lawn and down
the Hudson River.
Both Franklin and Eleanor
Roosevelt are buried at Springwood, in the hemlock
walled Rose Garden.
A Brief History of FDR
From birth, Franklin
Roosevelt was one of a tight-knit clan that valued tradition
and continuity. A major player in the events of the
20th century and a man whose life was turned upside
down by personal tragedy, Roosevelt was sustained by
constants: a large family, old friends, and the house
and grounds of Springwood. Franklin's father James,
who bought the house in 1867, was seventh in a line
of Roosevelts who were prominent members of New York
City society. The Roosevelts had ties to the Hudson
River Valley dating back to the 17th century, but it
was not until 1818 that Franklin Roosevelt's great grandfather
moved to the Hyde Park area. They were wealthy, though
not on a scale with the neighboring Vanderbilts.
In any case, James Roosevelt disapproved of ostentation,
and Springwood was modest compared to many of the estates
that lined the Hudson above New York City.
Like other families of
their class, the Roosevelts spent the winter social
season in New York City. They also owned a summer
house on the Canadian island of Campobello, but Springwood
was home. While James was a careful manager of his
inherited wealth, making money was not the center
of his life. He preferred to live the life of an English
country squire---seeing to his horses and cattle,
hunting, fishing, iceboating, and riding on the grounds.
Sara shared James' affection for the place, declaring
that the Roosevelts and other Hudson Valley gentry
were "living life as it should be." To young Franklin,
whose father passed on to him his love for the outdoors,
the estate's woods and fields were paradise. Springwood
remained the center of his life until he left for
boarding school at 14. In his later years Franklin
reminisced about his childhood there: "In thinking
back to my earliest days, I am impressed by the peacefulness
and regularity of things both in respect to place
After James Roosevelt
died in 1900 Sara and Franklin, then a freshman at
Harvard, continued to live in the house. When he married
Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905, the young couple moved
in with Sara, in whose name the house remained until
her death in 1941. Franklin's work and political career
required that the family live elsewhere for long periods,
but they returned to Springwood whenever possible.
During his years as Governor of New York and President,
Springwood was the nucleus of his life and career.
It was haven and political headquarters, and it was
here that he entertained numerous dignitaries. Throughout
his presidency he returned some 200 times for temporary
respite from Washington and for the nourishment Springwood
gave him. By 1944, though, ill and weary from the
intensity of the war effort, there was a note of finality
when he said: "All that is within me cries out to
go back to my home on the Hudson River."
Franklin Roosevelt donated
his home and 33 acres to the American people in 1943,
on the condition that his family be allowed to use
it after his death. It was transferred to the Department
of the Interior on November 21, 1945, after the family
relinquished their lifetime rights. The Home of Franklin
D. Roosevelt National Historic Site and Library, which
contains 290 acres, is administered by the National
Park Service, US Department of the Interior.
The home may be visited
by guided tour only. Tickets may be purchased at the
kiosk adjacent to the parking lot. The grounds are
open from 8AM until dusk daily, and are open to the
public. There is a network of hiking and walking trails
that lead from the upper level, where the house is
sited, down to the river.
Please walk on the designated
paths. Do not approach or attempt to feed any wildlife;
cases of rabies have been reported in the area. There
are poisonous snakes and plants. Ticks carrying Lyme
disease have been found in Dutchess County.
Only the first floor of
the home is accessible to the physically impaired.
An album of photographs of the second floor is available.
Accessible restrooms are available nearby. Signing
or other special accommodations may be possible with
The Home of Franklin D.
Roosevelt National Historic Site and Library are located
on Route 9, just south of the center of the village
of Hyde Park.