Monday, May 19, 2008

Escape to Hyde Park

FDR in his Ford Phaeton

After spending two days in New York City, we decided that that weather was good enough to head north alongside the Hudson River and look around a bit at the Hudson Valley.

Our goal was Hyde Park, where the family home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is to be found, along with his Presidential Library.

Hyde Park is not very far from the city, perhaps 150 kms away, and we began by driving up the Taconic Scenic Parkway before opting to do a bit to the west and try to follow the Hudson itself. We drove through Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, among other places, before passing the Culinary Institute of America and arriving in Hyde Park itself.

Springwood

The FDR home was very easy to find, and we parked in front of the Visitors' Center, which is quite elaborate. We signed on to a tour and soon found ourselves walking past the FDR Presidential Library, the first Presidential library and actually built in his lifetime, before coming to Springwood, the imposing house where FDR was born and raised. The house has maintained almost exactly as it was when he lived there. In fact, he visited the house only two weeks before dying rather suddenly in Warm Springs, Georgia. He and his mother had decided that upon his death the house and grounds would be given to the people of the United States and it is managed by the National Park Service.

After visiting the house and passing the stable, we saw where he and Eleanor Roosevelt are buried, near a white monument in a rose garden, before returning to the Library, which has an excellent display of the President and First Lady's life and times, including his Oval Office desk and the famous Ford Phaeton modified for hand controls. There was a recent exhibition about the American economic situation when Roosevelt became President and his efforts to bring the country back to prosperity. The commentary was very even-handed, pointing out that his recovery program had its share of failures.

Fala

The exhibits about Roosevelt's life and career are superb and quite comprehensive. The fact that he was a fairly recent President and that as the only one elected to four terms he must have be concerned with posterity means that it was easy to collect everything needed for the Library. So there is a lot of material from his childhood, his prep school days at Groton, and early political career. Life on Campobello Island, in New Brunswick, is also covered, with charming period photos showing the rich folk at play. There is even an nice little exhibit about the famous Scottish Terrier, Fala, who outlived his master by seven years, including his various leashes, collars and toys, including the ones found in the Oval Office after the death of Roosevelt.

Although I did not cycle on this trip, I have considered riding the Hudson Valley. There is a bike trail, Bikeway Route 9, that runs from Albany to New York City and it passes by Hyde Park. I noticed the signs along the way and given the number of fascinating places to visit in the Valley it would probably be worth the effort.

3 comments:

Donald said...

History that needs to be appreciated. Thanks for the informative post.

Groover said...

Thanks for posting this very interesting sightseeing report. I really like NYC but haven't been there since 1999.
Shame you didn't have your bike this time.

Harp said...

I may be heading to hyde park for work soon. I might have to bring my bike.