Visiting Hyde Park, New York

FDR

The destination for our road trip two weeks ago was Hyde Park, New York. The main draw? The home and Presidential Library of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It's a place that we've been talking about visiting for a few years and that talk always got louder when we happen to catch another round of Ken Burns's seven-part documentary, The Roosevelt's.
Early this spring our favourite band, Alabama Shakes, announced a summer concert in Albany. That was the push we needed! We bought tickets (third row!) and started planning our getaway. We had one day planned in Albany for the concert and a little site-seeing but we knew we would need a little more time to visit everything in Hyde Park and the surrounding area. We stayed two nights at the Quality Inn (which I highly recommend. Clean and comfy beds, great breakfast and fresh baked cookies in the evening. Delightful!) which was right across the street from FDR's home! We were looking for a peaceful and quiet stay and the area surrounding FDR's home offered just that. If you venture further down the main road, Albany Post Road Highway 9, you enter the bustling area of the city. Little tip, this is where you will find Dunkin Donuts which is usually a first stop for me when visiting the States.

Admission to Hyde Park, run by the National Park Service, is $18 per adult or free for children under 15. This ticket not only gives you admission to the home and Presidential Library, it is good for two days!

Hyde Park

Eleanor Roosevelt

The guided tour is timed and when you purchase your ticket at the entrance, they give you the next available. There are many things to do here if you have time to burn before your tour. There is an auditorium that plays an informational movie (each seat has a special name. Head to the first row and sit in FDR's and Eleanor's seats like AMH and I did!), a fully stocked gift shop, and a vast amount of gardens. You can head to the Presidential Library whenever you like and even walk over to the final resting place of FDR and Eleanor.

FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt

When it's your turn for the tour you meet with the tour guide who gives you a lay of the land. For those with mobility issues, there is a tram that will take you to the key points, otherwise prepare for a little walking. The walking points are just past the Presidential Library, onto the rose garden and final resting place and then onto the home, Springwood. The home is where FDR was born and lived his entire life.

FDR

The tour of the interior of Springwood starts in the main entrance and leads towards the family's library and sitting room, said to be FDR's favourite room in the home. FDR is famous for hiding as much as possible that he lost the use of his legs to polio. He refused conventional wheelchairs and instead added wheels to ordinary dining chairs, which you can see one in the photo above. 

FDR

The portrait that is displayed in this room once hung in the White House. FDR reportedly disliked this painting as he said it made him look old. For those who read Town & Country magazine, notice a copy on the table. 

Hyde Park

Let me take you on a quick tour of the home. This is a sitting room (yes that's my reflection in the mirror). I just love the molding and the addition on a gold strip. I've not seen that before and really like it!

lighting

Lighting is kept quite low in the home and visitors are asked to not use camera flashes. This is to help prevent damage to the items in each room. I just love the eagle scones in the grand foyer and was really hoping they sold something similar in the gift shop (no such luck).

blue and white

I was quite at home at Springwood, especially when I ran into an elephant side table (I have the same one at home, we named him Babar) and two blue and white garden stools. Nice to know that FDR and I had the same decorating style! 

FDR

Once you tour the main floor, you are invited upstairs. There is an elevator in the home and you can see one of FDR's modified wheelchairs in there. 

Hyde Park

FDR and Eleanor entertained royals and visiting political leaders at Springwood, including Queen Elizabeth who slept in The Chintz Room above. Other notable guests, Winston Churchill and the Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King (in office 1935-1948) which was doubly exciting for us Canadians because Mackenzie King was born in the town we live in! You can even tour his home in Kitchener, Woodside.

Hyde Park, New York

After you've toured the family bedrooms, the tour closes with a backdoor exit to one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. It was not uncommon to hear people gasp as they walked out the door. FDR returned to his family home here in Hyde Park quite often. He said this is where he felt the most as ease and relaxed and I can see why. The grounds are just stunning the view overlooking the Hudson River is too beautiful for words. 

FDR

The FDR Presidential Library was actually the very first Presidential library! It was opened on June 30, 1941, four years before his death. FDR started donating his papers to the federal government in 1939 as he believed that his papers were an important part of the national heritage and should be accessible to the public. At this time he also set in motion to allow his family home be turned over to the government and be turned into a museum. 

FDR's Presidential Library

This room is the most historic space in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum - FDR's private study. This is the President's actual office, not a recreation.

The Roosevelt Library is the only Presidential library ever used by a sitting president. When it opened to the public in June 1941, FDR was beginning his third term. He used this study as a place to conduct government business, receive visitors, and work with his books and papers during his many visits to Hyde Park (totaling over 250 days) during World War II. He also made several of his famous radio speeches, or "Fireside Chats," from this room.

Presidential Library

Want to know what 22,000 boxes filled with papers looks like? Well, here's a good start! The plaque above states that there are more than 17 million pages of documents in this library. 

FDR

Displayed in the Presidential library is Eleanor's suitcase, which was a constant companion of her's on her many, many travels. It is the exact one from the very famous photo behind it. 

1936 Ford Phaeton

As car people, our first stop in the library was FDR's car (we backtracked our whole tour to see this first!) The car is a 1936 Ford Phaeton that was modified with hand controls that allowed the President to drive it without the use of his legs.

There is so much more to see in the FDR Presidential Library which is why I think it's genius that your admission ticket is valid for two days. Frankly, you could spend a few days here just taking it all in!

If you are planning a visit to Hyde Park, make sure to check out these places:

Eleanor Roosevelt Center Val-Kill
Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park
Roosevelt Farm Lane Trail
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site

Also make a stop at The Hyde Park Brewing Company for craft beers and delicious pub food (we ate there twice!) and a little further down highway 9 for The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). There are four different restaurants and one bakery that are run by the students. The restaurants fill quickly and you need to make reservations. Check their website carefully before visiting for opening times and closures. We couldn't get a reservation to any of the restaurants so we decided a trip to the bakery would have to suffice. Turns out they closed the bakery for summer renovations on the day we visited! Oh well, guess we'll just have to go back and visit Hyde Park when they reopen!

If your up for a little drive, check out the town of Rhinebeck. Quaint town with boutiques, restaurants and beautiful homes all around. We stopped in on our way out of town and couldn't believe our eyes! We had heard about a famous candy shop and thought it would make a good pit stop. I've definitely put Rhinebeck on the list of places I want to visit again!