Welcome to the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. This is the birthplace and final resting place of our nation’s 32nd President. Elected to an unprecedented four terms, Roosevelt led the United States through two national crises, the Great Depression and World War II, along with other events that fundamentally altered the course of American history.
Franklin’s father, James Roosevelt, purchased this property in 1867. He paid $40,000 for a 17-room Italianate-style house on 110 acres. He renamed it Springwood.
By the time FDR died in 1945, the property grew to nearly 1,600 acres extending east from the Hudson River with about eighteen buildings, including Springwood (or the Big House), Val-Kill, Top Cottage, gardens, a working farm, and the nation’s first Presidential Library and Museum.
In 1939, FDR made arrangements for this place to become a National Historic Site. After his death, Eleanor Roosevelt and his children waived their life interest in the property, and gave full title to the United States government. The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site opened to the public on April 12, 1946, the first anniversary of the President’s death.
This was the place where FDR spent most of his time during his formative years, and where he gained many of the values and experiences that shaped his personal and political views. During his political career, Roosevelt used Springwood for rest from the demands of public life, but the business of the government continued even here. FDR made about 137 visits to Hyde Park during his 12 years in office, entertaining and conferring with political associates, labor organizers, royalty, and world leaders—all with a common goal to build a nation and a world united in prosperity and peace.
James Roosevelt moved into this house with his wife Rebecca Howland and their son James in 1867 after their home at Mount Hope was destroyed by fire. The house looked very different then—a wooden structure in the Italianate style with broad porches and a tower on the south end rising three stories.
Rebecca died in 1876. In 1880, James married Sara Delano, one of the four daughters of Warren Delano II, known to New York society as “the beautiful Delano sisters.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in this house on January 30, 1882. Boyhood experiences at Springwood profoundly shaped FDR’s character, interests, and later, his public policies. Franklin and Eleanor were married on March 17, 1905. As their family grew, so did this house. In 1915, it was enlarged to 35 rooms, adding a third floor and wings to the north and south. The house was transformed into a stylish Colonial Revival home befitting FDR’s political aspirations.
In later years, Eleanor recalled memories of this terrace, where Franklin always stood “with his mother to greet important guests,” and where he stood “when his friends and neighbors came to congratulate him after each nomination and on every election night."
Family heirlooms, artwork, and naval prints personally selected by FDR for this room represents the President’s heritage and important moments in his life. The hall is dominated by a life-size, bronze statue of FDR at the age of 29. Nelly Blodgett, Franklin’s godmother, commissioned this sculpture in 1911 to commemorate his entry into politics which began in 1910 when he was elected to serve as a Senator in the New York State Legislature and culminated in his presidency. This room also highlights FDR’s wide-ranging personal interests. A collection of framed political cartoons hangs to the right of the dining room doorway. Most evident, however, is FDR’s passion for sailing and U.S. Naval history covering the walls of this room. One of his earliest collections is on display behind the statue—specimens of birds he shot as a boy and mounted with the help of a professional taxidermist. Through his knowledge of birding, Franklin could recognize the birdsong of every species in the Hudson Valley.
The Roosevelts were an old New York family. The first Roosevelt to arrive in North America came from Holland around 1650. A portrait of FDR’s great-great-grandfather, Isaac “The Patriot” Roosevelt, hangs over the fireplace on the far left side of this room. Isaac was a member of the Provincial Congress that ratified the United States Constitution. His son James Roosevelt, FDR’s great-grandfather, hangs over the fireplace on the opposite side of the room. In 1818, James was the first Roosevelt to build a home in the Hudson Valley.
The large portrait of FDR on the easel was painted by Ellen Emmett Rand in 1932—the first formal portrait of FDR as President of the United States. The leather chairs on either side of the fireplace at the far end of this room were used by FDR during his first and second terms as Governor of New York State. To the left of these, the large desk in the corner is where FDR spent many hours with a favorite pastime—his stamp collection, which included well over one million specimens. Perhaps the most important object in this room is FDR’s wheelchair. FDR became permanently paralyzed in 1921 when he was diagnosed with infantile paralysis, commonly known as Polio. This chair was made to FDR’s specifications, designed to easily navigate the narrow corridors and tight turns typical in old houses. As you leave the library, take special note of the removable ramp below you, this ramp allowed FDR to use his wheelchair to access the Library.
The Music Room is the most formal room in the house. It is sometimes called the “Dresden Room” because the chandelier, clock, and candelabra on the fireplace mantle were purchased by James Roosevelt during one of his many trips to Dresden, Germany.
The room also includes important furnishings brought from China by the Delano family. Sara’s father, Warren Delano II, made a large fortune in China, exporting tea, silk, porcelain, furniture, and opium. Delano achieved financial success and became the head partner of the largest American firm in the China trade.
Sara redecorated this room for the visit of the King and Queen of England in 1939. The photographs on the piano represent many of the family’s distinguished guests. Notable figures include, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, Princess Martha of Norway, Princess Julianna of the Netherlands, and Madame Chang Kai-shek of China.
It is incredible to imagine this small dining room serving the growing Roosevelt family and the constant stream of people visiting Springwood to meet with the president. As FDR’s political life expanded, so did the guest list for luncheons and dinners. Sara employed about a dozen servants to manage life at Springwood. The staff consisted of maids, butlers, valets, gardeners, cooks, and governesses. But as Eleanor recalled, “after we went to the White House, the big house at Hyde Park became more of an official residence, and at time we brought extra people to help his mother’s employees because of the large number of guests who followed the President, and the extra staff that must come with him.” The room is unfurnished today while restoration of the alcove nears completion.
FDR’s ambition as a young man was to become a naval officer, a career discouraged by his father. Yet, as an influential Assistant Secretary of the Navy during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and the First World War, he helped build America’s modern naval fleet. The painting hanging on the stair landing commemorates the arrival of the first American destroyers sent to aid the British in World War I. U.S. destroyers approached Queenstown, Ireland on May 4, 1917 to hunt German submarines that were cutting off transport to England. The arrival of these American ships was commemorated in this painting by the British artist Bernard F. Gribble, Prized by FDR among his naval collection, this painting was in the Oval Office at the White House until he brought it to Hyde Park in 1942. As you reach the top of the stairs, you will see on the right side of the landing, the chair lift that FDR used to navigate his wheelchair between floors. Although many Americans had known about FDR’s infantile paralysis, he was successful in managing public perception. With significant physical aid and the cooperation of journalists, FDR could convey the illusion of walking or standing in public. But those who had unfiltered access to the president, would see that he could not.
This was FDR’s bedroom as a young man. As Eleanor recalled “he hung many of his school and college diplomas and pictures in there. As a member of an upper class family, Franklin had access to some of the best education available. As a young boy, he was educated at home by a governess. He later attended the Groton School in Massachusetts. He attended Harvard, where he was editor of the school’s newspaper, the Crimson. After Harvard, he studied law at Columbia University. The stairs to the left of the doorway lead to the third floor children’s bedrooms, the nursery, playroom, and bedrooms for nurses and nannies. Continuing to your right down the second floor hall, several bedrooms line both sides. These rooms were occupied by a range of family associates, and important guests, from FDR’s secretaries Missy LeHand and Grace Tully, to more famous visitors, like Winston Churchill.
This was James and Sara’s bedroom. Franklin was born in this bed on January 30, 1882. He weighed 10 pounds at birth. After James died in 1900, Sara continued to use this room until she occupied one of the new bedrooms in the 1915 south wing addition. This one was then used as a guest room. Following her death in 1941, and according to her wishes, Sara’s furniture was returned to this location. It was a gesture, intending to memorialize Springwood as the birthplace of her son, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Down the hall, at the intersection, take note of the mirror on the wall. It was installed by the Secret Service to remove a blind spot. This allowed the President’s security personnel to check for intruders while not invading the family’s privacy.
Franklin and Eleanor occupied this room following the 1915 Springwood expansion. By Eleanor’s own account, she moved to the smaller adjacent room after FDR contracted polio so that attendants could administer his physical needs throughout the night. The chair near the fireplace was sometimes where FDR’s Scottish Terrier, Fala, slept. Fala became quite a celebrity, frequently appearing in photographs and newsreels attending conferences with the president and world leaders or inspecting defense plants. After FDR’s death, Fala lived with Eleanor at Val-Kill. He is buried in the Rose Garden, just beyond the grave of Franklin and Eleanor. A marble column marks his burial site. From this corner of the house, FDR could see the Hudson River. During his presidency, he would spend much of his mornings here conducting the business of the nation—signing correspondence, executive orders, and appropriation bills in this room. One of the telephones next to his bed provided direct access to the White House switchboard operator. The small dressing room to the right is filled with some of FDR’s original clothing, including one of his signature fedoras.
Before you leave, take a look at the back side of the house. In doing so, you’ll get a glimpse of how the Roosevelts altered Springwood. Still evident on this side are many stylistic details that remain from the time before the 1915 renovation.
This expansive south lawn is where the Roosevelt once enjoyed family celebrations and a view of their beloved Hudson River.
FDR once said, “My heart has always been here, it always will be.” This place—a place of fond childhood memories, of riding horses through the woods, of boating on the Hudson, a place with deep family roots—was magnetic for FDR all of his life. It was his wish that this place would continue to draw and inspire the American people. At the dedication of the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, on April 12, 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “I think Franklin realized that the house and the peaceful resting place behind the high hedge with flowers blooming around it would perhaps mean something to the people of the United States. They would understand the rest and peace and strength which he had gained here and perhaps learn to come and go away with some sense of healing and courage themselves.”
On Behalf of the National Park Service, thank you for visiting the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site.