Introduction to Every Leader
Being There: Encountering America's Presidents
32nd President of the United States, 1933-April 1945
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary

Roosevelt Campobello International Park
New Brunswick, Canada

Visitors en route to the FDR Cottage
Visitors en route to the FDR Cottage
Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States, spent his summer vacations on Campobello Island over a period of 56 years.  His rugged and beautiful "beloved island" is located in Passamaquoddy Bay, which forms the border between the State of Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick.  He came first with his father and mother, then with his wife and children.  Here he fell ill with polio that left him partially paralyzed at the age of 39.  Today Roosevelt Campobello International Park honors his memory and symbolizes the friendship between the United States and Canada.  The 2,800 park includes the 34-room “cottage” where Roosevelt and his family lived and four other cottages dating from approximately the same period.  In the park’s natural areas, visitors can still see the beaches, bogs, forests, and magnificent views of ocean headlands that Roosevelt loved.

A group of New York and Boston entrepreneurs bought most of the southern part of Campobello Island in 1881 and began to develop it as a resort area for families from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Ottawa, and Montreal. James Roosevelt was one of the first citizens of the United States to enjoy the island’s large and luxurious hotels, bracing sea breezes, and scenic beauty.  He soon bought land and built his own cottage.  Franklin visited the island for the first time when he was only a year old.  His parents soon began to spend whole summers there.  Growing up on the island, Franklin lived an active life and acquired his life-long love of the sea and sailing.

In 1910, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved his growing family to his own house on the island, a two-story frame Dutch-Colonial cottage built in 1897.  Mrs. Hartman Kuhn, of Boston, built the house in 1897.  She came to know and like Eleanor when she and Franklin summered at his mother’s cottage next door.  When Mrs. Kuhn died, a provision in her will offered her cottage to Sara Roosevelt, at a bargain price of $5,000.  In 1909, Franklin’s mother purchased the cottage for her son and his family.

West elevation view of the Cottage
West elevation view of the Cottage
Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission

The shingle-covered frame house provided comfortable rooms, abundant light and air, beautiful views, and many picturesque verandas.  Stylistically it resembles the Dutch Colonial houses that Franklin particularly loved. Between 1910 and 1915, Franklin Roosevelt added a new wing, which blends well with the original house.  By this time, the “cottage” contained 34 rooms, including 18 bedrooms and six bathrooms. The cottage was comfortable, but had neither electricity nor a telephone.  Providing running water for bathing, cooking, and cleaning required a windmill or pump and a complex system of storage tanks in the attic. Seven fireplaces and the kitchen stove provided the only sources of heat. Franklin, Eleanor, and their growing family spent summers in the cottage from 1910 to 1921.  The young Roosevelts loved exploring the surrounding area, though Franklin’s growing political responsibilities soon limited his visits to a few days at a time. 

FDR aboard the AMBERJACK II, June 1933
FDR aboard the AMBERJACK II, June 1933
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library

In August 1921, he arrived in Campobello for his first extended visit in more than a decade.  After an ocean swim one day, he developed a high fever and his legs grew weak.  “My left leg lagged. . . Presently it refused to work, and then the other.”  At the age of 39, he had come down with polio, then usually called infantile paralysis.  The disease left him permanently disabled, and he never walked again without assistance. It took Roosevelt years of physical therapy to overcome the effects of the disease.  He worked hard at strengthening his upper body and regained some use of his legs, particularly after he began going to Warm Springs, Georgia to swim in the healing waters.  He directed and inspired the March of Dimes that eventually developed a vaccine that almost eradicated this once dreaded disease.  At his insistence, few people in the United States knew of his paralysis.  The press conspired to ensure that no pictures of the president in his wheel chair showed up in the newspapers, and no one ever mentioned his painful struggles to walk, weighed down with heavy leg braces and leaning heavily on aides.

Roosevelt did not return to Campobello for over 10 years.  In June 1933, during his first term, the schooner Amberjack II sailed from Marion, Massachusetts.  The president spent much of the trip at the helm.  His stay was too short, but the seclusion and serenity of Campobello provided needed respite during the national crisis of the Great Depression. His final brief visits occurred in 1936 and 1939, though his family continued to use the house until 1952.

Liberty Point on Campobello Island
Liberty Point on Campobello Island
Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission

The Franklin D. Roosevelt International Memorial Bridge, between Lubec, Maine and Campobello Island, New Brunswick opened in 1962.  The next year, President John F. Kennedy suggested that the home be preserved as a memorial to Roosevelt and as an expression of international peace and good will between the United States and Canada. In 1963, the owners of the house donated it, its furnishings, outbuildings, and about 10-1/2 acres of land to the governments of the United States and Canada. A joint Canada-United States commission maintains and administers the park today.  The larger part of the 2,800-acre park is a natural area offering a variety of habitats to explore. Five historic turn-of-the-century cottages, including the Roosevelt Cottage, make up the historic core of the Roosevelt Campobello International Park.  Interpretation at the Roosevelt Cottage concentrates on the 1920s, though the period of significance for the house extends from the 1880s to the 1930s.

Plan your visit

The Roosevelt Campobello International Park, located on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, is administered by the joint U.S.-Canadian Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission.  It is the only park in the world owned by the peoples of two countries and administered by a joint commission in their name. The best way to reach the park is by car; no public transportation is available.  Take Route 189 to Lubec, Maine and cross the FDR Memorial Bridge to Campobello Island. The visitor center is located approximately two miles from the bridge. The customs station is located at the southern end of the island. The park grounds are open year round from ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset.  There is no admission fee for the park. For more information visit the National Park Service Roosevelt Campobello International Park website or call 506-752-2922.

The Visitor Center is open the Saturday prior to U.S. Memorial Day through U.S. Columbus Day from 9:00am to 5:00pm seven days a week; and from  U.S. Columbus Day through October 31 from 9:00am to 4:00pm seven days a week. The Visitor Center offers exhibits about FDR and a video.

The Roosevelt Cottage is open the Saturday prior to U.S. Memorial Day through U.S. Columbus Day from 9:00am to 5:00pm seven days a week.  President Roosevelt’s office and bedroom are open to the public, along with Mrs. Roosevelt’s writing room, the living room, dining room, kitchen, family bedrooms, nursery, and laundry.  Stationed throughout the cottage, guides answer questions and provide interpretation of the house and its furnishings.

The Roosevelts enjoyed hiking, biking, canoeing, and many other outdoor recreations, some of the main reasons that they spent their summers on Campobello.  These activities can still be enjoyed in the park today.  There are 8.4 miles of driving roads located in the park's 2,800 acres and 10 miles of walking trails. Visitors can see coastal headland, rocky shore, sphagnum bog, field, and forest.  

The Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission website provides detailed information about facilities, activities, and more. Visit the National Park Service Virtual Museum Exhibit on Eleanor Roosevelt: American Visionary.

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