Last updated: June 22, 2016
There is perhaps no one who did more for the conservation and preservation of America's natural environment and history than President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. During the Great Depression, FDR used conservation as a means toward job growth. He created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which employed hundreds of thousands of young men to plant trees, build infrastructure, and develop national parks, such as the Shenandoah National Park. The CCC is believed to be the first green jobs program in the country.
In addition to establishing several national parks, FDR designated the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in 1940 after the donation by Frederick Vanderbilt's niece, Margaret Van Alen. FDR arranged for his own home, Springwood to become part of the National Park Service in 1943, and opened to the public one year to the day after his death. When Eleanor died in 1962, the contents of Val-Kill was sold at auction and the building was turned into apartments. In the early 70's it was sold to developers. In 1977 local groups including ERVK (Eleanor Roosevelt's Val-Kill, Inc.) pushed for the protection of Val-Kill as a memorial to Mrs. Roosevelt. President Carter designated it in 1977, and it opened to the public in 1984.After FDR died, his retreat home, Top Cottage, was lived in briefly by his son John. It was later sold and lived in by the same family until the NPS acquired it. Top Cottage became part of the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in May 2001.Because of their close proximity, the sites were all combined into what is now known as the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site. Also on property is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, which is owned and operated by the National Archives and Records Administration.
The NPS has kept the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt NHS in pristine condition with all or most of the original furnishings in each house (Eleanor's Val-Kill is still missing some original pieces). And volunteers have restored the gardens at both the Vanderbilt Mansion and Val-Kill to their original glory. When you visit our park, it's like stepping back into time.
The park receives over half a million visitors a year and hosts many exciting and educational events, such as the annual picnic at Val-Kill or concerts in front of the Vanderbilt Mansion. But, as you might expect, there are a lot of artifacts, documents, and behind-the-scenes work that our visitors do not get to see day-to-day. So, our media team is starting a weekly blog series to immerse readers in all of the hard work that goes into making the park one-of-a-kind.
We will publish personal stories about our employees, volunteers, and visitors; promote some of our more exclusive events; and expose some of the things and places you don't get to see when you visit the park due to their very precious or delicate nature. There is so much yet to learn and we are very excited to share it with you.
Check back for next week's blog about the Hyde Park Fourth of July Parade, which will be celebrating 100 years of the National Park Service!