Column: Visiting FDR’s Springwood Estate


In our continuing road trip, we come to Hyde Park, N.Y., where we will visit three sites associated with Franklin Roosevelt and his wife (Anna) Eleanor. Today, we visit Springwood, the Roosevelts’ home.

In 1866, James Roosevelt, a wealthy businessman, purchased a 640-acre estate, including a 17-room Italianate-style house and cropland, overlooking the Hudson River in Hyde Park.  Roosevelt named the estate “Springwood.” On Jan. 30, 1882, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born to 54-year-old James and Sara Delano Roosevelt, his much younger second wife, in the upstairs master bedroom of the Springwood house. When FDR married Eleanor in 1905, the newlyweds moved into the Springwood house, owned by Sara since James’ death in 1900.

In 1915, FDR, an amateur architect, convinced his strong-willed mother to undertake a major expansion of the house to accommodate his and Eleanor’s growing family and his growing political ambitions. The remodeling added a third story to the center section, enlarged the entrance hall, added a north wing with eight servant rooms and recast the exterior in the Colonial Revival style. During his years as president, FDR visited Springwood more than 200 times, often for extended periods with his staff. After Franklin died in 1945, he was buried in Springwood’s rose garden and his family donated the estate to the United States, which opened the house to the public in 1946. When Eleanor died in 1962, she was buried alongside her husband.

Today, the Springwood house looks much as it did at the time of FDR’s death. The entrance hall includes a life-size sculpture of Franklin as a young man. Downstairs walls and cabinets are filled with items reflecting his varied interests, including birds and ships. Visitors can see where Franklin was born and the converted freight elevator he used after becoming paralyzed from the waist down in 1921.


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