FDR’s Presidential Library, Hyde Park, New York

FDR Presidentlal Libary

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Presidential Library System in 1939 to serve as a repository for the documents of his administration. The library opened in 1941. Roosevelt stated that “. . . a Nation must believe in three things. It must believe in the past. It must believe in the future. It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”

Today, the library campus which sits beside the Hudson River is maintained by the National Park Service. It is located an hour and forty-five minutes drive from New York City and comprised of five areas: the Hyde Park residence “Springwood”, stables, garden, library/museum and welcome center for visitors.

Vistors Center

Your Ranger led tour begins in the Welcome Center standing around a large inlaid map of the surrounding New York area.

Vistor Center floor that traces the Roosevlet history

This map assists visitors in learning about the history of the area. The Roosevelt family had been in the New York region since the 1600’s. With an overview of the family legacy, you then board a tram or walk to Springwood, the Hyde Park residence.

Springwood

Springwood is the house where Franklin was born and raised. Springwood was never owned by FDR, it was inherited by his mother, Sarah, and she ruled the roost. That was something that Eleanor came to know all too well. The house had electrical power in 1908 and was enlarged in 1915 adding two wings to accommodate the growing size of the family. He was in residence some two hundred times during his four presidential terms, giving it the name the “Summer White House”. Springwood is as it was when Roosevelt died at age sixty-three in 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia.  Each item in the home is authentic and boosts a large collection of bird specimens as well as naval art.  The bell that was rung to alert everyone that it was time for dinner is a four hundred year old Tibetan bell.

Young FDR

Franklin was born is 1882.  He loved sailing, collecting Navy memorabilia and he wanted to attend Annapolis, but instead would graduate from Harvard and follow in the footsteps of his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt.  FDR married Eleanor in 1905. They had four sons and a daughter. He was nominated for Vice President in 1920 but was defeated by Calvin Coolidge. He began his political career with his election to the state senate in 1910.  Franklin was stricken with polio in 1921 at age thirty-nine after a visit to a Boy Scout camp in Canada, Campobello. Eleanor stayed by his side during his illness. He visited Warm Springs Georgia in 1927 which was known for its hot springs and boasted cures for polio and would go on to found the Georgia Warm Springs foundation therapy center for polio victims. He also purchased property in Warm Springs which would serve as his “Little White House”. See my companion post on Warm Springs: https://roadrunnerjourneys.com/2018/07/09/fdrslittle-white-house/. Franklin closely guarded the fact of his paralysis from polio. He requested that the press not photograph him in a wheelchair because he knew that the county would not elect someone in a wheelchair.  While this was most likely the biggest open secret in the world, the press honored the request and did not publish photographs of the President in a wheelchair. In fact, the library only has 4 photographs of the FDR in a wheelchair.

Franklin was elected Governor of New York in 1928 then went on to be elected President in 1932 and would go on to be our longest servicing president, four terms, until his death in 1945.

FDR’s bedroon at Hyde Park

His rooms at the estate consisted of a bedroom, dressing room and a sleeping porch with views of the Hudson. Eleanor’s room was adjacent to his.

 

 

Eleanor’s desk and room next to FDR’s
Overlooking the Hudson River

 

 

 

The President hosted King George VI at Springwood in 1936. Franklin’s mother was aghast as the King viewed the many British political cartoons that the decorated the walls of the residence.  He remarked of the cartoon collection, “…you have some that I don’t have in mine.”  It was during this same visit that the King was photographed eating a hotdog at a picnic. That caused quite a stir in the press.  How could the President serve the King of England a hot dog!

The stables at Springwood were built by Franklin’s father, James, because of his interest in horse breeding. Eleanor housed prize winning horses there as well.

Stable and Gardens at Hyde Park

The gardens are located just behind the museum and serves as both Franklin and Eleanor’s final resting place.  Franklin is interred in front of the grave marker. Eleanor is buried next to Franklin.  His precious prized dog, Fala was also placed near them.

Roosevelt’s Gravesite

The Presidential Museum is located between the home and the welcome center. The stone façade building was designed by Franklin as an archive for his presidential documents.

Presidential Archives

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has two floors of exhibits and artifacts from both of the Roosevelt’s careers. The permanent collection boasts his presidential desk and numerous other artifacts from both Franklin and Eleanor’s careers.

FDR’s Campaign Hat

 

 

 

 

 

Eleanor is well represented in the museum with a display of some of her twenty-seven books, her typewriter and the suitcase that she carried around the world.

A selection of books by Eleanor

 

 

 

 

While the Roosevelt’s were a well matched political duo, Eleanor did not seek the political life. In 1918, she discovered that Franklin had an affair with Lucy Mercer. She said of the discovery, “The bottom dropped out of my own particular world…,” The couple remained married most likely because Franklin’s mother and other aids believed that a divorce would have been be political suicide.  Both Franklin and Eleanor’s legacies of inclusion endure today.

Elennor and Franlkin greet you at the Visitors Center

The library  hosted its 75th anniversary in July.

https://fdrlibrary.org/

The Three Texas Presidential Libraries

A posting I did for Dave’s Travel Corner on the Texas Presidential Libraries.

http://www.davestravelcorner.com/journals/destination-north-america/larger-life-texas-presidential-libraries/

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Reagan Presidential Library

A trip to Los Angeles in December, 2017 brought an opportunity for my second visit to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, 40 miles east of Los Angeles. The library is perched on a hill that overlooks the valley and provides a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. The library’s location makes it a bit of a journey to get to but it is definitely worth it.

Overlooking Simi Vallay

A bronze statue of Ronald Reagan, our 40th President, greets you as you enter the lobby area.

Reagan greets you

 

 

 

Entering the museum, you meet both Ron and Nancy with a short film about their careers.

Ron and Nancy

With a variety of artifacts, documents, film clips and other materials, visitors move through the major events of Reagan’s life. You can explore his film career, his two terms as the president of the screen actor’s guild (SAG), his political career as a two-time Governor of California and his two terms as President. The display on the day Reagan was shot on March 30, 1981 soon after his presidency began is a moment by moment account of the horrific day and includes his suit, x-ray taken of his injuries and the weapon used by John Hinckley, Jr.

Reagan was the first President who was divorced. He and actress Jane Wyman married in 1940 and divorced in 1949. He wed Nancy in 1952.

Nancy was the light of his life. Her attention to detail is shown throughout the library.

Oval Office

The re-creation of Reagan’s western themed Oval office is warm and welcoming and has the ever present container of his favorite treat, Jelly Beans. Later in the exhibit you can view a portrait of Reagan’s made of jelly beans.

Jelly Bean Portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy

Nancy is well represented through a beautiful display of her gowns she wore to numerous occasions during her eight years in the White House.

 

 

 

 

Air Force One Pavilion

The Air Force One pavilion dominates the Library and houses the Boeing 737 that carried seven presidents around the world during his time as president ending with Reagan. Marine One is also on display as well as the limousine that served him. The plane is positioned as if it could takeoff over the Valley. You can tour both the plane and helicopter and have your photograph taken as a souvenir. I was struck at how small the plane was compared to the 747 that the President flies in today.

Tribute to lives lost in the Challenger disaster and 9-11

Toward the end of tour, there is an exhibit that replays Reagan’s national address after the Challenger explosion. The 911 display brings back memories of that horrific day. A piece of a girder from the twin towers is exhibited and you can touch a piece of history that is forever emblazoned upon our collective memory.

 

 

 

Reagan’s passing from Alzheimer’s on June 5, 2004 was a slow death for this larger than life personality.

Letter from Queen Elizabeth on Reagan’s death

Nancy followed her beloved Ronnie in death on March 6, 2016. They were laid to rest next to one another forever together looking out over the mountains of California.

Gravesite for the Reagans’

 

 

 

 

 

In the courtyard there is a piece of the Berlin Wall. It immediately brings to mind, Reagan’s speech, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” at the Brandenberg gate in 1987. The Soviet Union would fall three years after he left the presidency in 1991.

A piece of the Berlin Wall

The Library’s holdings include over 60 million pages of documents, over 1.6 million photographs, a half million feet of motion picture film, tens of thousands of audio and video tape, and over 40,000 artifacts.

 

 

The Library and museum is definitely worth the drive.

Clinton Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock, AK

Clinton Presidential Library

Located beside the Arkansas River, the Clinton Presidential library building was designed as bridge to the future. Many locals think it looks more like a double wide trailer but it is an impressive site as you approach the structure from downtown Little Rock. Built in a poor section of town that contained numerous dilapidated warehouses, the building of the library contributed to the rejuvenation of Little Rock.

William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States has born in Hope, Arkansas and was raised primarily by his grandparents while his mother studied nursing after the death of Clinton’s father.  He stated in his biography that he knew at an early age, he would be good at public service and he pursued it. Meeting President Kennedy in 1963 further spurred his interest in public service.

He attended Georgetown University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He received his law degree from Yale in 1973 where he met Hillary Rodham.  They married in 1975 and he became a law professor at the University of Arkansas.

Bill and Hillary relaxing after 1992 campaign party

Clinton was elected to the House of Representatives from Arkansas in 1974 and was elected as Arkansas’ Attorney General in 1976.  He would serve two terms as the youngest Governor of Arkansas in 1979 and 1982.  In 1993, he was elected President and served two terms until 2001.

Statehouse

Guests can begin their library tour in the Orientation Theater where they will view a 15 minute Clinton narrated overview of his life and presidential terms.  A guided library tour, given at regular intervals daily, is the way to get the most out of your visit. The docent led tour provides you with more information than you can amass by reading about each artifact. Hank Klein, a retired banker and volunteer, was our tour guide for the hour-long journey.  The three levels of the library are easily accessible by escalator or elevator.  Security, ticket sales and gift shop are located on the first floor. The tour begins on the second floor with an overview of the construction and history of the area.

Clinton’s School of Public Service is housed adjacent to the library in the old railroad annex. Clinton did not want the building demolished so it was repurposed for the Masters program that is available through the University of Arkansas.

Clinton School of Public Service

In the cabinet room you are invited to take a seat at the 23 foot table which was reproduced for the library by the same Buffalo, New York firm that constructed the table for the Nixon administration.  Each chair is labeled for a cabinet position.  The room contains portraits of two former presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and George Washington. Visitors then continue into the left wing of the library to view the eight year timeline of Clinton’s Presidency.  On display are boxes of letters to the President and the Presidential appointment books. Visitors learn that Clinton was the last President to have a balanced budget. The last time that had been accomplished was in 1969 under President Nixon.  Clinton was also the second President to be impeached, although he did not leave the office. Andrew Johnson had been the first in 1868.

Cabinet table

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of George Washington
Portrait of Teddy Roosevelt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artifacts, personal items and a replica of the Oval Office are housed on the third floor. You can see a selection of Bill’s saxophones and the presidential china.

Bill’s saxophones

 

 

 

 

 

The centerpiece of the area is the Chihuly sculpture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Oval office, you can have your picture taken behind a replica of the Resolute desk.

Oval office

The library was dedicated in 2004 and welcomes traveling exhibits regularly. The archives houses 80 million pages which is the largest archival collection of the Presidents.

Clinton timeline in center of library

The library pays unique homage to a Southern President who today continues his role as a public service.

https://www.clintonlibrary.gov/