A friend and I were headed back home on I-20 in south Georgia and we happened across the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Harlem. Oliver Hardy was born in Harlem in 1892 and the town is proud of its native son.
The Museum pays tribute to the comedy duo of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Staffed by volunteers who are fans of the comedy team’s films, the small museum features unique pieces of Hollywood by gone days. Stan and Ollie made only 107 films during their careers, but the fan base is strong. In fact, each October fans descend upon Harlem for a film festival that swell the small town’s population upwards of forty thousand.
Ensconced in the tall pines of Southwest Georgia in Warm Springs, Georgia is Franklin Roosevelt’s Little White house. The President purchased the land in 1926 after having been afflicted with polio in August, 1921. This occurred just after his first run for national office as vice president. He believed the mineral hot springs could help heal polio and wheree he would ultimately create the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.
The Little White House is small and intimate comprised of only six rooms. Today, it is truly a place that has captured a moment in time. Little, if anything, has changed at the house since his death in April, 1945. The space is simple and functional and does not have any of the opulence of Hyde Park. See my companion post regarding Hyde Park: https://roadrunnerjourneys.com/2018/07/09/fdrs-presidential-library-hyde-park-new-york/. Roosevelt could be himself there while serving as President. He developed some facets of his New Deal here, specifically the Rural Electrification Administration which helped bring electricity to rural areas. Both domestic and international guests were hosted during his time there.
Cocktails were served on the patio overlooking the pine forest on the back of the house. There are two smaller houses just in front of the Little White House where his cook and housekeeperlived or could be used as guest quarters.
Your tour of the complex begins with a twelve minute film about Roosevelt’s time spent in Georgia. Ultimately, he would reside at the Little White House forty-one times during his years as president. The museum holds numerous artifacts regarding FDR’s time spent in Georgia. The swimsuit he wore while swimming in the hot springs pools, his precious dog, Fala’s collars and the many decorated canes that FDR received as gifts.
The museum was originally opened in 1948 at the home of his neighbor, Georgia Wilkins. The Wilkins home is now used for conferences at the museum. The path to the original museum is lined with flags and native rocks from each state.
During FDR’s time at the Little White House, he used two hand control cars to drive throughout the roads of Georgia. It was during these interactions with the public that he determined that the rural areas of the country needed electricity and he made it part of his new deal. FDR’s interaction with other polio victims, he helped found the March of Dimes to raise money for polio patients.
FDR was in Warm Springs for rest and meetings with two international representatives in April, 1945. He was also having his portrait painted by Elizabeth Shoumatoff.
While sitting for the portrait he suffered a massive stroke on April 12, 1945 and died shortly thereafter. While the portrait remains unfinished, Shoumatoff did create paint another portrait from her sketches done on that April day.
The completed portrait hangs beside the unfinished one at the Little White House.
The President was taken back to New York via train. He was buried at Springwood in Hyde Park. The people of Warm Springs had lost a true friend.
Nearby Pine Mountain State Park pays tribute to FDR with a statue overlooking the mountain. This monument to the President is located where FDR would go to picnic and mull the issues of the world. He visited there the day before he died.
Comprisive ninty minute guided tours are available on Saturdays at 9:30am. The guided tour is highly recommended for an in depth look at the complex.
The site is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and welcomes in access of one hundred thousand visitors each year.