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A Perch Fit for a President

Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the end of his life, famously said: “All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River.” 

A Perch Fit for a PresidentWell, over the weekend my husband and I visited FDR’s home in Hyde Park, New York and, having spent a day there, I can see why he said that.

Hyde Park is not only the site of FDR’s grave and Presidential Library, it was the place where the President weighed and considered a return to politics after the polio diagnosis; where he drafted his groundbreaking new economic policy, The New Deal; and where he charted America’s role during and after World War II. Winston Churchill slept here during the war, as did King George of England.

You really get a sense of the decades of history that unfolded in this place as you walk the halls of the old home and the leafy grounds overlooking the Hudson River. It’s the only home in the United States to have served as birthplace, childhood home, adulthood home, and burial site of a president.

If you’ve seen the movie “Hyde Park On Hudson,” many of the rooms and grounds will look very familiar. Hyde Park was where (as in the movie) Franklin and Eleanor received England’s King George before America became involved in the second World War.

In fact, here is a photograph of the bedroom where King George slept — and the setting of a funny scene in the movie. King George, upon hearing that the lunch menu the next day involves some sort of American cuisine called hot-dogs, thinks the president is intending a slight. His suspicions of the subtle insult are only confirmed when he notices that the bedroom wall art is a childhood comic, drawn by the president himself, of the British army being defeated by the Americans. (I’m not sure if such a misunderstanding actually occurred, but I do know that the Roosevelts served the king and queen hot-dogs for lunch at Hyde Park).

The home itself is preserved with all of its original furnishings and layout, and the Presidential Library has just recently been renovated and re-opened. It’s interesting to see original Roosevelt family portraits, to see how the president’s room had adjoining doors opening into both his wife’s and his mother’s bedrooms (three’s a crowd?), and to see where the Roosevelts buried their beloved family dog. If you have an interest in American, architectural, or presidential history, I’d say it’s a trip worth making.

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Allison Pataki
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