Franklin D. Roosevelt conceived the idea for the first presidential library to house all his papers and make them available to the pubic while he was president. It was one of the many trends he set throughout his four terms in office, and eventually led to the 1955 Presidential Library Act. The FDR Presidential Library and Museum and the surrounding FDR homes in Hyde Park, New York have been newly renovated. When you purchase the ticket to the Library and Museum, you do so at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center on the FDR grounds. The ticket is good for two days, and allows admission to both the Museum as well as the FDR home. The grounds to the rose garden where both FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt are buried are adjacent to the home, and are free to visitors.
After you watch an orientation movie, you will have access to a multitude of photographs in the museum, many of which show him walking before polio struck and left him wheelchair bound. Even without constant media coverage, you learn by going through the exhibit he faced the same issues that our political candidates do today who have greater scrutiny. In the FDR home you will see many artifacts which are hallmarks of his presidency, such as his wheelchairs, and many collections of artwork and books owned by the family.
The neighborhoods of many former presidents have been restored as part of the Presidential Library and Museum projects and are worthy of a visit. Hyde Park is no exception. Its not a neighborhood in the traditional sense due to the size of the homes, which overlook both the Hudson River and the Catskills. Close to the FDR’s home and a short shuttle ride away, is Top Cottage. This is the retreat he built to escape the daily stresses as president, and to eventually bring friends and political allies. There is an additional cost to see Top Cottage, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt’s living quarters, Val-Kill. The Vanderbit Mansion is a short drive away and provides a nice two hour tour for a nominal fee when you leave the FDR grounds. The Roosevelt’s once had a stake in the property.
Hyde Park itself is a modern part of upstate New York and also where you can go to enjoy the Culinary Institute of America. It is easily accessible by car via I-9, or by the Metro North Hudson River Line starting at Grand Central Station in New York City. If you take the train you disembark in Poughkeepsie. From there, you need to get a cab to the FDR Library and Museum. The Hudson River Valley is spectacular any time of year; if you go during spring or summer, you are treated to the blue-green tress of the Hudson. If you go during the fall, you are treated to fall foliage.
As America and the world continues to struggle with economic recovery, it is important to see the striking parallels from the FDR years as he took over from Hoover during the peak of the Great Depression. The unfortunate similarities to the wartime efforts of today may not be identical to the Second World War he presided over, but history can be an uncanny guide. There is hope for us when we are reminded that after the economic calamity of 1929, he led this country into the greatest economic boom in the last half of the 20th century.
As with all other Presidential Libraries and Museums, the grounds are owned and operated by the National Park Service, and the museum and library artifacts are owned and maintained by the National Archives. Refer to the links in this article for visitor information.