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Meet the Roosevelts at Historic Hyde Park

Meet the Roosevelts at Historic Hyde Park


Use this as your family's guide when visiting Historic Hyde Park, where you'll find a healthy dose of American history starring former President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor. 

roosevelt statues at historic hyde park

Young students visit the statues of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt after participating in a school program about FDR’s dog Fala.

Located just 2 hours north of New York City, Historic Hyde Park allows families to travel back in time to see what life was like while Franklin D. Roosevelt was president of the United States. Start your tour at the former home of FDR, also know as Springwood, where the president spent his childhood. Directly next-door is his presidential library, which doubles as a fun, interactive museum. A free shuttle bus will take you to Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s home where she spent her days after her husband died. Also on-site is the historic Vanderbilt Mansion complete with its original furnishings. When visiting during the summer, a trip to Roosevelt’s Top Cottage retreat is a must.

When you arrive, make your way to the Henry A. Wallace Visitor’s Center where you can purchase tickets for the sites you’d like to visit. Staff members will map out an itinerary for your visit and let you know when each site offers its guided tour. Before you leave, watch the 20-minute film about Roosevelt history and stop into the New Deal Bookstore and Mrs. Nesbitt’s Café.

tour of historic hyde park

Park Ranger Susan Rayls leads a nature hike on the Roosevelt Farm Lane trail.

FDR Presidential Library

During his presidency, Roosevelt had a library built next to his home and it became America’s first presidential library. Recently the site has undergone extensive renovation and now offers interactive exhibits to the public. The library is open for self-guided tours 9am-6pm, April through October, and 9am-5pm, November through March. Its exhibits span all four terms of Roosevelt’s presidency. Some features include Roosevelt’s desk from the Oval Office, a replica of a 1930s kitchen where visitors can listen to Fireside Chats, and an interactive map room where guests can play games and answer trivia.

Every February, the library hosts Presidents Day Weekend events. Families can view a selection of presidential signatures from the Roosevelt Library archives, which are on display only once a year. In April, the library hosts a Hudson Valley History Reading Festival, where authors of recently published books on Hudson Valley history will speak about their books and sign copies. In May, over Memorial Day Weekend, there is a USO Show, which is patterned after the WWII-era shows that entertained American troops serving around the globe. Another feature that weekend is a WWII encampment and military display on the library lawn where dozens of re-enactors dress in uniforms and talk about military life in the 1940s. There will be military vehicles from that time period on display, as well as collections of military uniforms, prop weapons, and insignia from 1917 to the present day. In December, the library hosts a children’s book festival where authors will read from and sign copies of their books.

home of fdr in historic hyde park

The American and Presidential flags fly on the front of the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site.

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt donated his home to the American people in the hope that they would visit and learn about the life of the 32nd president. Here, you can take an hour-long guided tour of the place where FDR was born and raised, which is now a National Historic Site. All furnishings are original, so you’ll see the house as Roosevelt left it the last time he was there in 1945. On the grounds, there is a Rose Garden where he and his wife Eleanor are buried.

Every year, Hyde Park celebrates FDR’s birthday on Jan. 30 at 3pm with a wreath-laying ceremony that is attended by the West Point honor guard and color guard. There is another annual wreath-laying ceremony on Memorial Day at 1:30pm, and a third takes place on Oct. 11, Eleanor’s birthday, at 3pm.

park rangers at fdr home in historic hyde park

Park Rangers Ray Delamarter and Lisa Wiltse raise the American flag in front of the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, readying the site for daily visitors.

Top Cottage

Top Cottage is the retreat that Roosevelt built in 1938. There is only one furnished room here. Visitors can sit on the porch just as FDR’s guests—including Winston Churchill—once did, and learn about him as a private person rather than the president everyone knew and loved.

Top Cottage is open May through November and accessible by shuttle bus only. Tours are given daily at 11:10am, 1:10pm, and 3:10pm.

 

Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill

This was Eleanor Roosevelt’s retreat, where she spent the later years of her life. Tours of the house are given year round, daily May through October. From November through April, tours are given every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Val-Kill features a short film about Eleanor’s life, an exhibit that focuses on her early political life, and replications of furniture that was there while she was living in the house. During the summer, Val-Kill holds Cottage Conversations in which park rangers give presentations on Eleanor’s life or on topics that interested her. Every October, there is an Eleanor Roosevelt medal ceremony that honors people who have done something for others in the community. For more information, call the Val-Kill Visitor’s Center at 845-229-9422.

vanderbilt mansion historic hyde park

The elegant front entrance to the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, former home of Fredrick and Louise Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt Mansion

Built in 1895, the Vanderbilt Mansion is a Gilded Age mansion complete with its original furnishings and a formal garden. Families can take tours of the house and grounds while listening to guides talk about what life was like in a country home. Throughout the year, the Vanderbilt Mansion holds a concert series on the front lawn, free of charge. Garden sales are held in May and October to help support the garden restoration of the property. Every third Sunday of the month, families can take formal tours of the gardens on the property. In December, the mansion is lavishly decorated for the holidays and offers free admission to those who visit. The mansion also holds formal and informal teas as well as a series of free admission days. Exact days of all these events can be found at nps.gov/vama. The mansion is open year-round, 9am-5pm daily.

vanberbilt gardens historic hyde park

The formal gardens at the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site were created by community volunteers.

Details

Address: Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, 4079 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park

Shuttle Bus Information: From May 1-Nov. 1, Hyde Park provides a free shuttle bus service called Roosevelt Rides to carry families from one historic site to the next. The bus also shuttles visitors from the Metro-North train station in Poughkeepsie to the Henry A. Wallace Visitor’s Center and back.
Directions:
About a 2-hour drive from Midtown; or take Amtrak from Penn Station toward Albany-Rensselaer and get off at Poughkeepsie, where you can take the Roosevelt Rides shuttle to Hyde Park (2-hour trip); or take Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal toward Poughkeepsie and take Roosevelt Rides from Poughkeepsie station to Hyde Park (2-hour trip)

Price: $18 joint admission for FDR Presidential Library and Home of FDR (includes Home tour); $9 for FDR Library only; $10 tour of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill; $10 admission to Vanderbilt Museum (includes tour). Children ages 15 and younger get free admission to all sites.

For more information: 800-337-8474; historichydepark.org

 

Author: Kaitlyn Healy attends SUNY Cortland. She is from Fair Lawn, New Jersey. See More

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