FDR's birthplace once a rustic farm overlooking Hudson River

Walk through history, enjoy magnificent meal all in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Story and photos by Judy Palm

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt leaving church in 1941. (Photo from the Library)

                        Happy days are here again.
                     The skies above are clear again.
                     So letís sing a song of cheer again.
                        Happy days are here again.

This song, written in 1929 by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, was the theme song of Franklin Delano Rooseveltís 1932 campaign for President and has been the Democratic Partyís theme song ever since. The song also embodies the life of Franklin as a young man. Born into wealth and privilege, he led a happy life in Hyde Park, New York, living at Springwood with his parents, James and Sara.

Springwood, home of the Roosevelts

Franklin loved his home on the banks of the Hudson River and considered it his home for the rest of his life. Even when living in the White House or Governorís Mansion or Campobello, Roosevelt returned to Springwood whenever possible. It was owned by his mother, Sara, until her death in 1941, at which time it became Franklinís. He immediately signed it over to the Federal Government with the proviso that as long as Eleanor and the children wanted to they could live there. Upon Franklinís death, Eleanor and his children signed away all legal claims to the home, and it became a National Monument, cared for by the National Park Service.

Rose in bloom from Sringwood Garden where the Roosevelt graves lie.

Eleanor and Franklin's bedroom window which looks over the Hudson River.

Springwood isnít a huge Gilded Age mansion. It was originally a rustic farm house when purchased by Franklinís father and was added onto when Franklin and Eleanorís family grew to include five children. It doesn't have that look of not having been lived in. It is well used and practical and located in a beautiful spot on the Hudson River.

Bronze of Eleanor and Franklin outside of the Library and Greeting Center

Springwood is the home where Franklin was born in 1882. It was a long and complicated birth and caused James and Sara to limit their family to the one son. This made Franklin the center of his motherís life for the rest of her life. Franklin lived at Springwood with his parents and was tutored there privately until the age of 14. He then left for Groton and Harvard.

On a recent beautiful fall day we toured Springwood, the grounds and the FDR Presidential Museum. We capped off our day with a dinner at the Culinary Institute of America. They are all located in Hyde Park, N.Y., and offer a glimpse into the life of FDR and the times in which he lived and presided over with Eleanor, whom he married in 1905.

View of Hudson River from the backyard of Springwood. Undoubtedly the trees were much younger and shorter when Eleanor and Franklin occupied the house.

Springwood is a beautiful home on well-manicured grounds. There is a garden which surrounds the gravesite of Eleanor and Franklin. The home is located on the Hudson River, and the bedroom Franklin chose for himself and Eleanor on the second floor has a view of the river. Franklin had 400,000 trees planted on the property. Some of those trees now obscure the view of the river which he loved so much, but Franklin would have approved of the scenery they create in his backyard,

The home has a lived-in feel. Franklinís books and his collections are on the shelves. You can see the bedroom he lived in as a youth with the Harvard banners still on the walls. His collection of birds and model ships line the shelves.

Replica of Eleanor's study in the Library

Franklin at work. (Photo from the Library)

The Presidential Library is located on the grounds beside Springwood and is the only Presidential Library ever actually used by a sitting President. Near the end of his second term the President wanted to be sure his papers and mementos of office would have an appropriate spot and began to oversee the construction of the Library on this site. At its completion he would use the office in the library to work when he was at Springwood.

Replica of Franklin's study, which he actually used during his third and fourth terms

Our day was wonderful and got even better when we finished it with dinner at The Culinary Institute of America, just about a mile from Springwood. The CIA, as itís known, occupies another beautiful stretch of land along the Hudson River Valley in a mansion originally built and occupied by the Jesuits. Dormitories and other modern buildings have been added, and it is a wonderful place for a very special meal.

Insignia in sidewalk outside front of the Culinary Institute of America

There are three Culinary Institute of America schools in the country. California has one and just recently another opened in San Antonio, Texas. In this location in Hyde Park there are five separate restaurants. They are American Bounty, Apple Pie Bakery Cafe, Ristorante Caterina deí Medici, St. Andrewís Cafe and Escoffier. Staffed by students hoping to become the next stars of the culinary world who are taught and overseen by award winning personnel, a meal here is an experience.

We chose to dine in Escoffier. This is classic French fare with a light touch. The food is accompanied by perfect sauces and presented with a flair. All of our entrees were placed in front of us at the exact same time, and the covers removed simultaneously. We began with an appetizer of Goatís cheese and Zucchini tart. Each couple shared one, and apparently they were experimenting with something else, because we were all given a taste of an appetizer not on the menu. But Iím sure it will be very soon. The rolls were just like the ones you would be given in Paris, crusty on the outside but softer in the middle. Judy and I had a glass of wine.

Goat Cheese and Zucchini Tart appetizer

All four of us ordered something different. I had the special of the day, Coq au Vin, Ken had Roast Duck with a honey glaze, Judy dined on Chicken Breast filled with Shrimp, Spinach, Corn Cake with a mustard and lemon sauce, and Don had to make do with Salmon filet with parsley butter sauce. Not one of us had a complaint.

Busy kitchen

Gift Shop

The staff are attentive and are carefully watched by the supervisors. They answered all of our questions, and, if they couldnít, they would come back with an answer. It was almost a game with us: See if you can stump the students. We couldnít.

Dining Room

This is not a restaurant we would go to often, but on the way home we decided we owe it to ourselves to go once a year. Next year when we visit Don and Judy, who live in Great Barrington, Mass., weíre going to try out Ristorante Caterina deí Medici.

Hyde Park has a lot to offer. We didn't yet visit Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt's special hide-away near Springwood, the Vanderbilt mansion or the other four restaurants of the Culinary Institute of America. That will have to be for another trip. Maybe next year.

More pictures of visit

The Peace Park on Springwood grounds. This park was conceived because of the shared vision of Roosevelt and Churchill for peace. The center piece is constructed from pieces of the Berlin Wall.

The model ship was a gift from Queen Juliana of the Netherlands to Roosevelt after the liberation of the Netherlands from the Germans

A larger view of Eleanor's study

Another view of the kitchen at the Culinary Institute of America

Grave stone of Franklin and Eleanor, located in the garden at Springwood.

October, 2008