From the Museum

FDR’s Secretary Desk (MO 2011.11a,b)

When President Roosevelt created his Library in 1941, he made sure that it included a Study where he could relax and spend time with his papers and books. After FDR’s death in April 1945, his Study was left largely as it was the last day he visited Hyde Park— with several exceptions. Roosevelt family members inherited a few pieces of furniture from the room, including this secretary-desk. Sixty-six years later, the secretary has returned home.

Before FDR used the secretary in his Study, it was owned by his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt. After his death, the piece was bequeathed to his son, James. It was later acquired by Donald W. Stern, an antiques dealer.

On April 20, 2011, the secretary arrived back at the Library, donated through the generosity of Mr. Stern, Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel, and the Roosevelt Institute. For now the secretary will remain in storage until the completion of the Library’s building renovation in 2013.

The piece is an American late Federal or New York Classical style secretary desk, dated 1810-15. The secretary is in two sections. The upper section has a flat projecting cornice above two Gothic mullioned glazed doors enclosing adjustable shelves. The lower portion has a recessed bank of five short drawers and a full width fold-out writing surface over one long drawer and two short drawers centered over an arched kneehole. The whole piece is veneered in highly figured book matched mahogany and raised on four spiral reeded baluster legs ending in carved paw feet.

Below are photographs of the secretary arriving at the Library.

Check out the July edition of our online newsletter On Our Way for more information about this piece and other recent acquisitions at the FDR Library and Museum: