From the Museum

Summertime in Hyde Park

“All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944


Springwood, FDR’s childhood home, was often called Roosevelt’s “Summer White House.” Owned by his mother Sara until her death in 1941, the property remained Roosevelt’s home throughout his presidency. He returned here often for respite and family events, including his mother’s 80th birthday party, as shown below.

The Roosevelt family on the lawn of Springwood – FDR, Jr; Elliott; James; John; ER; Sara; FDR; Ruth; Betsy; Sara; Eleanor; Curtis; Anna – September 21, 1934. Photo by Margaret D.M. Brown.

 Living by the Hudson River greatly influenced Franklin Roosevelt’s interest in all things nautical. He amassed a large collection of ship models, many of which are within the museum collection at the FDR Library. Included are some of Roosevelt’s own creations, which he made to sail on the Hudson with his children. Below is an example of FDR’s handiwork along with a photo of the Roosevelt family sailing a ship model.

Ship Model of the ORTONA, made by Franklin D. Roosevelt.


FDR with sons Elliott and James, sailing a ship model off Rosedale point on the Hudson River, Summer 1922.


Two miles east of Springwood, the Roosevelts established the Val-Kill estate in 1927, originally the location of Val-Kill Industries. After the business dissolved in 1938, Eleanor used the property primarily as her private retreat as well as a place to entertain guests. Franklin was the contractor and builder of the property and even assisted in designing the swimming pool. Below is a photo of Franklin, Eleanor, and Missy LeHand enjoying a day by the pool.

Val-Kill pool, Summer 1940.

During the Presidential years, the Roosevelts had a new pool built with a better filtration system and installed closer to the cottage. After the President’s death in 1945, Eleanor used Val-Kill as her permanent Hudson Valley residence. She continued to swim and entertain at the site. Below is Eleanor’s bathing suit along with a photo of her by the pool wearing the suit.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s bathing suit. Made by Sak’s Fifth Avenue.


Eleanor on the lawn by the Val-Kill pool, Summer 1959. Photo by Keith M. Taylor.

Top Cottage

FDR’s own private retreat, Top Cottage, was built in Hyde Park during his second term in office as a place for the President to relax and entertain special guests away from the increasingly busy home estate. To learn more about the construction of the cottage, please visit:

A few of those special guests included King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England for the Roosevelts’ famous Hot Dog Picnic, which took place on the lawn on June 11, 1939. Other guests included Crown Princess Märtha of Norway, who can be seen in the photo below enjoying a summer’s day with friends while sitting on the porch at Top Cottage.

Crown Princess Märtha of Norway, King George II of Greece, FDR, and others on the porch of Top Cottage – June 27, 1942.