Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Presidential Houses by Nicholas Isaacs
By Nicholas Isaacs
This past year, I visited two presidential homes: FDR’s house in Hyde Park, New York, and Theodore Roosevelt’s, Sagamore Hill, in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. It was very informational and interesting to learn about the places the presidents spent the majority of their lives in.
On May 23, my family and I toured the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Museum, and Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. In the museum, we were taken through President F.D.R’s 4 terms in office which spanned from 1933 to 1945. Through letters, pictures, and memorabilia, we were taken into a time where a depression had affected the entire world, dictators had risen to power, and the United States was forced into a second World War. I got to see the original speech he gave at his inaugural address, with the now famous quote, “We have nothing to fear but, fear itself.” I learned how they kept the president’s illness from the public. Also, one of the tour guides told us a funny story of how President Bill Clinton went into the display of Roosevelt’s original office with a can of Coke and how the guides were afraid that he would spill it on the rare wool rug.
Then we toured the home site that included several homes including F.D.R’s main house and a house for Eleanor. There was interesting artwork that F.D.R had collected, historical furniture pieces, and even an elevator that was used only by F.D.R.. The tour guide told us a funny story that F.D.R’s relatives had collected a lot of Revolutionary War political cartoons insulting the British. Then, in June of 1939, the King and Queen of England toured the Hyde Park home and saw the insulting propaganda, but, it didn’t affect the meeting. During this trip, the king and queen also historically ate hot dogs for the first time. Also there, we saw the exact room where F.D.R. and Winston Churchill started the Manhattan Project, the project that would develop the first nuclear bombs. An additional treat was that we got to see a World War II encampment where I learned many interesting facts about the lives of the soldiers who served and we watched an enacted of WWII fight with tanks, jeeps and armored cars.
On July 14, we went to Teddy Roosevelt’s home, Sagamore Hill, in Oyster Bay, Long Island. It had been closed for almost four years due to renovations. First we toured the new museum, which was created out of the Old Orchard house. The museum was kind of small and gave a basic history of Teddy’s life. We were able to go through it in about an hour. There were several short films that we could watch. For kids, there was a map that you could take to get clues throughout the museum to solve a puzzle. At the end of it, I got a certificate becoming a “Junior Park Ranger.”
One of the interesting things at the museum was a ring that Teddy owned that had a lock of President Abraham Lincoln’s hair in it. I got to see the uniform that he wore when he was part of the Rough Riders, a regiment that fought in the famous Battle of San Juan Hill in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War. There was lots of artifacts, pictures, and letters that showed his daily and presidential life. They even had a replica of the Nobel Peace Prize he won for stopping the Russo-Japanese War.
Next we toured the main home. We got to see the dining room, kitchen, and parlor, which had a lot of delicate furniture. Then we went into the massive living room where the president and his family spent a lot of time relaxing. We couldn’t go into the whole room and had to stand behind wooden bars on a ledge looking into the room. This room had many, many rare books, expensive vases, bearskin rugs, leather furniture, and most importantly, the heads of animals that Teddy was famously known for hunting. He was also known as a conservationist who during his presidency set aside 125 million acres of land in the U.S. for national forests. One very interesting item was an Native American drawing on a piece of hide depicting Custer’s Last Stand.
On the second floor, there were a lot of bedrooms and one of the bathrooms had a working shower, which was rare at the time. There was original wallpaper, furniture, and we even saw the room that the president spent his last moments in. The third floor had storage rooms and servants bedrooms. Finally, we drove to a cemetery and visited Teddy Roosevelt’s grave. We were shocked that it was very simple and only had an iron fence to guard it.
I enjoyed both of my visits to each of these presidents’ houses and I urge you to go see them yourself. They are easy to travel to and are inexpensive to see. And you could learn a lot. Happy Presidents’ Day!