Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Little White House in Georgia, part 1

The day after visiting Callaway Gardens we decided to go back to the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia.  It is only 5 miles from the F. D. Roosevelt State Park where we were renting a cabin.  It was a very warm and sunny day.  We had visited the Little White House already in the early 1980s with our young daughters then again more than 10 years ago but I did not take many pictures with my film camera then.  I do have old postcards though showing the house and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's (FDR) cars.  (Click on collage twice to embiggen.)

Growing up in Paris, France, I did not know much about President Roosevelt.  I knew that it was the name of a Paris Metro station, on the Champs-Elysees, that I used often.  It has been remodeled many times as it is in the tourist area.  I remember it with white tile walls, blue signs and wooden benches.  Then the fancy yellow seats came and now the signs are in French, Japanese, Russian, Chinese and Arabic with modern seats  - the entrance on the avenue has not been changed.

The areas around the Little White House in Warm Springs has also changed.  Now there is a large avenue going to the house and a new museum, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Museum which opened in April 2004.  It is a "green" building, quite large, with an 80-seat theater.  We started our visit there and watched a short film, narrated by Walter Cronkite, about FDR and his connection to Georgia.

The museum contains many exhibits illustrating FDR's life and programs, informative storyboards, personal effects and family tree.  In my post of December 13, 2012 "Christmas at Bulloch Hall..." I explained that Mittie Bulloch of Georgia had married Theodore Roosevelt, Sr.  Her granddaughter was Eleanor Roosevelt who married Franklin D. Roosevelt, her fifth cousin, once removed.  The Roosevelt's ancestor was a Dutch immigrant, Claes Maartenszen van Rosenvelt, who arrived in New York City - then named Nieuw Amsterdam - around the mid 1600s.  Claes's last name can be translated as "son of Marten of the rose field."  His son Nicholas changed the name to Roosevelt.  Claes had two grandsons, Johannes and Jacobus - FDR descended from Jacobus and Eleanor from Johannes.  Franklin and Eleanor were married on March 17, 1905 and had six children (one died at 8 months.)  Franklin decided to have a career in politics and in 1911 he was elected a New York State senator.  At that time he was an athletic man, healthy and about 6'2" tall (1m88.)

In August 1921, aged 39, FDR contracted polio while vacationing in New Brunswick, Canada.  This resulted in permanent paralysis from his waist down.  In 1924 a friend told him about a young polio victim who had improved after swimming in the 88-degree mineral-rich waters in Warm Springs, a small town in Meriwether County Georgia.

FDR came to Warm Springs and after 6 weeks felt that he could walk in the pool and exercise up to two hours.  This small health improvement from the Georgia pools gave him the impetus to run again for public office.  Four years later he ran for Governor of New York and won and served there until the end of 1932 when he was elected the 32nd President of the United States.  He was then president for three consecutive terms - from 1933 till his death in 1945.

 FDR was so happy in Warm Springs, away from the stress of Washington, that in 1932 he built a cottage near the therapeutic pools - the cottage became known as "The Little White House."  FDR drove all around Meriwether County in his modified Ford and would stop for impromptu "roadside conferences" with local people, farmers, families, laborers, and sharecroppers, black and white.

Several of FDR's programs evolved from conversations with the people around Warm Springs.  They would tell "Mr. Franklin" their problems and concerns.  An exhibit shows the typical small rural house from that area.  When FDR found out that the electricity bill for his small cottage in Georgia was more than the bill he paid for his house in New York he brought cheaper electricity to the community - electricity to rural areas was included in his New Deal program.  (Click on collage to enlarge for reading.)

From 1924 until 1945 FDR made 41 trips to Warm Springs.  He fished in the Flint River, drove around the countryside and loved to listen to fiddle playing.  Long before elected president he had listened to the locals' problems, issued and concerns.  He saw the sharecroppers use mules and field hands to farm the impoverished land and being paid $1.50 per day for their hard work.  In rural Georgia the Great Depression hurt people terribly.  FDR loved to stay on nearby Dowdell's Knob on top of Pine Mountain and meditate on this.  He turned much of what he learned from his visits to Georgia into programs through New Deal legislation.  Shown in top of collage below in color is Dowdell's Knob, then it is President Roosevelt signing the G.I. Bill, a poster about his Social Security program, a poster for the March of Dimes that was founded by FDR on January 3,1938 under the name "National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis" (the Republican Party is trying to dismantle many of his programs now) and a storyboard about Warm Springs.

"... Yesterday morning I went up to the top of Pine Mountain.  There, stretching out for many miles to the horizon was a large portion of Meriwether County.  It was good looking country - and good to live in..."  FDR April 1928

FDR designed special hand controls for his cars so he could drive them himself.  Each year the State of Georgia issued specialty license plate for his vehicles.

There were many fascinating items, documents, etc., in the museum, such as his stamp collection, his wheel chair, his black cape, the breakfast service he used during his visits, the patio furniture of the Little White House and so much more.  I could have stayed hours in this museum as it contains a great collection of mementos and historical items.

As we were leaving the museum we passed by four display cases containing seventy walking canes that were given to President Roosevelt as presents over the years - here are some of them below.

Walking back into the sun we stopped at the Memorial Fountain.  It is at the base of The Walkway of the State Flags and Stones - a wide paved walkway with flags of the 50 US states and District of Columbia and sample rock contributed from each state as a tribute to President Roosevelt.  Under each flag is a specimen of a native stone quarried from that state with an information plaque.  In 1959 it was updated to include Alaska and Hawaii.  Most of the stones are in the shape of their individual state.  The lieutenant governor of Hawaii offered a rectangular solid black block of Pahoehoe lava for the walkway on Hawaii Day in 1959.

We walked into the Little White House compound through the "bump gate."  This is the original gate designed to pivot on its center post and open when pushed with FDR's automobile bumper when he was driving in and out.

From the gate above can be seen the US flag ahead flying on a pole.  A plaque states that it has 48 stars as this was the type of flag that was flown there on President Roosevelt's death on 12 April 1945.

Then we entered the Little White House grounds ... to be continued in part 2.



24 comments:

David said...

Vagabonde, The last time I visited FDR's place in Warm Springs had to be back in the mid-1970's. We visited his place in Hyde Park NY a couple of years ago and I was disappointed in the presentation. I must say that the mementos and exhibits at Warm Springs look far more interesting than what we saw in New York. There is no doubt FDR was able to relax in Warm Springs...His mistress was by his side when he died. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Nadezda said...

I was touched reading this story of FDR memorial museum. Today is special day here: Victory Day, the end of WWII.
We all know how much Roosevelt did for the Victory. Many Americans, Russian and other soldiers died for it.
Thank you for sharing, vagabonde!

Pondside said...

I've certainly heard of this Little White House, but I have never had a tour - and this was a good one! Like you, I'd have spent hours reading every word on the exhibits.

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you so much. I have learned so much about President Roosevelt from your posts. I particularly like hearing about the practical measures he instituted to help. We need more of him - world-wide.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

A wonderful and informative post about one of the three greatest Presidents of the US.

Mary said...

What a wonderful place to visit - I'm definitely going to add to our list of US historical sites still to see - we've missed this beauty which you've made so interesting with your great photos.

I can't get over the amazing walking stick collection, I'd love to see that, especially as they are most likely from all over the world, AND hand carved I'm sure.

He was a great man, never allowing his disability to hold him back from helping the American people in their hours of need. I'm glad he found respite in the Georgia spring waters, and am looking forward to seeing more or this interesting visit to Little white House.

I'm off again very soon so hope to have some more interesting travels to share later - Japan and the Russian Far East on the itinerary!!!!

Hugs, enjoy Spring dear friend.
Mary

DJan said...

I didn't know FDR contracted polio as an adult. I often learn many things about my own American history when I read your posts, VB. Very interesting! I look forward to Part II. :-)

OldLady Of The Hills said...

This is such a treat!!! I loved President Roosevelt. He was the only President I knew all of my young life---till he died. (I was not quite 14 at the time...) I still remember that day. It was such a very very sad day for all of those who loved and admired Roosevelt---Especially those who felt he saved our country during the Depression with these wonderful programs...

Recently I saw that new film about Roosevelt with Bill Murray? I thought it was insulting and really awful!!!! It all took place at Warm Springs....

Seeing all your pictures and reading your text restores my GOOD feelings about this really Great Great man...I look forward to Part 2!

Rhodesia said...

Some very interesting pictures here but I particularly love the old cars. Take care Diane

Niall & Antoinette said...

What an interesting place! I'd vaguely heard about it [knew about FDR contracting polio as an adult and spring helping him] but I've only ever paid one flying visit to Georgia so have never been.

Good old Walter Cronkite--he was THE voice on CBS news when I was growing up :-)

Pierre BOYER said...

Interesting...
Best regards from Paris,

Pierre

Jeanie said...

I'm quite interested in Roosevelt and that era in history, so this post fascinates me. It's a spot I'd like to visit, no doubt. Nice coverage of the museum and all -- and I loved your vintage postcards. I didn't realize there was a Roosevelt metro stop in Paris; wonder how I missed that!

Nadege said...

The US is in dear need of another FDR. I would love to visit this place. Thank you for all the new info and pretty photos of this amazing place.

rosaria williams said...

Vagabonde, you are a natural journalist. Your posts are always interesting, well researched,full of details and less known information.

I didn't know The New Deal expanded cheap utilities rate to rural counties.

Retired English Teacher said...

Vagabonde, how do you do it? Your write such interesting posts full of so much great informative tidbits that I always learn at least one new thing. You must make meticulous notes as you visit a place.

I was truly fascinated by this post and hope to be able to go see this place myself sometime. I just finished the book, No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin about FDR and ER. The book is quite comprehensive about the President and his wife during WWII years in the U.S. Much is written in this book about the Little White House, so I was already very interested in visiting this site.

Despite all I read in this remarkable book, I learned the new information about utilities from you, and I also learned about the metro stop in Paris.

Thanks for this wonderful post. For some reason, I was especially fascinated by the stamp collection. So much was written about this hobby of his.

Thérèse said...

Tu as vraiment une collection de photos pour tout!
Un billet passionnant!
Pour la petite histoire les voitures des chefs d'état sont toujours fabriquées sans rétroviseur, j'ai entendu cela l'autre jour au cours d'une rétrospective sur les voitures du Général de Gaulle...

Pat said...

FDR and Eleanor were hugely popular over here during WW2.
Besides his charisma he had film star good looks - not unlike Ray Milland and we thought he was one of the good guys and Eleanor came over as a really decent, caring woman.
Years ago I visited a Roosevelt home but I think it was in NY State on the banks of a river.

Magic Love Crow said...

What an amazing place to visit! Very interesting! Take Care ;o)

claude said...

Quel post intéressant, Vagabonde, J'en connais un peu plus sur FDR maintenant et sur cet endroit. Un véritable musée.
Merci et bises.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I love how informative your posts always are!! Yet another place I'd love to visit.

Fennie said...

Such a great, and I think a good, man. Thanks for the tour Vagabonde. I hadn't appreciated the connection with Georgia before although you mentioned that FDR used to come here in a previous post.

Love that 'bump' gate/ But how do you close it?

Ginnie said...

This is so chock-full of educational tidbits, Vagabonde. I declare. I have special interest in FDR's story because I had polio myself in 1954, the year before the Salk vaccine was created. I was very lucky to have only minimal "damage," with no paralysis. I especially LOVE the collection of canes. That would be worth the entire trip for me! :)

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, I never knew about this museum and so I found this posting fascinating. But then I'm fascinated by all of your postings!

I so admired President Roosevelt when I was a child. I was born in 1936 and he had been president for four years already. He died in 1945 and my family mourned his loss.

We were staunch Democrats, but I went to school with a classmate whose family voted Republican. I could never understand the way that my classmate felt about the President. We didn't seem to be talking about the same man. To Republicans at that time he was the devil incarnate.

You've brought back so many memories. Thank you. Peace.

Mandy Southgate said...

Aren't those cars just gorgeous! Thanks for this tour through a bit of history I was vaguely familiar with but am glad I learned more about.

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