Saturday, June 13, 2015

New York, New York - Day 3 - FDR's Home and Val-Kill

Day 3 of our New York trip (our second full day) saw us venture out to FDR's Home at Hyde Park.  I had really enjoyed the movie Hyde Park on Hudson with Bill Murray (about the Royal visit to the US), and was intrigued by the Roosevelts after reading Hazel Rowley's excellent biography Franklin and Eleanor.  Accordingly, when I found out that you could visit FDR's home, I was keen to go.
We  started our journey by travelling via the Metro North line from Grand Central Terminal to Poughkeepsie station, where we would be picked up to go to FDR's house by the Roosevelt Ride, a shuttle bus for that purpose.  We didn't have breakfast before we went, and at that hour of the morning in Poughkeepsie, we quickly discovered that our best option for breakfast was the kiosk at the railway station.   Tim and I both had a Jimmy Dean - an American-style biscuit with cheese, an egg patty and a sausage patty that is heated in the microwave, and served with ketchup:

This was an interesting discovery, but is unlikely to be repeated.

After a few anxious minutes worrying whether the ranger would find us for the Roosevelt Ride, we bussed out to Springwood, FDR's home.  There, we were greeted by Franklin and Eleanor enjoying some time out in the garden:

If these statues are to scale, they were tall people!
At FDR's home, there are a few different timetables you can follow to do things, depending on which sites you want to visit.  I had decided (sorry Tim!) that we would visit Val-Kill, Eleanor's place, as our second property.
First up, we visited the main house, Springwood, where Franklin and Eleanor lived with Franklin's imposing mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt:

The house has been preserved as it was when the Roosevelts lived there, and hence is kept in semi-darkness and can only be visited as part of a tour in the company of a ranger.  This is the house where the UK Royal family stayed with the Roosevelts, and the cartoons which offended the Royals are still on the walls, along with lots of paintings of ships, reflecting FDR's time as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

You can see that the furnishings are of their time and not of modern taste:

After visiting Springwood, we had some time for lunch, which we ate at Uncle Sam's cafe at the  Wallace reception centre on the grounds.  I had a chicken cobb wrap and Tim had the equivalent chicken cobb salad (~$8.50):

They were both tasty and plentiful.  I didn't much like the homemade chips that came with the wrap, but Tim enjoyed them

I also could not resist a bucket of locally made caramel sea salt icecream (~$3.50):

We then explored the grounds a little, where we spied these Canadian geese:

Our next stop was a visit to the Presidential Library and Museum:

Access to the library and museum is self-guided, but you must show your ticket to enter.

Here's a poster advertising the Royal visit to the US, which was the focus of the Hyde Park on Hudson movie:

I have a penchant for desks (being a desk jockey myself), so I enjoyed seeing FDR's personal study, complete with a large portrait of his mother:

There are also some posters depicting The Four Freedoms: 

I was enchanted by the memorabilia relating to Fala, FDR's cherished Scottish terrier:

Much to my delight, there was also another desk - this time, a recreation of FDR's desk in the Oval Office of the White House, with things largely just as he left them (including a broken glass hat that he stored cigarettes for guests in):

My favourite objects were a pair of dog magnets, one in the shape of a Scottish terrier and the other in the shape of a West Highland terrier, with the box on the desk proclaiming them to be "Snooty Love Dogs".  Delightful! 

At the back of the library are busts of FDR and Winston Churchill:

and a sculpture dedicated to the "Freedom from Fear" tenet of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, constructed from fragments of the Berlin Wall:

Also behind the library is the horse stable - a pretty grand looking building:

We then took the Roosevelt Ride to Val-Kill (Dutch for waterfall-stream, named for the location of the house), where Eleanor Roosevelt established a furniture making business and eventually came to live.

There are two main buildings on the site - the first is the stone cottage where Eleanor's friends resided:

and the main house, Val-Kill, where Eleanor lived after FDR's passing and entertained guests from all walks of life, including JFK when he sought her support for his presidential nomination:

You enter through this door:

and immediately find yourself in this room, where Eleanor had her desk, with couches behind for guests to chat:

This was my favourite room in Val-Kill, rather than the more famous living room.  I love the fact that there is a mis-spelled name plate on Eleanor's desk.  We were informed that it was given to her by a school student, and Eleanor graciously accepted it without a murmur about the mis-spelling.  All of the furniture and artifacts in Val-Kill had been reacquired after they had been auctioned off by one of Eleanor's sons because the government rejected his offer to gift them the house as a historic site.  They are still trying to reacquire pieces from Val-Kill today.   
After Val-Kill, we caught the Roosevelt Ride back to Poughkeepsie station for our journey back to Grand Central Terminal.  This time, I bought us Magnolia Bakery cupcakes to try (yep, a la Sex in the City):

Mine was chocolate:

and Tim's was a "white-out" (meringue frosting covered in cake crumbs atop a chocolate cupcake):

Both were around $3.50.

We randomly searched for somewhere to have dinner, and fortuitously came across Dos Toros Taqueria:

It is like Chipotle, but better.

I ordered a carnitas plato ($8.96) - pork, black beans, rice, salsa and sour cream:

This was delicious - it's a pity we didn't come across Dos Toros again in our travels.

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel to enjoy our cupcakes and a well-deserved rest.  In case you were wondering, we thought the Magnolia Bakery cupcakes were devine - they totally lived up to the hype.

4097 Albany Post Road
Hyde Park, NY 12538
Ph: +1 800 FDR VISIT
Grand Central Terminal
107 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
United States
Ph: +1 212 682 3588 
Midtown East
465 Lexington Avenue, between 45th and 46th Street
New York, NY
United States
Ph: +1 347 394 3844


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I really enjoy your American stories Cakelaw! And it's great when you can visit the houses where history has occured and interesting people have lived :)

Johanna GGG said...

I would love to do this tour but as I am not likely to in the near future this is great to do it vicariously with you - sounds really interesting - love the desks too and was a bit sad to hear about the furniture of val-kill being auctioned off despite the offer to the govt. So glad that these places are being preserved and open to the public.

Kayte said...

Great post, really enjoyed your tours of the houses and library, etc. and all the food pics are always fun, Mark loves those, too. We had a good time reading about it all. And we did chuckle over the Jimmy Dean Sausage thing...too funny. Thanks for sharing so much, we loved it all.

Kari said...

What an amazing day trip and tour. I'll have to remember it for if / when I'm in NYC again - I never did any trips out of the centre!

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Kayte - the Jimmy Dean was an unintended cultural experience.

Cakelaw said...

Yes, I love it. Government House in Sydney is (or was?) open to the public.

Cakelaw said...

Johanna, I have enjoyed your Scottish posts and hope to go back there off the beaten track some day.

Cakelaw said...

Hi Kari, we read about this in an inflight magazine and put it on our to do list.