First of All -
- First visit to a Presidential home and library
- First woodchuck seen
- Hyde Park
- Spring Hill
- Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover Day
- Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,044
- Hours Underway: NA
- Fuel: NA
- Morning House Battery Reading: 13.4 (plugged in)
- Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction:
- Daily High Temperature: 85
- Water Temperature: 67
Most of the historic sites we’ve visited thus far on the trip have spanned the Colonial through Civil War era. Today, however, we will tour homes from a more recent past. First on our itinerary is the Vanderbilt Mansion, located just a few miles from the Yacht Club. Richie, the guy on duty today, is kind enough to drive Richard, Jill, Sandy and I over to the mansion. This place was the part time summer home of Fredrick Vanderbilt, grandson of shipping and railroading magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt from 1895 through 1938. It was donated by his heir to the National Park Service, with encouragement from Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose Spring Hill home is located just a few miles away. Because the property passed directly to public ownership, virtually all the furnishings inside the home date back to Vanderbilt’s occupancy, thus giving visitors an outstanding sense of what life was like for the “nouveau riche” of the Gilded Age. A young but knowledgeable Park Service ranger serves as our tour guide, leading us through opulent rooms and sharing stories and descriptions of life in that era.
Before starting our tour I call a taxi located in Poughkeepsie, requesting a ride from Vanderbilt to the Roosevelt estate. It’s only a few miles away, but further than we care to walk. After our tour we wait 15 minutes or so for our ride, but it doesn’t show up. I call the taxi company and am told our driver will arrive in 15 minutes. Twenty minutes later I call once again and am told he’ll be there any minute. Fifteen minutes later I call again and, this time I get a voice mail recording whose mailbox is full. Richard then calls another cab company and they assure him they’ll be by in 20 minutes. The second taxi get there in 15 minutes and, after we get in, my phone rings. The first taxi is calling from the wrong place. I tell him he’s more than an hour late, and we’ve made other arrangements. Our pleasant driver delivers us to our destination efficiently, and earns a decent tip. We walk over to the visitor center and pick up tickets for both the Presidential home, called Spring Hill, and for the Presidential Library and Museum. After a quick lunch in the adjacent cafe we go on our escorted tour of the Roosevelt home. Our Park Service guide is animated and compelling as she tells the story of Franklin, his parents, and his wife Eleanor, and their association with this home. Franklin grew up here and lived here after his marriage to Eleanor, and even though they lived in many other places during their lives, they frequently returned here. Franklin especially drew strength and inspiration while living here in the beloved family home. Foreign dignitaries, including the King and Queen of England and, of course, Winston Churchill, were guests here. Everywhere we look we see furnishings and memorabilia connecting us with this great figure in recent history.
Following our tour of the home we walk over to the Presidential Library. We learn that FDR’s Presidential Library holds several distinctions. It was the first Presidential Library ever created, and is the only one established while the subject President was still in office. FDR began using this Library as his personal office during his 3rd term as president. Every president after him, as well as Herbert Hoover in retrospect, established libraries as public repositories for their presidential papers. This place is more than a document repository, however. It’s more of a museum telling the story of his remarkable life. One of the great highlights is his personal office, which remains intact in every detail, as it was on the day he died. Somehow, knowing that as I viewed the room was a very moving experience. We also saw his 1936 Phaeton automobile, which was specially modified with hand controls so he could drive it himself, despite his paralyzed legs. His wheel chair and leg braces, hidden so effectively from public view during his lifetime, are also displayed. On our way back to the visitor center we pause at the rose garden where, in accordance with his wishes, both he and Eleanor are buried.
We phone Richie up for a ride back to the Yacht Club. He drives right over and picks us up, and we tip him for his kind and prompt service. We order a pizza delivery and all 6 of us gather in the Yacht Club room to eat and chat. It’s a lovely evening out, and we linger on the patio enjoying this time together. Soon we will part ways, with 2 boats heading west on the Erie Canal while we continue north, up the Champlain Canal.