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FDR's Home in the Hudson Valley

FDR's home, where he was born and continued to return throughout his life, is in Hyde Park, New York, a bit north of Poughkeepsie. His last visit only about a month before his death.

When his father bought the property, it was a largish wooden farmhouse. After extensive renovation and expansion by both FDR and his father, over several decades, the house was completely transformed to a stucco mansion, incorporating the well-disguised original house within.

Numerous fine paintings, photos, and artifacts fill the walls and rooms; opened to the public exactly a year after his death, the place is much as it was in Roosevelt's day. The estate grew from the original 110 to 1500 acres, of which FDR donated 33 to house his Presidential Library—the first to be public, the only one used by a sitting president, and in a Dutch Colonial style building that FDR designed himself (one of several on the estate and nearby).

Roosevelt also wrote and edited his own speeches; the library has his original inaugural speech in longhand, and a typed draft of the Pearl Harbor speech showing "a date that will live in world history" crossed out and replaced with "infamy," among several other changes that all strengthened the speech's emotional impact.

Roosevelt also planned the route of the Taconic Parkway in 1920, when he was NY State Highway. And at Hyde Park he was also a farmer, forester, volunteer firefighter, and much more. Commissioner.

Eleanor was also a Roosevelt, a niece of Teddy's. The library has a large exhibit on her remarkable transformation from shy, unselfconfident socialite to great champion of the causes of women, minorities, and opponents of McCarthyism. She was also a vastly prolific writer, including 8000 installments of a newspaper column that ran daily for decades, and 72 books, most written after FDR's death (including a few children's books). As well as one of the first jet-setters, flying around the world (in propeller planes) to meet dignitaries and world leaders and the common folk.

In the whole museum, we only saw one reference to Roosevelt's extramarital affairs—in the Eleanor gallery, quoting her shocked reaction when she discovered his affair—and none about her own rumored liaisons, other than an unexplained reference to Mrs. Nesbit. There were also some political assumptions throughout the exhibits: that he had to develop the bomb (and Truman had to use it), and that his drastic enlargement of the federal government's authority, the military, and the power of the executive were all justified (though it did refer to his attempt to pack the Supreme Court as a mistake). It certainly acknowledged his critics and detractors with numerous mentions, but gave them no psychic space and their arguments no exploration.

Despite the bias, it's well worth touring this property for the fascinating close-up look at these two crucial players in the history of the 20th century.

Rhinebeck, about ten miles north, is a pretty town, destination for boutiquers and foodies. And that's where we chose to eat and stay.

Choosing among half a dozen promising options (upscale Italian, moderate Mexican, a busy Indian restaurant three miles south of town), we dined at the Terrapin, on Route 9 (Montgomery Street) just north of the intersection with 308. Housed in an old but heavily renovated church, the decor is exquisite, including a 30-foot (or thereabouts) high ceiling done in elegant wood paneling, large globular light fixtures, and the old organ gleaming above the split-level dining room. The food was nouvelle fusion, very well prepared, using excellent ingredients (even the butter is amazing) and served with an assortment of homemade breads. I chose a portobello mushroom in Thai basil sauce, with sides of vegetable terrine and mashed potatoes. Dina had an arugala salad with goat cheese-filled wontons. We also tried two different tapas items: tiny portions of mango with warm brie (a single slice) and a tofu dumpling in a sweet ginger sauce. Entrees start in the high teens.

For dessert, we crossed 308 to the Calico Cafe and Patisserie (directly across from the Beekman House, which claims to be the oldest inn in the US), for some very rich, dense pastries.

And the following day, after a return trip to the Roosevelt estate, we tried the Indian, which was good but not memorable.

Shel Horowitz, Editor of Global Travel Review and owner of FrugalFun.com, is the author of the e-book, The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook, and the creator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign.


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