Monday, July 16, 2018

THE LITTLE WHITE HOUSE: Roosevelt’s Retreat in Warm Springs, GA

Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Little White House," Warm Springs, GA
Franklin D. Roosevelt first came to Warm Springs Georgia in 1924 in hopes that the warm waters of the natural springs there would help him recover from polio. Over the next twenty one years he came there many times, staying in the small white cottage he built on land he purchased nearby, which, during the years he was President (1932-1945) became known as the “Little White House.” It was there that he died on April 12, 1945, when he suffered a massive heart attack while sitting for a portrait by painter Elizabeth A. Shoumatoff.
Elizabeth A. Shoumatoff's unfinished portrait is on exhibit in the visitor center
Today Roosevelt’s house and a museum with mementos of his life in Warm Springs are open to the public. It is operated by the Georgia State Parks as a State Historic Site. The treatment pools where he swam can also be seen, along with exhibits about the kinds of therapy that was offered to victims of polio like Roosevelt.
Bullock House Restaurant
I visited Warm Springs when Art and I were in Georgia visiting relatives near Atlanta last May. We took a day trip, arriving in time for lunch at Bullock House Restaurant on the town’s historic main street, choosing from a buffet of classic Southern foods including catfish, hush puppies, collard greens, fried chicken.
FDR was an avid stamp collector
After lunch our first stop was the Little White House Visitor Center, where we purchased our tickets and watched a short film before touring the museum. The museum is filled with items from Roosevelt’s personal life such as the 1938 Ford Convertible with hand controls, his stamp collection, his cane collection, and a 1930s kitchen with his “Fireside Chats” playing on the radio.
In a speech given January 6, 1941 Roosevelt insisted that people in all nations of the world shared Americans' entitlement to four freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
On one wall is a display of the Four Freedoms posters made from paintings by Norman Rockwell. They were used to promote the selling of war bonds during World War II. On another wall is a series of displays honoring Franklin’s wife Eleanor.
Eleanor Roosevelt
From the Visitor Center we went outside for the short walk to Roosevelt’s house, stopping at the guest house and servant’s quarters. Inside Roosevelt’s cottage, a very knowledgeable park ranger answered questions and helped us imagine what it was like when Roosevelt lived there.
Wheelchair fashioned by mounting a kitchen chair on wheels
The rooms inside the cottage are small and cozy and largely unchanged since Roosevelt’s time. A special wheelchair, small enough to fit through the narrow doorways sits in the corner; next to it is a statue of Fala, Roosevelt’s faithful dog.
Photographs of FDR at the Warm Springs Pools
A mile from the museum are the pools where Roosevelt went for therapy. No longer used, they have been drained but photos from the past show them full of people.  A small museum at the pools tell about the springs and the town’s history, including Roosevelt’s founding of the adjacent Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute.
The pools once used by FDR were replaced by an indoor pool closer to the treatment center.
A visit to Warm Springs is a trip back in time. It is one thing to read about FDR in the history books. It is another to walk in his footsteps. As the cover of the park brochure proclaims, a visit to Roosevelt’s Little White House is to experience the inspirational retreat of a man who changed America.
The Little White House is located 70 miles south of Atlanta, Georgia. For more information go to www.GeorgiaStateParks.org .

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