Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site Hyde Park, N.Y. Visited: March 27, 2004 NPS Site Visited: 8 of 353 NPS Website; Local Website
WHAT IS IT? Dutch-style cottage used by Eleanor Roosevelt as her home from 1937 to 1962.
BEAUTY (6/10) Itís easy to see why Val-Kill cottage was the First Ladyís favorite place on the Roosevelt Estate. Surrounded by woods and streams flowing into a man-made pond, it offers a casual beauty that contrasts with the much larger and formal FDR Home. However, because of its location 2 miles east of FDR, it is lacking a view of the dramatic Hudson River.
The Dutch cottages that make up the site are very typical of the type built in the 1930ís. We were immediately reminded of the wood-paneled cabin retreats in Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (6/10) Eleanor entertained guests from local schoolchildren to kings and diplomats here, all in the same informal and inviting atmosphere. Every room is cluttered with photos and portraits of her guests. Eleanorís Dining Room table placed disparate viewpoints and political agendas elbow to elbow and gave leaders opportunities to discuss their differences and work through issues while passing the butter. How much work in the name of human rights was accomplished here, outside of formal settings and confrontational public forums?
CROWDS (6/10) Sparse, but if there were many more people, the tour of the cottage would have been tight.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (4/5) A little harder to reach than the Home of FDR and didnít look to be as accessible. Narrow hallways could present a problem for some folks. Itís clear that FDR didnít spend much time here.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (2/5) Small, but nearly anything youíd want to read on Eleanor and her accomplishments is available just down the road at the FDR Visitor Center.
COSTS (2/5) Included in the $18 Hyde Park multi-site pass.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (4/5) Fine since there werenít many visitors.
TOURS/CLASSES (7/10) The film is the same as the Eleanor Roosevelt film we watched at the FDR Presidential Library. The tour of her cottage was informative and full of interesting anecdotes.
FUN (5/10) Fun, no. Interesting and compelling, yes.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (5/10) Like the Home of FDR, this site offers remarkable insight into who Eleanor Roosevelt was as a person. Our admiration for this amazing woman grew even more after realizing how she worked, entertained and learned.
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