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Warm Springs and FDR’s Little White House

Little White House GeorgiaI’ve visited Ford Theater in Washington, DC, site of the Lincoln assassination and seen the limousine JFK was riding in when he was shot. I’ve toured many historic homes claiming George Washington slept there, but I’d never visited Warm Springs, Georgia, site of the FDR Little White House.

Before my tour, I hadn’t realized that President Franklin D. Roosevelt died there. That fact alone makes it all the more memorable (in a macabre sort of way) and a must- see.

FDR bed

FDR’s bed is surprisingly modest for one of the most powerful men in the world.

Warm Springs is a bit off the main roads, near Roosevelt State Park and Callaway Gardens or about 80 miles south from Atlanta. The tiny town (current population approximately 500) was a resort area before Roosevelt started visiting.

Roosevelt arrived on October 3, 1924 in what was then called Bullochville, hoping to find a cure for polio which he contracted in 1921. The next day, he began swimming and immediately felt an improvement. For the first time in three years, he was able to move his right leg. By his return in 1925, other patients were coming in the hope of a cure. In 1926, he bought the resort property and 1,200 acres from George Peabody for about $200,000. Seeking medical advice and contributions from his friends, he organized the nonprofit Warms Springs Foundation in 1927 turning property over to the foundation.

FDR visited every year except 1942, during WWII. He always came at Thanksgiving and celebrated the meal with the polio patients at the Foundation. In 1932 he built a small retreat: a Greek Revival style house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, and living/dining room. There is a wooden sundeck off the back that overlooks the woods.

FDR Unfinished Portrait

This unfinished portrait was being painted when President Roosevelt suffered a fatal stroke.

When he became the 32nd President of the United States, the getaway became known as the Little White House (is indeed white). The cottage is more like a rustic cabin on the inside with a casual and cozy feel. I entered through the kitchen, saw his wheel chair (rarely used in public), the living area, his and Eleanor bedrooms, his secretary’s bedroom (or shall we say mistress?). I counted three old black dial telephones.

FDR Memorabilia

In addition to touring the house, the Park Service maintains a small museum with FDR memorabilia. First stop, and highly recommended, was the short movie narrated by Walter Cronkite. I learned of FDR’s Rural Electrification Administration, which grew out of his exorbitant electric bill at Warm Springs. The Warm Springs bill was much higher than his Hyde Park, NY property. This program became instrumental in bringing electricity to rural areas at affordable prices.

The museum contains a timeline of FDR’s life and number of his personal articles, like canes, stamp collections, and his 1938 Ford. He personally designed the hand controls so he could drive the vehicle. He also designed the cottage’s “bump gate” which swings open when the car’s fender bumps into it. It closes by itself!

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR’s Ford was equipped with special hand controls so he could drive.

Roosevelt returned to Warm Springs for the last time near the end of the war in 1945. Just back from the Yalta Conference, he planned to work on his address for the United Nations Conference. On Thursday, April 12, he posed in a favorite chair near the fireplace for a portrait by Madame Elizabeth Shoumatoff. Suddenly, he suffered a massive stroke. He was carried from the room into his bedroom. He died later that same afternoon. The “Unfinished Portrait” is on exhibit at the historic site, along with a finished copy.

Today, the Roosevelt’s Little White House remains the same as it was the day the president died.

Cobbler Georgia

After my visit to the Little White House, this peach cobbler fortified me.

After perusing the gift shop, I drove to lunch at the cutesy Bulloch House which offers southern hospitality and southern cooking. Pick from a buffet of fried chicken (very moist) to fried green tomatoes, black-eyed peas, squash, greens, cornbread, biscuits, and salads. The price is very reasonable. Of course, I had to finish with one of my favorites – peach cobbler. Our waitress was moonlighting: she is none other than the mayor of Warm Springs! Now, I said it was a small town, but worth a visit. —by Debi Lander, RFT Contributor 

Debi Lander

 



Debi Lander

Debi Lander is a freelance journalist and photographer specializing in travel, food and lifestyle. She currently calls St. Augustine, Florida home, but frequently follows an unrelenting desire to get away and explore. While on the road, she enjoys tasting local cuisine from hole-in-the-wall eateries to fine dining and wine establishments.Debi is a member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association and Society of American Travel Writers. Her website, www.bylandersea.com, features published stories from her global adventures and a link to her travel journal: The Luggage Diaries.Her food blog, Bylandersea-Food Tales, offers restaurant, product, and cookbook reviews as well as recipe triumphs and failures in her own kitchen.