Hyde Park in the Hudson Valley

The Hudson Valley is a great visual joy north of New York City, and one of its historical highlights is Hyde Park, home of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt. Hop on Metro North from Grand Central or 125/Harlem for a gorgeous ride that takes you into the Bronx and along the riverbanks with views of Manhattan and New Jersey as the train tracks hug the shoreline nearly all the way up to Poughkeepsie, nearly two hours north of the city. Any train ride on the Hudson River line is a pleasure; on a spring day with sparkling blue skies and fresh green leaves bursting on all the trees up this hills and mountains that slowly rise as you move north, it’s a treat. I can’t recommend it enough.
Once you reach Poughkeepsie, there are usually shuttles that can take you the few miles farther north to the Franklin Delano & Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites. I was tempted to wax political – after all, FDR was one of the masters of 20th Century American politics – but will limit myself to reminding everyone that the country had 50 years without a banking collapse, for the very first time in its history, after new regulations were put in place and enforced under FDR and subsequent administrations. (They’d been happening every 10 to 20 years from the 1780s until then.) It wasn’t until 1989 that we had another banking collapse, after eight years of Republican presidents who philosophically disapproved of government regulating business.

So in Hyde Park you have something for everyone: political history and the presidential library of FDR; the Eleanor Roosevelt historical site, which highlights her leadership in the drafting of the universal declaration of human rights (if you’ve never read this document, please do – it’s very visionary and though often ignored and disrespected, it represents admirably high aspirations), education, civil rights & integration, rights of women and children, and so on. There’s colonial history, colonial architecture, the chairs and tschotschkes the Roosevelt family collected, and simply lovely views over the Hudson Valley. A very enjoyable day trip from the city on a clear day – keep it in mind next time you have a free day in NYC!

Above and below are photos of Top Cottage, FDR’s truly private retreat up a high hill inland from the main Roosevelt family house. Roosevelt was an amateur architect, and designed some local post offices as well as this house, a visit to which is a real treat that gives a sense of how Roosevelt gave himself quiet space as he directed the rejuvenation of the American economy and the war effort. Since they’ve either made replica furniture that very closely matches what was once there, or brought back actual pieces that were there at the time Franklin & Eleanor hosted, for example, the King & Queen of the UK, it was a real treat for Mom & me to pose for a photo in the same spot as some pretty famous folks.

…the view from the porch of Top Cottage. You can sit there and hear…nothing but the sigh of wind in these trees. For a man directing the war effort in Europe & the Pacific, such a retreat must have been priceless.

Above, the Roosevelt barn & garage in classic Dutch colonial style. Below: 2009 is the 500th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage up the Hudson, which made him the first European to explore and map the region. This ship is a close replica of Henry Hudson’s ship Half Moon, which is doing a tour of historic towns in the Hudson region from Albany south, in honor of the 500th anniversary of European arrival on these shores. As you can see, I fell in love with how the rigging of the ship looked against the rigging of the (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) Mid-Hudson bridge, which connects Poughkeepsie (east side) to Highland (west side).

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