Compelling Campobello: FDR’s Summer Home
Feel you need a break from summer in New York? You might emulate Franklin Delano Roosevelt and escape to Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada. This is where FDR enjoyed many summers; his home is now open to visitors. It’s a wonderful sight and an educational delight. The car-ferry to Campobello departs every 30 minutes from Deer Island, cruising through scenic whale watching waters.
From 1909 to 1921, Franklin, Eleanor and family spent their summers in this rambling, red, two and-one-half story house. He also returned here in 1933, 1936 and 1939. Set amid spacious lawns and begonia, dahlia and rose gardens, the house, built in 1897, was enlarged in 1915 to accommodate their growing family. It has 76 windows, seven fireplaces (heated the entire house), 18 bedrooms and six bathrooms. It was a comfortable home, but had neither electricity nor telephones. Son James would later reminisce that the lack of amenities made it “a wonderful haven against the cares of the world.”
Your first stop is the Visitor Centre to see a film on FDR’s life. The house tour gives a glimpse of the family’s life here. My favorite rooms were the living room and dining room with Roosevelt furnishings, and the spacious kitchen offering ample room for the cook and servants to prepare meals. The assorted hand-driven artifacts in the laundry room made me happy I have an automatic washing machine and dryer. But perhaps most compelling was the master bedroom shared by Franklin and Eleanor until he fell ill with the polio virus in 1921—he was 39. Franklin Roosevelt, Jr. was born in this room.
From a verandah outside the boys’ room and Elliot’s room next door, are beautiful evocative bay views. You can imagine the Roosevelt children giggling and laughing as their dad taught them to sail and swim and explore nooks and crannies that pleasured him when as a child he visited Campobello with his parents.
The FDR summer home is the centerpiece of the vast Roosevelt Campobello International Park, established in 1964. Here also are historic Hubbard House, foot and car trails and a picnic area.
The park is open from June 1 to October 12.#