Wednesday 18 June

Trip Start Apr 13, 2008
Trip End Oct 27, 2008

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Flag of United States  , New York
Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wednesday 18 June
After a great nights sleep - the temperature at night has become more bearable, we paid the park ranger for the night and headed off for the 9:30 am tour of the house and grounds at the Roosevelt home. Z and H did the junior ranger program and there were only 2 other ladies on the tour conducted by an excellent National Park Ranger guide.
You can only get into these houses with a guide and the guides are really good at backing up the home tour with details of occupants lives. It is interesting to note that these houses had been gifted to the National park Service as monuments by the family (FDR's wife Eleanor Roosevelt). The gift included all the fittings and furniture - everything had been left as it was when FDR died. FDR had 4 terms as US President and died during the forth term. He was President before and during WW2. He seemed like a really nice guy and got on with most people around him even though he was from a wealthy family, had a privileged upbringing, was an only child and his Dad died when he was just 18. He contracted Polio when he was 36, before he became President and hid it from the world (he couldn't walk). The house was quite modest - "Old money" and just felt nice. King George and Elizabeth stayed in the house as did Winston Churchill.
Next we visited Val-Kill Eleanor Roosevelt's home when FDR died and she gave her home to the country. What a lady she was! "First Lady to the world" - she was USA's first representative in the United Nations. Lead the committee who wrote the "Bill of human rights" and she was instrumental in the movement to get equal rights for African Americans. Many important people had visited and stayed in her very small home.
Finally we saw a real extravagant "new money" mansion - just one of Fredrick & Louise Vanderbilt's homes. Their spring/autumn home - and what a place. It was built using European themes, mostly French, with whole ceilings coming from old French castles. They were among the times super rich - worth about $200 billion far richer by comparison to today's extremely wealthy. Fredrick's father who made the family's fortune had more money in the bank when he died than the government had.
This whole house was donated by Fredrick's niece (they had no children) she was wealthy in her own right but couldn't afford the upkeep on such a house. It is hard to explain what it is like other than to say - unbelievable, huge, extravagant to the extreme and kept just the way it was left in the 1930's.
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