On August 25th 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill creating an official agency that would “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations.” This year the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial and this coming week will be a great opportunity to wish a happy birthday to some of the Hudson Valley’s very own National Historic treasures.
To date there are 59 designated National Parks but there are over 400 units in the National Park Service system including historic sites, monuments, battlefields, seashores, and reserves. Our Hudson Valley native President Franklin Delano Roosevelt added over 65 units to the parks system including his own home at Hyde Park. Even before his house opened another Hyde Park home was receiving attention thanks in part to FDR. In 1940 the president had encouraged Margaret Van Alen, a niece of the Vanderbilts to donate the lavish house and grounds in a time when no one could afford to live such an ostentatious lifestyle. Vanderbilt was the first National Park in Hyde Park but it would not be the last.
FDR’s home opened to the public on April 12th 1946, a year to the day after his passing. There were well over 5,000 curious tourists that day and there would be many more in the years to come. Like Vanderbilt, Roosevelt’s home is left intact with all of its original belongings as he requested. Both homes are like time capsules that were once living and have stopped in a place in time. Eleanor Roosevelt was on hand to welcome visitors into her family’s old home but she would never live there after 1945. Instead she retreated to her own little cottage Val-Kill which became the first National Park dedicated to a First Lady and opened to visitors many years after her death in 1984. The fourth and final National Historic Site in Hyde Park is Top Cottage, the president’s retreat.
All of these sites will be open and tours will be free during the National Park Service Founders Week, August 25th – 28th.
Know before you go….
- Since the tours will be free, no reservations will be taken
- Arrive early to sites as the tours will sell out.
- The FDR Presidential Library and Museum is not a National Park, they will be charging normal fees.
For more questions please visit us at https://www.nps.gov/hofr/index.htm