Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's spa

 The Little White House, F.D. Roosevelt's summer cottage.

'You'd think I'd be used to this climate. It's hotter where I come from, but this is far worse,' the Indian owner of the motel in Warm Springs, Georgia, said to me. Georgia mid summer can be an oven, and a high humidity one at that. Better to be avoided in July, but this tourist did not know that. With one day to kill before a United flight would take me back from Atlanta to Amsterdam, I settled on visiting Franklin Delano Roosevelt's spa, which gives Warm Springs its claim to fame since the 1930s.

When I pulled up at the parking lot of the Warm Springs Historic District, where you can find F.D. Roosevelt's summer retreat, the Little White House and the therapeutic springs, there was only one other vehicle. That did not surprise me, since it was still rather early, just 30 minutes after the Georgia State Park Service maintained District opened its gates, and already very warm.
Not the kind of weather to see tourists wandering around, except this Dutchman of course.
When I walked in to the front desk to buy my ticket, I just saw the park warden hiding a large sandwich under the desk. “I saw that”, I said to her, and she burst into a warm laughter. She was just like I came to know the Georgians the past few weeks. They are maybe the friendliest people on America’s East Coast. We started to talk, and I soon learned that she was not from Georgia at all, but moved over there from New York state. 'I wanted to get away from the rat race, from the heavy traffic in New York. So, when I had the change to get this job, I decided to go for it and move to Georgia. I have not regretted it one minute. People are so warm and friendly over here, so different from New York. I will never go back.”
 The empty pools.

The spa, where Roosevelt felt relief for his paralysis caused by polio, was not that very interesting to be honest. It was a shame that the pools were empty, maybe it was because of maintenance, I am not sure about that. But a spa with empty pools just lacks some appeal. And too bad that you are not allowed to use the pools anyway. They are reserved for the patients of the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. But the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is displayed in detail in the various buildings on the site, including his charming summer home. One of the most curious items is his 1938 Ford Phaeton, a car that was specially designed for the president with hand controls, and he actually used it to drive around the compound.

Roosevelt's 1938 Ford Phaeton. This photo of Warm Springs is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I left the Roosevelt’s Little White House State Historic Site, as the full name of the president's summer house is, to find my travel companion who was train spotting nearby. It was a good epilogue to a trip that brought me to the Fontana Resort in North Carolina, The Great Smokies National Park and ultimately, in a warm muggy climate, to Savannah, and during which I would get to know the people of Georgia. And that park warden from New York was maybe the best proof how welcoming the Georgians are.

More information on the US National Park Service website.


  1. Nice moment of life.
    As I like architecture I was curious about this:
    ...Roosevelt and architect Henry Toombs designed a new pool complex in addition to the old Meriwether Inn's existing pools. The new pool complex featured an indoor pool, a play pool and an exercise pool while extending the public pools for the resort visitors. However, the old resort soon fell into ruin as visitors vanished, fearful that they might contract polio by swimming in the public pools...

  2. Mr. Toombs was architect for a wide variety of buildings and projects during his lifetime; some of the more important are: residences for President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Hyde Park, NY, and Warm Springs, GA (the Little White House); Memorial Library, Hyde Park, NY; buildings and grounds at Georgia Warm Springs Foundation; alterations for various Federal Reserve Banks; additions to Rich's Inc., Atlanta; American Military Cemetery at Draguignan, France; Atlanta Memorial Cultural Center; C & S Bank Building, Atlanta; and numerous private residences. A more complete list of architectural projects appears in Series One of the inventory.

    1. Rogerio, thanks for the additional information!