A National Park Service Ranger tells the tour about the layout of the Springwood estate. In the background is the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center.
This is at the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York. The claim of Native Americans to the area was ignored by King William III and given to nine New York City businessmen in 1697. Called the "Great Nine Partners Patent", it covered everything from the east shore of the Hudson River to the Connecticut border. Its northern boundary was a northeastly line from Vanderburg Cove, while the southern border began at about St. Andrew Road, went due east two miles, and then traveled northeast to the border. The eastern border of the patent began at about E. Market Street (in Rhinebeck) and followed what is now Route 9-G south to Eckert Road. At Eckert Road, the border went due west to the river. The area between St. Andrew Road and Eckert Road was known as the "Water Lots" — nine equally sized long lots designed to give all nine partners equal access to the Hudson.
The original patentee, William Creed, sold his water lot to others. It’s not clear who actually bought the property, but it was sold a few more times over the next century. Springwood was established between 1790 and 1805 when a two-story farmhouse was built on the site of the current mansion, but the owner is not clear. In 1845, Josiah Wheeler acquired the one-square-mile property, and lived there until 1866. He also added acreage to the estate, enlarging it to 110 acres. He also added a large stable (1850), laundry house (1850), small ice house (1847-1865), and gardener’s cottage (1845-1865).
Franklin Roosevelt’s father, James Roosevelt, bought Springwood in 1866 for $40,000 (at a time when a factory worker’s earnings were $325 a year ). James added another 490 acres of land to the property, and not only farmed the property but used it for forestland. He also added a very large kitchen garden (1880), coach house (1886), duplex house (for staff housing; 1895), and large ice house (1898).
The Roosevelts were originally Rossacampos — Jews expelled from Spain in 1620 who settled in Holland and converted to Christianity. Their name changed to the more Hollander "Rosenvelt". Claes Maartenszen van Rosenvelt, a Dutch immigrant from the Tholen region of the Netherlands. He emigrated to Nieuw Amsterdam (now New York City) some time between 1638 and 1649. He bought a 48-acre farm in mid-Manhattan on what is now the site of the Empire State Building. Claes’ son, Nicholas, Anglicized the family name to Roosevelt, and his sixth child (and third son) Jacobus moved to Hyde Park in the early 1730s. (Nicholas, his elder brother, moved to Oyster Bay and founded the line of Roosevelts that would generate Teddy Roosevelt.) The Roosevelts largely tended to marry English descendants, which left the Roosevelts technically Dutch but actually English. Jacobus’ son, Isaac, was a merchant who founded the Bank of New York, got elected to the New York State Assembly, and made a fortune in the sugar trade in the Dutch West Indies. Isaac Jr. married into the wealthy Aspinwall family, and founded the Rosedale estate near Hyde Park.
Isaac Jr.’s son, James, married Rebecca Howland (his first cousin) and they had a son, James Jr. (usually known as "Rosey"). But Howland died in 1876, and four years later James married Sara Delano — the daughter of Warren Delano II. Warren Delano got fabulously wealthy in the China trade, and Sara was one of his 10 children. James Roosevelt was heavily involved in railroads, and Delano lived right across the Hudson River on the Delano estate.
On January 30, 1882, Sara gave birth to her only child, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was a difficult pregnancy and difficult birth, and Sara was told not to have any more children. James Roosevelt, Sr. died in 1900. Sara had a "life estate" claim to the Springwood mansion and property: That means she did not own it (Franklin did), but had the right to live there for the rest of her life. Franklin added a greenhouse (1906), garage (1911), rose garden (1912), and pump house (1916), and added another 900 acres to the property. During his lifetime, Franklin Roosevelt planted more than 200,000 trees (some in tree farms, others in orchards, some as reforestation projects) on the estate.
In 1935, Franklin Roosevelt donated the Springwood mansion and 33.23 acres of land around it to the United States. He also donated 12 acres of land for a library, and designed and constructed on that land a presidential library. Congress accepted the donation by passing the Historic Sites Act of 1935. Roosevelt required that his wife and children be permitted a life estate in the property, but in 1946 the family gave up this right. Roosevelt also stipulated that the view from the mansion to the Hudson River be protected, and that the trees on the site be replaced as needed (rather than cut, cleared, or vistas changed through attrition). In 1939, Congress passed legislation accepting the FDR Presidential Library from the Roosevelt family.
Unfortunately, the Roosevelt family retained the remaining 1,455 acres of the estate. The 1939 library legislation gave the National Park Service the right of first refusal to purchase this land, but the NPS was uninterested in doing so. So the Roosevelts began sellling it off. Realizing its mistake, the NPS began acquiring land in 1952. It purchased most of the land west of Springwood mansion to preserve the Hudson River view, and most of the James "Rosey" Roosevelt, Jr. estate to the south of Springwood (although Rosey’s home, Red House, remained in the possesion of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute — a nonprofit foundation dedicated to preserving the memory of FDR and administering the FDR museum). It also purchased Bellefield (and adjacent estate; see below) and received a donation of land from the Newbold/Morgan family. It also began adding vast parts of the original farm, which was largely to the north of Springwood mansion and to the east of the Albany Post Road. All told, the NPS added 687 acres to help preserve the setting of the Springwood mansion and estate as it looked at the time of Roosevelt’s death.
About 600 feet to the northwest of the Springwood mansion is Bellefield, the mansion of the Newbold/Morgan family. Originally constructed about 1795, the 16-room house was greatly enlarged between 1840 and 1860. Thomas Newbold, a wealthy local investor and state legislator, purchased the residence about 15 acres of land in 1885. The Newbolds, and their descendants the Morgans, were good friends of the Roosevelts.
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