Little White House
Little White House
|Location||Warm Springs, Georgia|
|Governing body||State of Georgia|
|Part of||Warm Springs Historic District (#74000694)|
|Designated CP||July 30, 1974|
The Little White House, in the Warm Springs Historic District in Warm Springs, Georgia, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's personal retreat. He first came to Warm Springs for polio treatment, and liked the area so much that, as Governor of New York, he had a home built on nearby Pine Mountain. The house was finished in 1932. Roosevelt kept the house after he became President, using it as a Presidential retreat.
The Little White House was the site of President Roosevelt's death. The house was opened to the public as a museum in 1948. A major attraction of the museum is the portrait that artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff was painting of him when he died, now known as the "Unfinished Portrait." It hangs near a finished portrait that Shoumatoff completed later from sketches and memory.
Little White House Historic Site is operated by the State of Georgia and is also known as Roosevelt's Little White House Historic Site.
Residents of Georgia, particularly Savannah, Georgia, began spending vacations at Bullochville, Georgia in the late 18th century as a way to escape yellow fever, finding the number of warm springs in the vicinity of Bullochville very attractive. In the late 19th century traveling to the warm springs was attractive as a way to get away from Atlanta. Traveling by railroad to Durand, Georgia, they would then go to Bullochville. One of the places benefiting from this was the Meriwether Inn. Once the automobile became popular in the early 20th century, the tourists began going elsewhere, starting the decline of the Meriwether Inn.
In 1921 Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted what was thought at the time to be polio. One of the few things that seemed to ease his pain was immersion in warm water, and while in said water to bathe and engage in physical exercise. His first time in Warm Springs, Georgia, was October 1924. He went to a resort in the town whose attraction was a permanent 88-degree natural spring, but whose main house was described as "ramshackle". Roosevelt bought the resort and the 1,700-acre (6.9 km2) farm surrounding it in 1927 (the resort would become known as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation). Five years later in 1932, after winning the presidency for the first time, he ordered a six-room Georgia pine house to be built on the property. This house was FDR’s retreat throughout his presidency and became known as the Little White House. In total, he made sixteen trips to the Little White House during his presidency, usually spending two to three weeks at a time, as it took a day to reach Warm Springs from Washington D.C. by train.
The Little White House was a six-room Colonial Revival structure made of Georgia pine. Three of the rooms were bedrooms: one for Roosevelt, one for his wife Eleanor Roosevelt, and one for his personal secretary. The other rooms were an entrance hall, a living room, and a kitchen. Access to the Little White House was from an unpaved road that now only exist in parts. The garage-servant's quarters was built in 1932, followed by the single-story frame cottage that served as a guesthouse in 1933, and finally a cottage for Georgia Wilkins in 1934. Wilkins' family was the original owner of the property.
Roosevelt would use the Little White House as a base to replace Georgia politicians who refused to follow his policies. This was most notable in 1938 when Roosevelt tried and failed to have United States Senator Walter George replaced with a Roosevelt loyalist, even though both were Democrats.
World War II did affect Roosevelt's time at the Little White House. The only year he did not go to the Little White House was 1942, as he was preoccupied by the beginnings of US involvement in World War II. It is believed that he vacationed as much as he did in 1943-1945 at the Little White House because his real love for vacations, sailing on the Atlantic, was too dangerous to do during wartime, even if it was just on inland waterways like the Chesapeake Bay or the Potomac River. One major change was that soldiers from Fort Benning were stationed at the Little White House to patrol the woods surrounding the farm.
His last trip to the Little White House was on March 30, 1945. He felt he did not achieve enough rest at his Hyde Park home. According to some observers at Warm Springs, Roosevelt looked "ghastly". and his usual cordial waves to the residents were weak. Unlike his previous visits, he avoided the swimming pool he used to comfort himself in previous trips. On April 12, 1945, FDR was sitting for a portrait at the Little White House when he suffered a stroke. Roosevelt died two hours later of cerebral hemorrhage.
Most of Roosevelt's property was willed to Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, which gained control of all the properties in 1948 except for the Georgia Wilkins Cottage, which Wilkins lived in until her 1959 death. Both John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Jimmy Carter in 1976 used the property for their campaigns to become president; Carter even launched his campaign there.
Today the Little White House is part of Georgia's state park system and is open to visitors; it has been preserved to look almost exactly as it did the day FDR died. Items on display at the facility, besides the Unfinished Portrait, include his customized 1938 Ford convertible (in the museum. It was housed in the garage.) and his stagecoach.
On August 9, 2011, the McCarthy Cottage & the E.T. Curtis Cottage next to the Little White House were destroyed in a fire. The cause is being investigated but suspicion is being focused on lightning and thunderstorms that were in the area at the time.
- "NPS Focus". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
- Georgia State Parks - History
- Warm Springs Historic District NRHP nomination form
- Walsh, Kenneth T. From Mount Vernon to Crawford (Hyperion, 2005) p.96,97
- Warms Springs NRHP form
- Walsh p.97-98
- Walsh p.102-104
- Georgia State Parks - Roosevelt's Little White House Historic Site
- Historic Home Frequented by FDR destroyed by fire
- Fire destroys Warm Springs home built by FDR, Fran Jeffries, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 9, 2011
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Little White House.|
- See Atlanta's replica of FDR's Little White House
- Little White House Historic Site
- Warm Springs
- Front and North Elevations, the Little White House. From the Henry Johnson Toombs Papers at the Georgia Archives.