Tag Archives: FDR

Whiteface Memorial Highway Turns 75

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The Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway, in Wilmington, N.Y., celebrated its 75th birthday on July 20th. At a cost of $1.2 million, construction of the winding roadway began in 1929 and was a part of the Depression Era public works projects. The highway opened to automobile traffic July 20, 1935 and the official opening ceremony took place later that year, in September.

During the opening ceremony celebration, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was New York’s Governor when ground was broken for the eight-mile long stretch of roadway, dedicated it to the veterans of World War I. In 1985, then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo re-dedicated the highway to all veterans.

Today, from mid-May to early-October, visitors to the area can take a drive or cycle up the five-mile long scenic highway, from the toll booth to the top. Along the way there are scenic lookout points and picnic areas where visitors can stop and enjoy views of the Adirondack region.

Once at the top of the 4,867-foot high Whiteface Mountain, guests can enjoy a 360-degree, panoramic view of the region, spanning hundreds of square miles of wild land reaching out to Vermont and Canada. Guests can also visit the castle, built from native stone, where they will find a gift shop and restaurant. For those who are unable to reach the summit on foot, an elevator is available that will take guests the final 26-stories to the summit’s observation deck.

Admission to the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway is $10 for vehicle and driver, $6 for each additional passenger. Bicycles can enjoy the more than 2,300-foot climb for only $5.

Photo: President Franklin D. Roosevelt attends the official opening of the Whiteface highway, Sept. 1935, and dedicates it to all veterans of World War I. Courtesy 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum.

Role of White House Advisors Subject of FDR Exhibit

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With unemployment soaring and many of the nation’s banks in uncertain straits, a newly elected President adopts the activist agenda of “wooly-headed professors” and soon is being bitterly accused of seeking dictatorial power.

This scenario, which has its uncanny echoes in today’s political scene, was played out beginning in 1932 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the circle of Columbia University scholars who became his close advisors. The story of this epoch-making alliance between the White House and academia is told in the New-York Historical Society exhibition FDR’s Brain Trust, on view now through March 1, 2010.

“No President in the past century took office in such difficult circumstances as did Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and no President moved ahead more quickly and forcefully,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “This new exhibition explores how Roosevelt, while still a candidate for President, did something that was unprecedented at the time and sought counsel from academics. We see how this decision led directly to the daring innovations that became known as the New Deal, and that remain with us to this day.”

Curated by Jean W. Ashton, Executive Vice President and Director of Library division, the exhibition is designed to evoke both the desperation of the Great Depression and the hope and energy of a nation rebuilding itself. FDR’s Brain Trust presents rarely seen photographs, cartoons, documents, artifacts, and newsreels drawn from the New-York Historical Society collection and the archives of Columbia University. These materials bring to life the personalities, convictions and circumstances of FDR and the people who were at first known jokingly as his “Privy Council”—Columbia University professors Raymond Moley, Adolf Berle and Rexford G. Tugwell. Dubbed “The Brains Trust” in July 1932 by a New York Times reporter—the “s” was eventually dropped—these men were eventually joined in the new Roosevelt administration by Harry Hopkins, founder of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and Frances Perkins, who as Secretary of Labor became the first female cabinet member.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

· an etching by Martin Borne titled Hooverville on Hudson (1934), showing a camp of the unemployed and homeless that would have been visible from the Columbia University campus

· a map from the Real Estate Record and Guide (March 25, 1933) showing the spread of foreclosed properties across Manhattan

· broadsides depicting street demonstrations

· an executive order requiring that all gold be deposited in a Federal Reserve Bank

· editorial cartoons from the Chicago Tribune and Des Moines Register depicting FDR and his advisors as Soviet-style socialists

Despite the vehemence that the Brain Trust aroused, the speed and scope of the New Deal they advocated were unprecedented. Less than four months after Roosevelt took office, his administration stabilized the banks and the economy, saved homes and farms from foreclosure, and began to institute a vast range of programs (including Workmen’s Compensation, a federal minimum wage, child labor laws and Social Security) to address the dire needs of Americans.

A Program On America’s Only World War II Refugee Camp

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Sixty-five years ago 982 people arrived at Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY. They would stay the next 18 months at the only World War II refugee camp on American soil. On August 20th at 6 pm in Sackets Harbor, Safe Haven President Elizabeth A. Kahl will share the story of those 982 “guests” of President Franklin D. Roosevelt from August 1944 to February 1946. The program is part of the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center.

Kahl, who has served on the board of the nonprofit that administers the Safe Haven Museum and Education Center in Oswego since 1999, said in a press release that “The maelstrom that was World War II had millions of fugitives fleeing for their lives in Europe. A continent away, Oswego, New York on the shores of Lake Ontario was to play a unique role in history as the small community who gave 982 people shelter and hope.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is among those who visited the refugees at the fort.

The $5 admission to the August 20th program benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation and its educational programming.

American Presidents Blog: The Roosevelts

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One of the blogs I follow here at New York History is Michael Lorenzen’s American Presidents blog. he recently took a trip to New York and posted a three-part blog on the Roosevelt sites:

Part One – covered Sagamore Hill, the Long Island estate of Theodore and Edith Roosevelt.

Part Two – looked at Eleanor Roosevelt’s home Val-Kill.

Part Three – was a visit to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park.

Interesting reads, from an interesting blog.

FDR Library ‘literally falling apart’

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From the New York Times, via the History News Network:

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum at Hyde Park, N.Y., the nation’s first presidential library, is literally falling apart. The roof leaks, the basement floods, asbestos is flaking from old steam pipes, an ancient electrical system could send the whole place up in smoke. This sorry situation is an insult to the person the library and museum honor: the founder of the New Deal, the greatest investment in our nation’s modern development….

While the library sits high above the river, its basement lies below the water table. Sump pumps installed in 1939 are supposed to keep it dry, but don’t. Storms have caused flooding in the basement where collections are stored and in restrooms and public areas. What’s worse, storm and sewer drainage run together, which means they mingle if there’s a backup in the basement.

The electrical system, which was also installed in 1939, has outlived the suppliers of replacement parts. Archivists turn the lights on and off using the original circuit breakers. And with the electrical vault in the flood-prone basement, the library’s director, Cynthia Koch, fears that a short in the system could set the place on fire and destroy the entire collection.