FDR’s Little White House

Ashburn, GA

Most of you already know this but for the few who forgot, yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945.  So the date seems appropriate for a blog about a visit we made earlier this week to the room where he passed away.  The small town of Warm Springs, GA is about a two hour drive from our location in Ashburn.  We thought about moving the motorhome to nearby FDR State Park for a few days, but since we have been enjoying the RV park here in Ashburn, we decided to stay here and just drive up to Warm Springs for our visit.

The plaque above gives a nice synopsis of the “Little White House.”  At the entrance there is now a very nice little museum dedicated to FDR with a natural emphasis on his visits to Warm Springs.  Beyond the museum the walkway takes you over a hill to the cottage.  The picture below shows the entrance to the compound.  The Little White House cottage can be seen in the middle of the picture below the other two structures.  The building on the right is a servant’s quarters.  The one on the left is a guest house.

As you walk between the two small houses the president’s cottage comes into view down a short hillside.

The cottage is very small.  It consists of a small entrance room, kitchen, dining room, living room, three bedrooms, and one bathroom.  Below is the living room as it was on April 12, 1945.  FDR was sitting in the chair having his portrait painted when he complained of a severe headache and passed out with his head on the table.

Aides carried him to his adjacent small bedroom where he was pronounced dead.

Between the bedroom used by FDR and another used by family visitors and his wife, Eleanor (who rarely accompanied FDR to Warm Springs) is the bathroom.  One can only imagine the important decisions of WWII that were made by the president while on this throne!

The Presidential Throne

As mentioned, FDR was having his portrait painted when he suffered a massive stroke.   The portrait was never completed and is now known as the Unfinished Portrait.  Later, Painter Elizabeth Shoumatoff decided to finish the portrait in FDR’s memory. She painted a new painting based on memory.  One difference is that the tie that was red in the original is now blue in the finished painting.  All other aspects are completely identical.  Both portraits are on display in what is called the Legacy Display next to the museum.

The Unfinished Portrait

The Finished Portrait

In 1921 Roosevelt contracted what was thought at the time to be polio.  One of the few things that seemed to ease his pain was immersion and exercise in warm water.  His first time in Warm Springs, Georgia, was October 1924.  He was drawn to the town by a permanent 88-degree natural spring at a nearby resort.   Roosevelt bought the resort and the 1,700-acre farm surrounding it in 1927.  He founded the Institute for Rehabilitation after hearing about a boy who had regained the use of his legs, through a treatment known as hydrotherapy, which involves the use of water for soothing pains and treating diseases. The operations of the Institute were paid for by the Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which later became the March of Dimes.  The Warm Springs Institute currently treats about 5,000 patients every year.

Model of the pool facility built by FDR

While the original historic pools are not generally open to the public, they open the waters once a year to the public on Labor day weekend.  They allow four groups of people in for a one and a half hour swim.  

The pool facility today

While not a destination location, if you visit south Georgia put a visit to Warm Springs on your agenda.

We have a few more days here in Ashburn, then it is off to Atlanta.

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28 Responses to FDR’s Little White House

  1. But of course, Mr. History, I was aware that yesterday was FDR’s death anniversary…not! Thanks for sharing this interesting historical site!

  2. While you were in warm springs a stop at Callaway Gardens would have been a great trip. The azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom now. Great place to drive thru or ride bikes around the lake. There are numerous stops including a great butterfly house you can walk thru. If you have more time I recommend it.

    • placestheygo says:

      Too bad we didn’t know about the gardens, Susan. We even had our bikes with us since we keep them inside the Jeep. Not sure how much time we would have had anyway since it was actually a two and half hour drive each way. Thanks for the heads up if we are in the area again.

  3. pmbweaver says:

    I would love to visit this place. This fall we are headed down the East coast towards Augusta. I want to add this to a stop. Love the photos. What a cool place to send some time just resting and reflecting. Thanks for the history lesson also. I don’t think I ever really knew he passed away from what started with a headache

    Paul has something in common with FDR…he makes most of his important decision while seated on the throne.

  4. Oh you made it there! We found the little white house interesting and we became interested in our past presidents starting with FDR. We were there about the same time last year. But how come no pics from the museum?

    • placestheygo says:

      For this trip, Mona, I gave the camera to John and said to take what he wanted for the blog. The only picture I took was of him out front of the Little White House. It was a very interesting visit. My kind of historical place.

  5. Gay says:

    OK…you know you are in my old stomping grounds. As a child I lived in Manchester and in Warm Springs before moving to LaGrange. In fact, my mom worked at the polio rehab center and my grandfather (Robert Daniel) was the foreman for Daniel Lumber Company in charge of building The Little White House. I do hope you ate lunch at the Bulloch House…great southern fried chicken and fried green tomatoes…yummy!

    Also, RVC Outdoor Destinations has a great resort in Pine Mt. on the way to Atlanta….the gardens are beautiful this time of year!

    • placestheygo says:

      Gay, I knew you were there not too long ago. I went back and read your posts from the area. Our original plan was to move to the RVC Outdoor Destination for this present week after reading your blog. But once we got settled here in Ashburn and the golfing was good, we decided to stay put here and just make a drive up to Warm Springs. How neat to have such a personal connection to this site:) We did see the Bulloch House and I did kick myself for not suggesting we stop…darn!

  6. Sherry says:

    This is a really great post about somewhere I have always wanted to visit after reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book No Ordinary Time, which was fantastic. This past summer, we went to Campobello Island which was the Roosevelt summer home in Canada for many years. It was later the place Eleanor retreated to after Franklin and Missy began going to Warm Springs. Complicated lives. Thanks for the look at the Little White House.

    • placestheygo says:

      John read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, also. He is a history major and reading and studying history is a big part of his life. We went through Campobello a few years ago on our way to Nova Scotia. John shared the more personal side of FDR and Eleanor and Missy while we were touring the Little White House.

  7. laurel says:

    This is exactly the kind of historical place we enjoy visiting because it’s so personal. Thanks for the excellent tour — I’ve always had a passing interest in FDR and now I’m intrigued to learn more (including reading No Ordinary Life). This is going on our list for our travels next spring. Too bad they don’t have the warm springs pool open to the public more than once a year!

  8. Erin says:

    One of the bloggers I follow had an opportunity to participate in one of the swims in that pool. Hope to at least visit FDR’s Little WH, if not actually swim in the pool … but that will have to wait until we get east again.

    • placestheygo says:

      How neat it would be to participate in one of the swims. There is a bathtub bubbling from the spring so you can feel the water. It is a perfect warmth. Just add this to that ever growing list of “must see” places:)

  9. rommel says:

    Perfect, perfect timing to give tribute. Kind of a goosebump-y read there though talking about death of a president. Interesting read, nonetheless. What I love about it is that it looks very simplistic given his position and importance. It’s like he’s just living in a regular neighborhood.

    • placestheygo says:

      That’s sure how it seemed, Rommel. He went over to the warm spring and swam with all the other people. In the video at the museum, they showed kids trying to dunk him under water. He was just another polio victim there.

  10. LuAnn says:

    Well John, I must admit to not knowing about this important anniversary either, but would love to visit this site someday. I’m not surprised you have read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, No Ordinary Time. I have read her book Team of Rivals regarding Abraham Lincoln and should also try to tackle this one.

    Hope the weather is cooperating with the two of you. We woke up to cold temps in the high 30’s this morning, with wind.

    • placestheygo says:

      We woke to 38 outside, 47 inside…brrrr! I had to use my seat warmer for quite awhile this morning as move to Atlanta. We had to get a very early start as it seems someone is waiting for us to begin the yard work!!

      • LuAnn says:

        I didn’t check our temp inside but it was probably similar to yours. As for the yard work, we had our fill of that in Ohio last summer. We both have said we feel we did some damage to our bodies with all the heavy lifting last summer.

  11. Very interesting, we read about this place in the FDR Presidential Library. Nice to read about it from your perspective. Thanks.

  12. Hi Pam,
    I have nominated you for a Sisterhood Award. I always enjoy travelling along with you and appreciate all your likes and comments on my posts. Sista! http://whichwaynow101.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award/
    Kind regards,
    Carol

  13. frankeeg says:

    I am always interested to read your visits to historical places. In Australia we do not seem to have as much interest in historical places. We do have some places restored and maintained but not to the extent you do in the USA. I think the desire to maintain places of historical interest as well as have the affordability to be able to do so is wonderful. Perhaps one day we will realise we need to preserve the past more than we do now..

  14. Amy says:

    I came here from LuAnn’s blog. Thank you so much for the tour of FDR’s Little White House and the Warm Springs Institute Enjoyed the reading!

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