The legacy of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Warm Springs area is one of the most poignant and stirring stories of 20th century America. Many people don’t realize the full scope of this important chapter in Georgia history, but all can immerse themselves in it with a visit to area attractions.
Start your experience at the Roosevelt's Little White House State Historic Site, a charming cottage nestled in the pine woods near town. As FDR’s getaway during his four terms as president – completed just before his inauguration in 1933 – the lovingly preserved site gives a glimpse of daily life for the pivotal figure. FDR, who had contracted polio in 1921, found swimming in the area’s mineral waters therapeutic for his paralyzed legs.
FDR died unexpectedly in one of the Little White House’s six rooms in 1945. You’ll see the carved inscription near the kitchen describing FDR’s last meal, prepared for him by longtime favorite cook Daisy, and a collar belonging to Fala, the presidential terrier. Also look for the one-of-a-kind presidential Victrola, which FDR would use to record his popular “fireside chats” on vinyl.
Museum and Pools
Adjacent to the cottage is the newly expanded FDR Memorial Museum, which is devoted which is devoted mostly to FDR’s influence on helping people with disabilities and his impact on rural Georgia. Many New Deal programs were directly inspired by FDR’s concern for the socioeconomic conditions he saw in rural Georgia during his trips to the area’s healing waters.
The museum has fascinating exhibits of treatments for polio and other debilitating diseases during the early 20th century, and how FDR’s work at Warm Springs advanced their treatment. Also, don’t miss the famous and moving “unfinished portrait” of the president, a watercolor deliberately left incomplete by artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff when the president died.
To fully appreciate FDR’s deep and groundbreaking commitment to helping people with disabilities (a legacy that continues to this day, not least in the work of the March of Dimes) visit the nearby Roosevelt Pools
. That is where FDR and his guests swam in the eponymous waters of Warm Springs.
Inn and Park
A short drive away into town is the Hotel Warm Springs Bed & Breakfast Inn
, more than a century old and frequent host to presidential guests. If you can't stay the night, check out the lobby and gift store.
FDR's influence extends beyond Warm Springs to what is now F. D. Roosevelt State Park
, Georgia's largest. The park was one of the earliest projects of one of FDR's signature achievements, the Civilian Conservation Corps, which landscaped the park and built the lodges in the late 1930s.
Situated on land purchased by FDR while he was governor of New York, the vast wooded and scenic park contains historic Depression-era stone camping lodges, a driving/walking trail often used by the president (take in the view from Dowdell’s Knob
, a favorite presidential picnic spot) and the historic Liberty Bell swimming pool. All are open to the public.
Set in a beautifully scenic portion of west Georgia, the Peach State’s part of Roosevelt’s legacy is enriching both educationally and recreationally, making it a must-see for anyone with an interest in American history.