August 3, 1997

Fdr Summer Home Makes Enjoyable Island Visit

Jean Allen South Florida Sun-Sentinel
 

Q. We’ll be in New England later this summer, not our first trip. We have seen a lot of the region, and now we’re making a list of new things we want to visit this time.

One place is Campobello Island, which I understand is in Canada, but just off the coast of Maine.

I can’t find out much about it, and hope you have some information that will help us.

A. Campobello Island, longtime summer home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family, is a dot (3 by 10 miles) in the Bay of Fundy, in New Brunswick, and is linked to Maine by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Bridge and to New Brunswick by ferry.

The Roosevelt Campobello International Park and Natural Area, established jointly by Canada and the United States in 1964, covers the south end of the island.

I suspect that most travelers touring New England never get as far as Campobello. It is off the northeastern tip of coastal Maine, a long way from any other tourist sites, in an area where finding a nice motel is a project.

It’s not even near the shortest route to Canada, where we were heading when we visited Campobello last July.

It was worth the detour, and anyone who enjoys seeing how and where our presidents lived would like touring the rambling red wooden “cottage” - with 34 rooms and seven fireplaces - where the Roosevelts spent summers for many years.

Also on the property are several other buildings, picnic areas, hiking trails and scenic drives along coves, bays, beaches, flower gardens, pine forests and coastal cliffs.

We drove in on Maine Route 189, running east off U.S. 1 to the village of Lubec and the FDR bridge.

From the visitors’ center near the Roosevelt home, we started our free, self-guided walk through the “cottage.” Like the other Roosevelt homes in Hyde Park, N.Y., and Warm Springs, Ga., the Campobello cottage is a comfortable place, a cozy home for a family with an informal lifestyle.

Roosevelt was a wealthy patrician, and I find it to his credit that he raised his family in such laid-back style.

The place is charming. Small signs tell who slept in which room, including the small ground-floor bedroom used by FDR after he contracted polio and could no longer climb stairs.

There are photographs and toys, FDR’s crib, one of his hats, wicker furniture, a family telescope and a megaphone used for hailing boats offshore or gathering the family for dinner. There’s a big wood-burning stove in the kitchen and an icehouse out back. The house for years lacked electricity and telephones.

It’s easy to imagine Franklin and Eleanor and their children - Franklin Jr., John, Elliot, Anna and James - spending summers there. FDR, whose parents first brought him to Campobello in 1883 when he was age 1, and who contracted polio there in 1921, taught his children to appreciate nature, leading them in swimming, sailing, fishing and hiking.

A 15-minute film, “Beloved Island,” is shown at the visitors’ center, where photographs and other memorabilia are displayed.

For more information, contact Roosevelt Campobello International Park and Natural Area, P.O. Box 97, Lubec, ME 04652, 506-752-2922. The park is open daily from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day (Oct. 13).

Travelers interested in seeing more presidential homes can consult a guidebook, “Cabins, Cottages and Mansions: Homes of the Presidents of the United States,” $16.95 at some bookstores or from gift shops at national parks and presidential properties.

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