Another feature article for the settings of the faction novel “Red Clay and Roses” includes the FDR State Park in my home community of Pine Mountain, GA. Sybil had a couple of occasions in the novel to visit the park. I could not mention the place without first mentioning the man for whom it is named.
Former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and wife, Eleanor, riding together.
Born on January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt was stricken with polio in 1921. He became the 32nd U.S. president in 1933, and was the only president to be elected four times (now Presidents are only allowed two terms). Roosevelt led the United States through the Great Depression and World War II, and greatly expanded the powers of the federal government through a series of programs and reforms known as the New Deal. Roosevelt, a lover of nature and forests, had parks and other structures built all over the U.S. by the group of young men called CCC boys (Civilian Conservation Corps) to give them jobs during the Great Depression.
Civilian Conservation Corps
Though not a part of FDR State Park, The Little White House in Warm Springs, GA is nearby. Franklin Delano Roosevelt built the Little White House in 1932 while governor of New York, prior to being inaugurated as president in 1933.
Roosevelt and the Little White House
He first came to Warm Springs in 1924 hoping to find a cure for the infantile paralysis (polio) that had struck him in 1921. Swimming in the 88-degree, buoyant spring waters brought him no miracle cure, but it did bring improvement. During FDR’s presidency and the Great Depression, he developed many New Deal Programs (such as the Rural Electrification Administration) based upon his experiences in this small town.
Warm mineral springs at The Roosevelt Baths
At Warm Springs, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States found the strength to resume his political career and a positive outlet for his own personal struggle with polio through creation of the Warm Springs Foundation. Roosevelt returned to use the therapeutic waters at Warm Springs every year, except 1942, from his first visit in 1924 until his death there in 1945. He also carried on important official duties when he was there.
Roosevelt was only able to go to Warm Springs for infrequent short visits during World War II. He returned to Warm Springs for the last time near the end of the war in March of 1945. Just back from the Yalta Conference, he planned to work on the address with which he would open the United Nations Conference. The afternoon of April 12, 1945, Roosevelt, seated in a favorite chair near the fireplace, posed for a portrait by Madame Elizabeth Shoumatoff. Suddenly, he suffered a massive stroke. Carried from the room into his bedroom, he died later that same afternoon.
The “Unfinished Portrait” is on exhibit at the historic site.Today, the “Unfinished Portrait” is featured in a museum that showcases many exhibits, including FDR’s 1938 Ford convertible with hand controls, his Fireside Chats playing over a 1930s radio, his stagecoach and a theater.
He loved his automobile and took my Grandma on her very first car ride ever. He picked her and a couple of classmates up from the roadside as they were walking to school and carried them the remainder of the way to the Sunnyside Schoolhouse.
Visitors can tour FDR’s home, which has been carefully preserved very much as he left it, the servants and guest quarters, and the nearby pools complex that first brought the future president to Warm Springs.
Like many U.S. Presidents, Roosevelt was a lady’s man and had his share of mistresses. One of the most famous was Lucy Mercer.
Lucy Mercer, hired as a secretary by Eleanor Roosevelt. Mercer ended up having an affair with Roosevelt’s husband. Eleanor discovered love letters between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mercer in 1918, when the presidency was just a distant ambition for her husband. Fearing for his political life, Franklin convinced Eleanor to stay married, promising he would avoid seeing Mercer again and that the two would sleep in separate beds.
Post-affair: Franklin didn’t keep his promise. With help from the Roosevelts’ daughter Anna, he continued to rendezvous with Mercer, and she was in Warm Springs, Ga., the day Franklin died. (Eleanor was conspicuously absent.) Mercer died in South Carolina in 1948.
Famous memorable quotes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
“Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory… In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man’s freedom.”
“Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.”
FDR State Park is Georgia’s Largest State Park with 9,049 acres, rental cabins, modern campgrounds, a lake and the Pine Mountain Hiking Trail.
Several park amenities were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, including cottages and the Liberty Bell Swimming Pool fed by cool springs.
Liberty Bell pool is made from local fieldstone and is in the shape of a huge liberty bell that can be viewed from the balcony above. The water is from mountain fed streams and is ice cold. There are picnic tables and pavilions near the pool and several playgrounds where we played as children.
A wooded campground sits near the edge of a small fishing lake suitable for canoeing, and privately operated stables offer guided horseback rides.
Lake Delano is surrounded by campsites.
At Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, visitors can enjoy many outdoor activities and experience a little history at the same time. President Franklin D. Roosevelt often picnicked at Dowdell’s Knob, (elevation 1,395 feet), an overlook along the Pine Mountain Trail with picnic tables and sweeping views of the valley. The Pine Mountain Trail’s 23 miles lead past moss-covered rock outcroppings and waterfalls, providing several options for long and short hikes.
Dowdell’s Knob is the location of the Bar B Q pit that Roosevelt built himself. The site is also the location of much late night necking that goes on in the area and a place where many proposals are made.
FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps
Many facilities within the park were built by FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, including stone cabins overlooking the mountain, the Liberty Bell-shaped swimming pool, and the arched bridge at Hwys. 190 and 354.
One of the CCC boys cabins near the inn.
Formerly The Roosevelt Inn, this building now houses park offices. As a child, many of our family and friends worked there, and we stayed in the bedrooms upstairs. The children liked to play in the dumbwaiter that was used to transfer food and other supplies between floors.
The amphitheater next to the Inn, where local youth held nighttime dances during the 30-60s.
Cabins and campsites
To fully enjoy all the park has to offer, visitors can spend the night in cabins or the campground. Some of the cabins sit on the mountain top and some are located near the lake shore. All are equipped with linens, kitchen utensils, fireplaces and grills. The campground offers 140 campsites and a bathhouse with hot showers. Some sites overlook the lake and others are nestled among pines and hardwoods. Visitors are encouraged to stop by the park office for maps.
FDR State Park is open year round. The Callaway Gardens Country Store sits at the entrance to the park across from one of the best overlooks from the mountaintop. Beautiful Callaway Gardens and the picturesque town of Pine Mountain are at the base of the mountain, and Warm Springs, with it’s Little White House is a short 19 minute or 13 mile drive east.