Over the past several years, my wife and I have taken numerous trips to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Each time, we pass by signs that point out various local attractions: museums, famous battlefields, cool shops, and other fun attractions. We keep a running list of places to visit, but often it seems that we’re in a rush to get home, or to get to the mountains, and so we promise ourselves to get there “someday.” On a recent Saturday afternoon, that “someday” arrived, at least for a few fantastic sites in the mid-Hudson River Valley region.
Our trip took us to a historic home from the early 19th century, an awe-inspiring mansion overlooking the Hudson River, and a library and museum dedicated to one of the most famous US Presidents of the 20th century. So come along, then, on this road trip through a beautiful section of New York. Along the way, we’ll also include a trip to a favorite New Jersey shore town, breakfast at a local spot, and some brief automotive updates.
Asbury Park for the First Time
For the past week, we played host to our relative from the Adirondacks! She has opened her home to us countless times, so it was fun to repay the favor and give her a tour of New Jersey. On her last night in town, we took her to visit Asbury Park for the first time in her life.
What a better way to enjoy a beautiful spring afternoon than with dinner on the boardwalk! We dined at The Robinson Ale House, which offers plenty of outdoor seating and a view of the ocean.
Our relative enjoyed a delicious lobster roll – her first in many years!
While my wife enjoyed the Chicken Chop salad (romaine, bacon, fire-roasted corn, tomato, avocado, chicken, and BBQ honey mustard dressing), I ordered my favorite dish at Robinson’s… fish tacos. So good!!
After dinner, we did some shopping in Convention Hall, and on the boardwalk I treated our relative to a re-enactment of my favorite scene from The Sopranos. Of course.
Such a beautiful way to spend a Friday afternoon! After enjoying the view of the Atlantic Ocean, we headed back home to prepare for an early departure the next day. The Mid-Hudson Road Trip
We awoke early on Saturday morning. Another family member would be meeting us in the city of Albany and taking our relative the rest of the way to the Adirondacks. Then, we would be making a beeline to tour the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park.
First things first, however… breakfast! Before hitting the highway, we stopped at Le Peep, a restaurant in Edison, New Jersey, that specializes in fantastic breakfasts.
Le Peep’s specialty is their twelve different kinds of eggs benedict. Our relative went with the traditional: poached eggs and Canadian bacon, on top of an English muffin, doused with hollandaise sauce. She was in seventh heaven!
While my wife dined on the Colorado Omelette (egg whites, turkey bacon, diced tomato, and avocado), I chowed down on the Hen Pen: scrambled eggs, peasant potatoes, sausage, and an English muffin. Fueled up, we set off for upstate New York.
Although the drive to Albany takes almost three hours, we were fortunate to have clear skies and mercifully little traffic. After dropping off our relative, we headed south to begin our mini-adventure.
We exited the New York Thruway and headed east, crossing the Hudson River via the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, which we walked across last year. From there, we headed south along New York Route 9G, a state road that runs parallel to the Hudson. Montgomery Place
As we headed south toward the town of Hyde Park, a sign along the road for “ Montgomery Place Historic Site” caught our eye. With no firm deadlines facing us, we decided to take a detour.
Although scenic, the tree-lined dirt road at the entrance of the park was filled with potholes and ruts. I was glad we had the Jeep and had left the Accord at home!
Built in 1803, Montgomery Place is a Federal-style mansion. The house was ordered by Janet Montgomery, the widow of US General Richard Montgomery (he died at the Battle of Quebec). She also established a farm and fruit tree orchard on the property. Montgomery’s sister-in-law and her niece would later inherit the home and transform it, hiring famed architect Alexander Jackson Davis. Davis created numerous iconic buildings after the Revolutionary War, including Federal Hall National Memorial in Manhattan and Lyndhurst, an enormous country house in Tarrytown, New York, which my wife and I visited last fall (via Wikipedia).
Numerous gardens exist throughout the 380 acre property. Since 2016, Montgomery Place has been owned and maintained by Bard College.
After a particularly cold and seemingly endless winter, it was great to see these daffodils in full bloom.
The rear of the house offers a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. Beginning in the foreground, we can see a pond, a body of water called South Bay, the Hudson River, and the Catskill Mountains.
My wife spotted this hawk perched high atop a tree overlooking the river.
As we walked back to the Jeep, we passed the coach house. Originally designed to hold horses and carriages, the arrival of the automobile transformed the building into a garage, its upstairs level being converted to an apartment for the family chauffeur. I’m pretty sure my Accord would look right at home parked inside. Vanderbilt Mansion
After departing Montgomery Place, we continued south toward Hyde Park. However, only a few miles from our destination, we took another detour when my wife spotted a massive park with beautifully manicured landscapes… Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site.
After parking, our first stop was Vanderbilt Pavilion. Now housing the visitor center for the park, this was originally built as a temporary home for Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt, part of the dynasty that created their fortune in the railroad industry. The Pavilion was erected in 66 days as a temporary dwelling for the Vanderbilts while their mansion was constructed.
I would be interested to know if Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt felt like they were “slumming it” in the Pavilion as they awaited completion of the mansion. This might be the nicest temporary home I have ever seen.
There is no missing Vanderbilt Mansion: this 54-room, Beaux Arts-style home looms over the Hudson River. Fun fact: the house was built as a vacation home for the Vanderbilts, and was not their permanent dwelling (via Wikipedia).
The mansion is open for tours, although we did not participate – we had a date with a former US President! Still, Vanderbilt Mansion is highly impressive, and I would love to return to fully explore the historic mansion and the grounds (note: rapidly changing sunlight and cloud cover meant that I had to get creative with my photography in order to best photograph the building – hence the difference in color and lighting in the two images of the mansion). Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library
Our final stop for the day was our ultimate destination: The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in the town of Hyde Park.
We began our tour with a quick visit with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Thanks to some kind strangers, my wife and I were able to pose for some photos with the President and First Lady.
Also on the property is Springwood, Roosevelt’s childhood home. The property would remain in Roosevelt’s possession for his entire life. He visited frequently, even during his time as President, taking the train from Washington DC to Hyde Park.
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt are interred on the property, their tomb in a beautifully manicured garden.
Although the grounds are free to explore, visits to the museum and library do require the purchase of a ticket for admission.
Franklin Roosevelt was descended from a long line prominent American families. The Roosevelts were Dutch immigrants who first arrived in the mid-17th century. The Delanos were also from the Netherlands, a family tree that includes Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Calvin Coolidge, astronaut Alan Shepard, and author Laura Ingalls Wilder (via Wikipedia).
On a personal note, I fully approve of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s choice of college! Actually, I learned that his preference was to attend the US Naval Academy, but his father insisted that Franklin attend Harvard. While there, he was a fairly mediocre student, but distinguished himself as a writer for The Crimson, Harvard’s prestigious student newspaper.
In 1905, Franklin married Eleanor Roosevelt, his cousin (and niece of former President Theodore Roosevelt). Together they had five children, and created a political dynasty. That said, theirs was an unhappy marriage. Franklin had several affairs, and although they remained married, their relationship evolved into a political alliance rather than a deep personal bond (via Wikipedia).
After a career that included stints as a New York State Senator, the Assistant Secretary of the US Navy, and the Governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to the Presidency in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression. The museum’s exhibit on his Presidency begins with a display on his attempts to use the power of the federal government to pull the nation out of the economic mire.
Franklin Roosevelt was the first US President to harness the power of radio to speak directly to the American public. His 31 “fireside chats,” broadcast from the Diplomatic Reception Room in the White House, were his way to talk to the nation’s citizens during the Great Depression and World War II. I thought this display of a 1930s-era kitchen was a great way to share the story of the fireside chats.
The Roosevelt Library was commissioned and designed to open in 1940, when FDR left office after two terms. However, he went on to serve an unprecedented four terms in office, and ended up establishing an office within the library where he would work when he was visiting Hyde Park. This room is not a reconstruction of Roosevelt’s office – it has remained in its original condition for the past 77 years.
At age forty, Roosevelt was struck with polio. He recovered from the worst of the disease, but lost his ability to walk. Roosevelt became a wheelchair rider for the rest of his life, a fact that was hidden from the American public. He would wear leg braces and “walked” by swiveling his body from side to side. He was almost never photographed sitting in a wheelchair – the image on display is one of only four known pictures of FDR in a wheelchair.
One of the more disturbing items I learned during the tour… Eleanor Roosevelt’s civil rights activism made her a figure of concern for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI kept a file on her, which at the time of her death numbered over three thousand pages of detailed information. A reproduction of the now-declassified file is on display in this cabinet.
Much of Roosevelt’s Presidency would be consumed by the events leading up to World War II, and then his work to guide the nation through the bloodiest war in human history.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese bomber aircraft struck the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, sinking or damaging 8 battleships, destroying nearly 200 aircraft, and killing over 2,000 service personnel. The attack brought the United States fully into World War II. I found this exhibit of a burned piece of steel from the USS Arizona one of the most chilling parts of the entire museum.
The museum holds numerous primary documents from Roosevelt’s time in office, none perhaps more important than this draft of his message to Congress after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The edits, hand-written by Roosevelt, include his choice to state that December 7 would “live in infamy.”
Only a few months after the events of Pearl Harbor, the United States struck back at Japan by launching 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers from the deck of an aircraft carrier on a one-way mission to bomb Tokyo. Although causing only minor damage to Japan, the attack provided a huge boost to morale for the American population. Named after the daring commander who designed the attack and led the bombers, the Doolittle Raid is one of the most famous bomber missions of WWII (via Wikipedia). This is the memo that the War Department sent to President Roosevelt after the raid.
The exhibits included stunning prints of war photography, as well as reproductions of newspapers, a vivid and effective way to tell the story of the war.
Roosevelt was a great President, but the museum does an excellent job of discussing his shortcomings. As indicated in this exhibit, there exists vigorous debate among scholars if the United States could have done more to disrupt the living nightmare of the Holocaust. In addition, despite Eleanor Roosevelt’s best efforts, the United States failed to take in more than a small number of refugees from Europe who were fleeing the horrors of Nazi Germany. Finally, as another exhibit relates, the internment camps of Japanese-Americans was a shameful mark on our history. The museum offers a comprehensive and even-handed examination of each of these topics.
Despite their privately frayed marriage, in public Eleanor Roosevelt was a staunch defender of her husband’s leadership and a tireless supporter of America’s war efforts. Among her duties, she traveled extensively during the war, visiting American soldiers stationed around the globe. On display is the Red Cross uniform she would often wear during these trips, traveling as a representative of the organization.
Roosevelt certainly had his quirks, like any of us. The hat below was Roosevelt’s “lucky hat,” which he wore during each of his Presidential election campaigns.
In 1944, Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented fourth term in office as President. His opponent was New York Governor Thomas Dewey. Although Presidents had, by custom, served only two terms (following the tradition established by George Washington), Roosevelt won four elections. Despite failing health, Roosevelt ran in 1944 in order to see WWII to its conclusion and to establish the United Nations. His body, however, would not see him to the end of his term – he died in April of 1945, only three months into his fourth term.
Behind this desk in the Oval Office, Roosevelt steered the nation through the worst of the Great Depression and navigated the treacherous years of World War II. After spending several hours exploring the museum and the property, we were ready to depart and begin our journey home.
Two hours later, we were back home. The Jeep was a fantastic companion for our day-long adventure, easily dealing with pothole-strewn dirt roads, soaking up the miles with ease, and delivering us comfortably to our destination. Next stop: 84,000 miles. Onward! A Quick Accord Update
All is quiet on the Accord front. The odometer is now at 196,400 miles, and it should reach 197,000 within the next week. 200k is getting closer and closer – stay tuned! Wrapping Up
After promising ourselves that we would “someday” visit Hyde Park, it felt great to spend a day exploring the mid-Hudson River Valley region of New York. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is a must-see location for anyone interested in the history of this nation and the story of the 20th century. The museum is open from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm, seven days a week. The museum costs $10 per ticket for adults, $6 for senior citizens ages 62 and older, and is free for youth 15 and younger, military personnel and their families, veterans, Gold Star family members, and guests with permanent disabilities.
Thanks for coming along on this journey through history along the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.