So what is the real reason we came to Lubec, Maine? Was it to visit the country's largest lobster pound? Nope. Drink incredibly decadent Peruvian hot chocolate at Monica's? Not that either. To load up on mustard? Wrong again. (drum roll please) The real reason we ventured to Downeast was to visit Roosevelt Campobello International Park which is located in neighboring New Brunswick, Canada. Just so happens we lucked into lots of great places to see and lots to do while in the area (hence the last two blog posts) but we could not let lobsters, food, lighthouses, and shopping distract us – we had to stay focused.
The visit to Campobello completes the trifecta of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's homes – we have been to his birthplace in Hyde Park, New York (also home to the Presidential Library and Museum), stopped in at his winter home in Warm Springs, Georgia (where we had an awesome time with camping buddies Nealy's on Wheels and Technomadia), and now his summer home on Campobello Island.
The nine-mile long Campobello Island is home to the world's only International Park which is jointly funded and run by the Canadian and United States governments. This spirit of cooperation goes back to the days when Roosevelt spent time on the island developing personal relationships and close ties with the Canadians with whom he shared the island.
The park was located a short drive (and an easy border crossing) from our campground in Lubec, Maine. We were advised to arrive at the visitor center early so we could score some of the first-come, first-served tickets to a program called “Tea with Eleanor.” With tickets in hand, we started our visit with a quick run through the visitor center and then a short film about the Roosevelt’s life on the island. Next, a ranger led us outside and toured us around the historical homes, entertaining us with her informative talk.
Pretty soon it was ten o'clock and time for “Tea with Eleanor.” I must admit, I thought this was going to be a little corny to sit around a table drinking tea, eating cookies and pretending to be hanging out with Eleanor Roosevelt. But, this is definitely a highlight of the visit. Passionate and experienced rangers talk about Eleanor’s exceptional accomplishments and bring to life her role as a mother, wife, and first lady.
So with some warm tea and delicious cookies in our bellies we were off to visit the stunning red building known as the “Roosevelt Cottage.” The 34 room cottage is the centerpiece of the park and is preserved as a memorial museum. You might be wondering why a U.S. President had his summer home in Canada. It is because Franklins' parents began visiting the island when Franklin was a toddler. They were among some of the early visitors who came to the remote island to indulge in the beautiful scenery, cool summer temperatures, and escape the bustling city life. Franklin grew up spending his summers here sailing, golfing, and being outdoors and fell in love with the island and the people.
The Roosevelt Cottage was built in 1897 for Mrs. Hartman Kuhn of Boston. Mrs. Kuhn was a neighbor of Franklin's parents and grew fond of the young courting couple (Franklin and Eleanor). When Mrs. Kuhn died, it was revealed that a provision in her will stipulated that the Roosevelt's could purchase the furnished cottage and five acres for a mere $5,000. And so Franklin's mother purchased the cottage in 1909 and left it to her son and his wife when she died. From 1909 until 1921, the Roosevelt's spent every summer in the cottage. The incredible aspect about the house is that all but five items are original to when the Roosevelt's lived there which provides a realistic picture as to how they lived. The interior of the cottage was comfortable in an Arts and Crafts style but had no electricity or telephone. The house exhibits the principle consideration in the design of summer homes in that it was oriented to have a fabulous view and picturesque charm.
|The Roosevelt's bedroom where they first discovered FDR had polio.|
|The desks and chalk board where the five Roosevelt children were tutored.|
|The neighboring "Hubbard Cottage" which is open to the public.|
There is much more to do within the park and on Campobello Island than just touring historic homes. Miles and miles of carriage roads provide great hiking and biking paths. There are restaurants, shopping, two lighthouses, and plenty of places to stop and admire the remarkable natural beauty we have grown accustomed to in this part of the world. We had a great day on Campobello and could have spent a few more days thoroughly exploring the quiet island.