A few years ago, when I stopped in Little Rock, Ark., to visit a friend, I took the occasion to stop by the William J. Clinton Presidential Center. Other than the fact that the building reminded me of a single-wide trailer stretching out over the Arkansas River, the facility is fairly impressive.
Anyway, I just finished a one-week stay in a cabin located about 100 miles north of New York City. On the way, we passed the town of Hyde Park, home of another presidential memorial facility — that of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And so along with the many hours spent with grandchildren lollygagging in the cabin's swimming pool, my wife and I managed to carve out one afternoon for ourselves in which we returned south to Hyde Park to see FDR's home.
Now run by the U.S. Park Service, the facility is the first presidential library. And as the guide who lectured to us as we toured Roosevelt's house explained, the building — and everything in it — sits exactly as it did when FDR died on April 12, 1945. This explains why it isn't as bright and shiny as, say, Clinton's.
Nevertheless, the place is well worth visiting. Love him or hate him, and as with some other notable presidents — from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama — there don't seem to be many stuck in the middle, Roosevelt deserves respect for having presided over one of the most difficult periods in U.S. history. He had to deal with the ongoing financial ruin that followed the stock market crash of 1929, the resulting Great Depression of the 1930s (which included the drought that nearly blew away the Great Plains) and most of World War II. No wonder Roosevelt was the only president elected more than twice (and, in fact, was elected four times).
Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park is a part, then, of our national history. If you're ever in the neighborhood, you should drop in.