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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Campobello Island

About 8:15 a.m. Mark and I cruise across the Roosevelt Campobello International Bridge linking Lubec, Maine—the easternmost town in the United States—with Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada. A serious-looking Canadian border guard surveys our passports before letting our vehicle pass onto the island.
Campobello Island is where President F.D. Roosevelt spent the summers of his childhood.

His parents, James and Sarah, first visited the island with one-year-old Franklin in 1883. Since 1964, the Roosevelt cottage and all the grounds on Campobello Island comprise the only International Park in the U.S. or Canada.

The island Visitor Center isn’t yet open. It’s not due to open until 10 a.m., and Canada is an hour behind EDT. So that’s almost three hours to wait. We drive on instead to the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, and the center here opens at 10 a.m. too. With more than two and a half hours, we choose to hike to the shore along Friar’s Walk, an easy trail across grass, into some woodsy, bushy areas, where Mark finds a wild blackberry bush with almost bursting fruit. He says they’re not as sweet as he likes though.

The coast is really pretty, with rock walls jutting out into the calm water, and pine trees having managed to root in the stone.

Mark snags more berries on our return trip but finishes them before we enter the Visitor Center and see a 15-minute film about the Roosevelts and how they summered on the island.
Originally, the Roosevelts “camped” in a cottage that sat next door to the large house now termed the Roosevelt cottage. The house was built in 1897 for a woman whose will offered the house to Sarah Roosevelt for a bargain price of $5000. When Sarah died, she left the “cottage” to FDR and Eleanor, and they and their growing family spent summers there from 1909 to 1921.

The house, with a modest interior having specific references to early American colonial architecture, had neither electricity nor telephone. The running water for bathing, cooking and cleaning was pumped from the well by windmill or gas turbine—if no wind—to storage tanks in the cottage’s attic. From there, gravity fed the water through the pipes. A horse and cart daily delivered drinking water from a nearby spring.

The “cottage” is 119' long and 33' wide with 76 windows and seven fireplaces. There are 34 rooms, 18 of which are bedrooms! Six are bathrooms.

After the informative introductory film, a guide escorts us and another couple around the property.

Of course, the grounds are covered with soft, thick grass and plenty of flower gardens. The lush flowers of red, fuchsia, pink, orange, yellow and cream that grow in a hedge that borders the driveway are especially beautiful.

Behind the house is a view to the ocean, and Mark and I imagine what it would be like to eat breakfast there on the veranda every morning, wondering if the Roosevelts ever tired of the view. We can’t image they ever would.