Welcome Back to Roosevelt Campobello International Park, NB, Canada! The program I am attending, “The Roosevelts on Campobello Island,” has been designed to give attendees a feel for the influence this place had in forming the make-up and decision making process of the President and Eleanor. For me, it has also provided an insight into one of my interests – the development of the summer vacation, and summer resorts.
In 1767 Captain Richard Owen was granted the island for service he rendered in the Royal Navy. Settling the island in 1770, it remained in tight control of the family for over 100 years, essentially run as an independent country. In 1872, descendent Captain Robinson-Owen began trying to sell the island. The family control ended in 1881 when his widow sold the south end of the island, along Friar’s Bay, to American investors for $1,000,000. The new Campobello Company planned to build a summer resort. Three hotels were built between 1881 and 1883, and the land was divided into lots to sell for summer “cottages.”
James and Sara Delano Roosevelt first visited the island in 1883 staying in one of the new hotels with their one year old son, Franklin. They liked the island, and bought ten acres on the bay to construct a cottage, which was completed in 1885. Yearly summer visits began. Eleanor first visited in 1904. Franklin and Eleanor were married the next year, and in 1909 Sara purchased the cottage next to hers for the young couple. Summer visits continued, but were few in the 1930s.
The hotels closed by 1910, and not many of the lots had been sold or built upon. Campobello Island as a resort faded as did many such resorts, falling victim to many factors including the servant problem, income tax, the motor car, and the first World War. Even though an ideal resort location (which I can now attest to), Campobello Island is just too far for the wealthy from Boston and New York to have travelled to, and too far for weekend excursions as the automobile became “king.”
It is hard to believe that I just finished the second day – the days are so packed, and I have been cramming myself with learning. I did not know anything about FDR and Eleanor. Monday we had extremely informative lectures on the history of the island, and the uniqueness of the Bay of Fundy and its tides. We have heard about the area’s influence on the thought processes of FDR and the First Lady. Several books on the couple are in the lecture area for perusal, and following the speaker’s reading of a few passages from a children’s book, ELEANOR by Barbara Cooney, I finished it on a break. Childrens books can often give an adult a fast snapshot of a subject because they are succinct and to the point. Wow, what an education this provided me on Eleanor’s life up to marriage.
In the afternoon we toured the island.
Below is Herring Cove, a favorite picnic spot of the Roosevelts
And this observation platform is at Eleanor’s favorite spot where she was photographed in 1962, three months before her death
Tuesday morning began with a fascinating film, “The Living Tides of Fundy.” We then had a “morning with Vera Calder.” Her grandmother and mother worked for FDR, and, at 84, she too remembers Sara, Franklin and Eleanor. Her grandmother was considered family having been housekeeper for 40 years at the various Roosevelt homes. Her stories brought to life those times here at Campobello.
An afternoon two hour cruise in the bay followed.
My humble cottage from the bay (note my oval window)
“whale watching” was not as successful as it could have been, but I have included one image below of the six whales I saw just below the surface.
Dinner this evening was at St. Anne’s Church following a tour of the church built in 1855 by the Owens, and attended by FDR’s family. The evening concluded with a member of the Passamaquoddy tribe discussing his tribe’s routes in the area, and the birch bark canoe FDR had made by a Native friend.
Most of tomorrow is an “explore on your own day,” so who knows what Ray will end up doing.
Good night from Atlantic Time – yours, RAY