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Franklin Roosevelt on Land Near Warm Springs Foundation
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Desperate for relief from his debilitating polio, Roosevelt discovered the spa at Warm Springs. He first visited the Meriwether Inn, a natural spa and resort there, in October 1924. His muscles were sufficiently strengthened by “taking the waters” that he bought the resort two years later. Here, he writes to regarding a related land purchase.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. Typed Letter Signed as New York Governor, to Arthur Carpenter. Albany, N.Y., June 25, 1930. 1 p., 8 x 10½ in. On “State of New York Executive Chambers” letterhead.

Inventory #24012.01       Price: $750

Dear Carp: I am enclosing a delightful letter [not included] from Mr. Suggs. Will you see him and you had better take Mr. Doyle along. I am not quite clear as to just where his land is but if it is mountain land his price of $2,000 for 196 acres is, of course, much too high. If the land would really be worth while for us to get, I think $1,000 would be plenty.

Very sincerely yours / Franklin D. Roosevelt

Historical Background

By the time he contracted polio in 1921 at age 39, Roosevelt had already been assistant secretary of the Navy and a candidate for vice-president. He spent three years searching for ways to recover the ability to walk. After George Foster Peabody wrote to him of a young man’s improvement after swimming in the mineral-rich waters at his Georgia resort, the Meriwether Inn, Roosevelt left for Georgia. His atrophied legs and hips strengthened enough to allow him stand on his own, albeit with steel braces.

Warm Springs attracted national attention, drawing other polio survivors from around the country. In 1926, FDR purchased the property for $195,000. His biographers estimate that he accumulated debts equivalent to two-thirds of his net worth upgrading the rundown resort and building rehabilitation facilities. The precarious financial situation alarmed the cautious but supportive Eleanor. Apparently, Roosevelt initially intended to continue running the for-profit Meriwether resort, with a public pool and golf course, for able-bodied guests, alongside therapeutic programs. However, the proximity to polio victims scared off potential visitors. After hearing his story, though, polio sufferers flocked to Warm Springs. The resort was eventually folded into the non-profit Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, which Roosevelt established in 1927. The center gradually attracted charitable donations from Roosevelt’s wealthy friends.

Roosevelt’s struggle gave the Hudson Valley blueblood an appreciation for the problems of others, and his recovery gave him the confidence to return to politics. Still, the Foundation’s financial burden caused FDR to refuse the Democratic nomination for governor of New York in 1928 until presidential candidate Al Smith’s campaign manager pledged substantial aid to the center. Roosevelt was elected governor. He continued his ties to the Warm Springs area, building a home on nearby Pine Mountain in 1932 and renaming it the “Little White House” upon his election later that year. He visited sixteen times during his four presidential terms, and died there on April 12, 1945.

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