March 18, 2013 – Warm Springs – Roosevelt’s Little White House

First thing this morning, we stopped in at the Visitor’s Center in Pine Mountain just a mile from our campground.  The town was originally incorporated in 1882 as Chipley, named after W.D. Chipley, a partner in the promotion of the railroad which first ran thru the Village of Hood a few miles to the south.  In 1958, its name was change to Pine Mountain.  However, it was the establishment of Callaway Gardens (which we plan to visit tomorrow) that the area became a destination location.

There we were provided several routes to Warm Springs and the Roosevelt Little White House.  We opted for the road through the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park which ran along the spine of Pine Mountain.  The overcast day and lack of vegetation the drive was monotone with little color.


Along the way, we took a one-mile detour on a spur road to Dowell’s Knob, which terminates 1,395’ above sea level and overlooks the Pine Mountain Valley.  Sitting beside with FDR


we imagined the vistas he saw, particularly when the leaves were on the trees and sun shining brightly.

 Roosevelt’s Little White House compound is located just south of the village of Warm Springs.  The town first came to prominence in the 19th century as a SPA town due to its mineral springs which flow constantly at nearly 32 °C (90 °F).  Roosevelt first came in the 1920s in hopes that the warm water would improve his polio-induced paraplegia, at the time thought to be due to polio.  He was a constant visitor for two decades and died there in 1945.

Entering the Little White House compound

we had an opportunity to tour the Roosevelt Museum which provided a wealth of information about our 32nd president and artifacts about his life.  A small sampling includes:

FDR’s 1940 Custom-Built Willys Roadster

FDR’s Bathing Suit

“Franklin (an eagle) Roosevelt” carved from a single piece of wood

Just a few of FDR”s Canes

Crutches and Leg Braces typically used by Polio victims of the era

FDR’s leg braces … note the bottoms are painted black at the president’s request so they would be less noticeable

“Tally-Ho” the stage which initially carried FDR from the train station to his Little White House

FDR’s 1938 Custom-modified Ford

for which he personally designed modifications so he could operate the accelerator, brake and clutch by hand

A composite of the accomplishments of

which also composed his portrait

Scale model of the USS Olympia – President’s Yacht

A copy of a phrase from a speech FDR had planned to deliver at the 1945 Jefferson Day celebration, several weeks after his death …

´”The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.  Let is move forward with strong and active faith.”

The famous “Unfinished Portrait” of FDR

Painter Elizabeth Shoumatoff was told by her friend and client Lucy Mercer Rutherford , the then “first mistress”, “You should really paint the President.  He has such a remarkable face. There is no painting of him that gives his true expression. I think you could do a wonderful portrait, and he would be such an interesting person to paint! Would you do a portrait of him if it was arranged?” 

Rutherford would go on to make the arrangements.  Shoumatoff agreeing, later stating, “I was trapped into something I had neither wished for nor planned.” She went on to talk about not being able to turn down the honor of being selected for a Presidential commission.

Elizabeth Shoumatoff began working on the portrait of the president around noon on April 12, 1945.  Roosevelt was being served lunch when he said “I have a terrific pain in the back of my head.”  He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom.  The president’s attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed a massive cerebral hemorrhage (stroke). Roosevelt never regained consciousness and died at 3:35 p.m. that day.

The artist, Mme Shoumatoff, was saddened that she never completed her watercolor of president Roosevelt.  In 1946, using her memory and photographs, she began to paint another portrait of FDR, hoping to show what the “Unfinished Portrait”  would have looked like.

The “Finished Portrait” was completed in 1947.

What is the one noticeable difference between the two paintings?

(answer at the end of this entry)

 The walk to the Little White House, itself, passed an eternal fountain

and a pathway, The Walkway of the State Flags and Stones, where fifty state flags flew


above stones symbolic of and quarried in each state.

Hawaii Pumice

Arizona Petrified Wood

As you approach the Little White House, the first thing you notice is the 48-star American flag.


You then pass through a “bump gate”.  It permitted FDR to nudge the gate which pivoted on its center post, with his car and open it when driving to and from his residence.


Flanking the bump gate” were a Secret Service booth to the right

And a Marine Sentry post to the left (there were several other marine sentry posts in the surrounding woods)


FDR’s Little White House is much smaller than we’d anticipated.


Living Room Area

Dining Room Area

Eleanor’s Bedroom

FDR’s Bedroom (in which he died on April 12, 1945)

A kitchen and one other room rounded out the living quarters.  Additionally, a small building for his servants and a two room guest house rounded out the compound.

For all of his government accomplishments in both war and peace, perhaps his greatest legacy is personified by the “warm springs” where he swan with hundreds of other polio patients who flocked to the area and the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation (Roosevelt’s former polio hospital) which remains a world-renowned comprehensive rehabilitation center including a physical rehabilitation hospital and vocational rehabilitation unit. The springs are not available for public use as a bath/spa resort, but they are used by the Roosevelt Institute for therapeutic purposes.

Debbie sampling the warm mineral spring water

We then decided to drive to Lagrange, site of the Hills & Dales Mansion, constructed by the Fuller E. Callaway, whose descendants were the driving force behid the world famous Callaway Gardens, which are on our list of places to see before we leave Pine Mountain.

When we arrived, the parking lot seemed unusually empty.  But, we thought is was probably due to the cool and overcast weather.   Silly us!  It was closed on Mondays.  However, the volunteers who were having a meeting did queue up the intro video which we did watch.

We hope to be get back before we head for Hilton Head.

When we arrived back at our campground, we tuned in the Weather Channel only to discover Pine Mountain was in right in the path of what was predicted to be a night of heavy rains and high winds (possibly 50-60 MPH).

Now, in addition to keeping our eyes on the television, we were watching the skies.


Next, a “beep beep” came from the TV as a Weather Watch (meaning conditions were right for dangerous weather) for severe thunder storms with damaging hail and the chance of tornadoes was issued for the county we were in with Pine Mountain being one of the towns singled out … as the skies darkened and the low hanging clouds raced overhead.  Meantime, we pulled in our motor home’s three slides and hunkered down to watch and wait while constantly monitoring a NOAA weather radar Ap on my cell phone.

Then … the campground lost its power!  Fortunately, we were able to crank up our generator and get the television working again.

After another set of “beeps”, we were advised that the Watch had been upgraded to a Weather Warning (meaning the dangerous weather was actually threatening the area).  Oh yes, and there is no storm shelter at the campground in the event of the latter … but the owner did invite us to join everyone, including pets, in the interior bathrooms at the campground office if a tornado was imminent.

The good news is that the most severe weather passed both north and south of Pine Mountain and by dark, the threat had passed and the power returned by around 10:00 PM.


The answer to the the FDR ”Unfinished Portrait” quiz:  In the original, the president’s tie was red In the “Finished Portraitis blue.

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