tv Top Cottage CSPAN June 18, 2017 4:18pm-4:31pm EDT
c-span3. to join the conversation like us on facebook at c-span history. announcer: american history tv --a small, private space hyde park, he has said dignitaries and world leaders on this portion behind me. they discussed the later topics of the day -- the most important topics of the day. >> i think fdr used this place as a place to groom these world leaders up, but to have them let their guards down and have them focused on some of the major issues they are here to talk about. springwood is the same way. when he walked into these buildings, you did not come in as came for queen, prime minister, first lady -- you came in as a friend. coming into somebody's home as a friend is much different than walking into their place of
business as say, colleague. going into the white house with fdr and talking about world events would be different than coming to this secluded porch where there were no bank of photographers waiting to take a picture of the handshake. it was a place where he could be open with his guests. join himself sitting in his wheelchair laid it all out there. -- showing him sitting in his wheelchair laid it all out there. is there, showing off the site that i am not hiding anything from you. i think his guests received that in a way where they did not hide anything from him. this place facilitates wonderful conversation. they were able to delve into some of the major issues and i think come up with equitable -- with incredible solutions that might not have been possible at more formal places. this building was constructed in 1938.
fdr brings an architect to the site from the state of georgia, --ry tends, -- henry toombs who was no stranger to fdr. they worked together on several projects, including the hyde town park library, stone cottage, as well as a couple buildings in warm springs, georgia. he knew what fdr wanted in a building. he was not brought up here to design this building himself. fdr had every intention of doing that. the architect would be standing behind him making sure everything was going to work. he designed it not only to meet his personal interests in the dutch influence of this building, but also his physical needs. he was in a wheelchair and he designed this in such a way that he could use this place. there was an earthen ramp onto the porch. once he got into the building he would enter through a sliding door.
which for someone in a wheelchair is important, because sliding doors don't matter what side you are on. most modern sliding doors don't have that track on the bottom. this track was recessed into the floor so it created one small bump. it was one flat surface all the way through, no thresholds between the doors, no obstacles in the way. even going into the kitchen was one of those double swung doors. it didn't matter what side you are on. he got to use this building more than he could use spring one -- springwood himself. he got to be the host here. he got to host his guests, which he took a lot of pride in. he loved to show this place off. he loved to be able to serve his guests. pictures of him smiling and enjoying himself.
-- he a coaster -- poster would make his guests tea and toast. he buttered it himself with a flourish of his wrist. by all accounts it was the best toast anyone ever had. but by the afternoon he would have offered you a martini. by all accounts his martinis were dreadful, mixed with entirely too much vermouth, which fdr loved. as he put it, it was a place to escape the mob the throngs that , would try to visit springwood. the public would often come to the president's house trying to ask questions and voice opinions.
this was a place that was far enough removed from springwood where he could get away from the activity down below. we have a record number of visits of top cottage by fdr. they are documented through photographs, diary entries. were there others not documented? probably. some of the guests included king george ii of greece, queen wilhelmina of the netherlands, the prime minister of canada, queen elizabeth of great britain. winston churchill was on this porch 4 different times. members of his cabinet administration, among others. many times when they arrived here, they are in need of help or assistance. i think they were willing to sit in a place far removed from their comfort zone. it may have been refreshing for them to get away from everything happening below as well and to see fdr for the man that he really was.
the one most are familiar about is the hot dog picnic when the king and queen of england arrived in hyde park. it was the first time that a seated british monarch had been admitted to the united states. that visit was capped off with a picnic at top cottage, that hot dog picnic. when this opened to the public in 2001, the quuen mum was still alive. it really had nothing to do with the hot dogs or top cottage. she talked about fdr's driving. she said i was holding on for dear life. she said, i thought for sure i was going to die. she said in her own words that fdr drove like a bat out of hell.
they drove for that picnic and she quickly exited the car. it was a very steep section. they had their picnic and it came time to leave at the end of the day. fdr said, why don't we go back down the hill? she said, not with you. she rode down the hill with one of fdr's secret service detail. i am sure that fdr had a wonderful story to tell as the day the queen would not ride with him. while they were here, the result -- the roosevelt treated the royals to an all-american picnic. we heard about the hot dogs, but the menu was much more vast -- virginia ham, sausages, green salad, strawberry shortcake for
dessert. it was the hot dogs that sold the show. they were swift premium hot dogs. i don't think the queen had seen a hot dog before because she asked fdr what they were. fdr said, it is a hot dog. she said, how would i eat such a thing? he said, you put it in your mouth, and you push, and you chew. she did not have one. the king enjoyed his and went back for seconds, but the queen did not have one. this visit by the press was deemed a social visit. but the visit was much more important than that. you are looking at the middle of june 1939, 2.5 months before the invasion of poland, the beginning of world war ii. they were sent over by neville chamberlain to make sure that
the u.s. would continue to be allies with the british. this was a very important visit. i think it lends itself to some of the earliest involvement of the u.s. into the war effort. >> [applause] ranger oldenburg: winston churchill was here 4 different times. on june 20, 1942 was probably the most important visit. we know earlier in the day that he and fdr and harry hopkins are in his study. they are talking about the british atomic program. the research was taking place in london, which was difficult at the time with the constant bombardment of the city. they weren't making the progress they were hoping to. word was coming down that the germans were rather close to developing an atomic weapon.
churchill is asking fdr to bring the program and scientists over to the united states, and fdr agrees to that. within two months time, it has gone on and the manhattan project has been born out of that. we know they are discussing this at springwood from churchill's memoirs, and from diary entries of that day. he sets the mood at top cottage. while she does not spell out the words that were said, she talked about the visit at about 4:00 that afternoon at top cottage. she said, "the p. and mr. c seemed distracted like they had the weight of the world on their shoulders." we may never know the words that were sent here.
if there was any place to have a conversation of this magnitude, that was the place to do it. there was no telephone or outside communication whatsoever. this was a place to keep a secret. this was a place where, through dealing with the stresses of the presidency, the only president to this day who has gone through two major events -- the great depression and world war ii -- i think the stresses of the presidency were pretty hard on him. i think sitting up here, as quiet and peaceful as this place was, was a chance for him to, as he put it, recharge my batteries. announcer: this weekend we're featuring the history of hyde
park new york. learn more about hyde park and other stops on our cities tour on c-span.org/cities tour. you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. next, texas a&m history professor talks about the history of the cold war. he is the author of parts, mind and voices. ,- hearts mr. kennedy: i think we will start today's session. i am director of the natural history center. i should explain that our regular coke conveners are both away. one of them, christian osterman from the wilson center, is ill today.