Architectural Chronology

Researched and prepared by
Michael Zipp, Roosevelt Library Intern

Library Sketch
FDR's original sketch for the Roosevelt Library, April 12, 1937. FDR Presidential Library.
Library Construction - Foundation
Construction of the Library's foundation, October, 28, 1939. FDR Presidential Library.
Library Cornerstone
Cornerstone of the FDR Presidential Library, laid on November 19, 1939, c. 1941. FDR Presidential Library.
Library Construction - South Wing
The exterior of the library nears completion, December 3, 1939. FDR Presidential Library.
Commemorative Tablet
The Commemorative Tablet, located in the main exhibition space of the Library, November 14, 1950. FDR Presidential Library.
Library Courtyard
The completed Franklin D. Roosevelt Library framed by one of the property’s 300 year old oak trees, September 16, 1941. FDR Presidential Library.
Library Model
Model and drawings of the Eleanor Roosevelt Wings, c. 1970. FDR Presidential Library.
Library from Route 9
The Roosevelt Library as it appears today, with Eleanor Roosevelt wings near completion, December 1971. FDR Presidential Library.

 

April 12, 1937 – Franklin D. Roosevelt sketches the original plan for the Roosevelt Library. The drawing features the Dutch Colonial style that the President Favored, with fieldstone walls and a steeply sloping roof. His initial choice of site and design of the building is remarkably close to that of the completed project.

September 1937 – FDR consults architect Henry Toombs, who had also worked with the president on the creation of Val-Kill and Top Cottage, as well as restoration work on Warm Springs, Georgia.

November 1937 – Toombs submits plan drawings to FDR, which retain the historic Dutch Colonial features the President admired.

December 1938The New York Times runs a front page article about FDR’s plans for the site, endorsing the project.

January 1939 – FDR selects Louis A. Simon to serve as principal architect, occasionally calling on Toombs as consultant. Preliminary work begins on the site.

May 1939 – Simon’s architectural drawings are finalized and approved.

July 24, 1939 – The Roosevelts deed the property for the library to the United States Government. Robert D. W. Connor, Archivist of the United States only pretends to sign the deed, waiting until August 11th to formally accept the property. The property was held by FDR’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, who had gone to Paris before signing the deed.

September 5, 1939 – John McShain is awarded with the construction contract for the library.

September 9, 1939 The New York Times reports, "This morning the President inspected the site of the memorial library which he has donated to the nation and which is to stand on the north field of his estate. He was accompanied by John McShain, the contractor, and W.J. Moore, the superintendent. After studying plans and discussing general problems, the group toured the countryside by car, inspecting buildings made of the same native fieldstone as is to be used in the construction of the library."

September 14, 1939 – John McShain’s crew breaks ground for the building

September 23, 1939 – FDR inspects the progress of the site, accompanied by Sara Delano Roosevelt, Kate and Sara Roosevelt (James Roosevelt’s daughters), Marguerite LeHand, Mr. and Mrs. John McShain and daughter, William J. Moore, and Paul Hauck, McShain’s superintendent.

November 19, 1939 – FDR hosts a ceremony to lay the cornerstone at Hyde Park, a few days after the laying the cornerstone at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington.

February 2, 1940 – FDR tours the interior of the building for the first time, which was now over 75 percent complete.

July 4, 1940 – The Library is formally transferred from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Incorporated to the federal government to be operated by the National Archives.

June 30, 1941 – The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, opened to the public ten days earlier, is formally dedicated. The event includes speeches by Frank Walker, Robert D. W. Connor, an invocation by Rev. Patrick Mee, Regina Coeli Church, and a benediction by Rev. Frank R. Wilson, St. James Church.

July 8, 1941 – The Gatehouse is proposed by McShain, who offers to build it for the sum of one dollar.

May 1942 – FDR shows Louis Simon sketches for two extensions to the library to house additional stacks and exhibition space. Simon prepares preliminary plans, however, neither the architect nor the President were satisfied and the project was put on indefinite hold due to ongoing involvement in World War II.

March 28, 1945 – FDR visits the Library for the last time before his death on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia.

1955 – The process of library building, which FDR initiated, is made official by Congress with the Presidential Libraries Act.

November 1963 – Plans for the extensions to the Library begin to move forward.

May 1972 – The new Library wings, in honor of Eleanor Roosevelt, are completed and dedicated.

November 2003 – The Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center is opened by the FDR Library, in cooperation with National Park Service and The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. This was the first new building added to the Library since FDR’s original 1941 building.

May 2010 – A full-scale renovation of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum began in May 2010. With the exception of two wings added in 1972 in honor of Mrs. Roosevelt, it is the first renovation of the Roosevelt Library since it was opened to the public on June 30, 1941. The project consisted of two phases over three years with a budget of $35 million in federal funding. The renovation brings the Library’s archives and museum up to the National Archives’s standards for the preservation of historic collections, while carefully preserving the building’s historic appearance.

 
edit