FDR’s Canadian “Cottage”

FDR’s Summer Home on Campobello Island

During his youth, Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent many of his summers on Campobello Island in the Province of New Brunswick, just a few hundred feet from the Easternmost Point in the United States at Lubec, Maine. Since the 1960s, there is a bridge that connects Lubec with Campobello. But back when FDR stayed here, it was approachable with difficulty, by a combination of trains and ferries.

In 1921, FDR discovered during a visit to the island that he had a paralytic illness, which was later diagnosed as polio. That was a watershed in the ambitious young man’s life: From being an active outdoorsman who loved sailing the waters of Passamaquoddy Bay and the Bay of Fundy, he found himself increasingly a cripple. From that point on, he didn’t have it in him to spend much time time at Campobello.

That was not the case for his wife, Eleanor, who continued to visit the island—especially after her husband died in 1945. One of the highlights of a trip to the massive “cottage” at Campobello is a daily event known as “Tea with Eleanor.” For twenty lucky guests, tea and cookies are served in an adjoining cottage; and the knowledgeable waitstaff tell stories about Eleanor, who is much loved by the local people.

Campobello Island is a strange little island. To buy gasoline or perform many other services, the residents must cross the border into Lubec. There are two restaurants on the island and, I believe, only a couple of places where tourists can spend the night. The cottage is surrounded by a large park and criss-crossing hiking trails, where once there were other resorts for wealthy tourists around the turn of the century.

Lubec and Campobello are about two hours east of Acadia National Park and the resort at Bar Harbor.