The drive up the old Taconic Parkway was smooth and uneventful, despite the heavy rains that inundated the Hudson Valley. The road that had been started in the 1920’s and repaired, and re-structured many times since, is not unlike most in New York State, it needs a great deal of work, in the wake of a difficult winter.
It would encompass almost forty years to finally finish this winding and picturesque road from the original parkway proposal by Taconic State Parkway Commission chair Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1925 to the completion of the of the final stretch, in Columbia County in 1963. The delays were due to the high priority needs of labor and material demanded by World War II. Throughout FDR’s two terms of governor and his presidency, his vision of the Taconic Parkway went from an idea, to a proposal, then to legislation, appropriation, to the design period and then construction.
In the same way that the Taconic Parkway is a testament to his foresight, vision, drive and determination that FDR possessed, it also foreshadows the great public works FDR, as the architect of the New Deal, would initiate.
Once I reached Route 9, the Albany Post Road, in the City of Poughkeepsie, it is a short uphill drive to Hyde Park, where FDR’s memory still casts his mighty shadow on almost everything from the post office he helped design to the Saint James Church where he prayed, was a vestryman, and where his parents are buried. All along the Albany Post Road, there are banners with his name leading to his father’s old estate, Springwood, where the big house still regally stands, his museum and library still functions and the relatively new Wallace welcoming center hosts tens of thousands of guests each year.
In the preface of his book, In the Shadow of FDR, the renowned historian, William E. Leuchtenburg, writes. “A ghost has inhabited the Oval Office since 1945 – the ghost of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR’s formidable presence has cast a large shadow on the occupants of that office in the years since his death, and an appreciation of his continuing influence is essential to understanding the contemporary presidency.” In the same way that FDR’s memory and shadow still dominates this Hudson River Valley village,
Every day in a thousand blogs, on the editorial pages of hundreds of newspapers and inside and outside the corridors of the Congress, the debate over the New Deal rages amongst the old New Deal liberals, the new proponents of social justice, the environmentalists, the deficit hawks and the revisionist lunatics of the radical right. Whether it is over investing in infrastructure, the rights of civil servants to collectively bargain, the future of United Nations, the Keynesian spending of the New Deal and today, the entitlement safety nets, or the rhetoric of the Tea Party heirs of Ronald Reagan, the philosophy, actions and legacy of FDR are still paramount in our political dialogue sixty-six years from the day of his death.
On that day in 1945, hundreds of thousands of mourners waved good-by to the 32nd President as his funeral train slowly made the three-day journey from his winter home in the hamlet of Warm Springs, Georgia, to the rolling hills of Dutchess County.
The Poughkeepsie Journal told of one local resident, Bernard Kessler, who was a young attorney in 1945, who attended the gravesite service. “It was a sad day for everyone,” he said, “They set up a stone there in the Rose Garden, Everything was beautifully laid out.”
The Journal told of some of the other residents who fathers were friends of the late president. Saul Kessler, Elmer Van Wagner Sr., and Harold and Rosabel Clay, to name a few, were also political supporters of Roosevelt.
Amongst, the local residents, The Journal reported that Elmer Van Wagner Jr., who is 75, remembers his father hearing the news of Roosevelt’s death. The elder Wagner was plowing the family farm, the Vanderbilt Estates, at the time.
Wagner said, “He got right off his tractor, got down on his knees and cried like a baby.” Another resident, Ann Dingee, who is now 79, of Hyde Park, vividly recalls the reaction of her mother Rosabel Clay, on learning of the president’s death. “All I remember is coming home and my mother screaming,” she said. “I remember that like it was yesterday.”
The actual funeral service took place at 10:34 am, with the Reverend Dr. W. George Anthony, the rector of Saint James Episcopal Church presiding and it lasted just seventeen minutes with howitzers in the distance and the roar of planes flying overhead in a farewell salute. At 10:51 an Army bugler played taps.