In Dutch, Val Kill means “valley stream.” In American, it means Eleanor Roosevelt’s home in Hyde Park, NY. Hubby and I visited this quaint cottage about a five-minute drive from FDR’s home. Today it’s a National Park Service site that is REALLY along a valley stream. (Go figure!)
My Dartmouth, MA mother gave me a copy of Eleanor’s autobiography and I had every intention of reading it before heading to the Empire State. Didn’t Happen. Unlike the tour of FDR’s home, the ranger at Val-Kill conveyed an enthusiasm for the former First Lady that energized visitors.
For most of her life Eleanor never had a home to call her own. Springwood, the FDR place, was owned by Franklin’s mother, Sarah, for most of the time they lived there. And if you know anything about Sarah, you know she ruled the roost (and still haunts the place according to rangers).
Val-Kill was Eleanor’s OWN retreat and slept there unless FDR was at Springwood. Her kids and grandkids loved chillin’ with “E” at the cottage.
Val-Kill has a homey feel that’s totally lacking at Springwood. (NOTE: V-K did smell like an old person’s home but that could be because they never open the windows and there is no air conditioning.) Because she grew up in a formal, stratified, upper crust culture, Eleanor’s home is anything but.
On the day we visited, kids were fishing off the foot bridge connecting the parking lot to the Val-Kill complex. I asked if they caught anything and this 12 year old said, “About three every hour.” Eleanor would have been out there with them.