Exploring FDR’s legacy — a drive-in theater, a retro diner and more — at the real ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’

Hyde Park, New York is famously known as the home of Springwood, the estate of the Roosevelt family, where Franklin Delano Roosevelt grew up and visited many times during his long tenure as president.

Now, the Roosevelt home is the inspiration for an upcoming Hollywood release, “Hyde Park on Hudson,” starring Bill Murray as FDR himself. From the preview I caught the other day — see it below — the film looks great, and Murray is convincing as FDR.

The film’s release is still a ways off, in December, but as interest builds, you might want to consider a visit to the Roosevelt home and adjacent visitors’ center and museum. (Not to mention the many historic and culinary wonders in the region.)

The town of Hyde Park is in Dutchess County, a historically Republican area. In fact, the Democratic architect of the New Deal never carried his own town during his four presidential elections.

Even thought this is red-state country, Roosevelt’s name and legacy is understandably everywhere, and his name and image are an essential part of the local community and its identity, as these photos from my recent visit demonstrate.

And now, whole new generations of Americans who may never have heard of Hyde Park are about to become aquainted with the town. The film (which, alas, was filmed in England) explores the historic weekend in 1939 when the king and queen of England visit Hyde Park, the first time reigning British monarchs ever visited the former colonies.  Roosevelt happens to be having the time of his life with his love interest, Margaret Suckley.

2012 will be a banner year for FDR, as his much awaited Louis Kahn-designed memorial, shelved back in the 1970s, will finally open on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island. 

Up in Hyde Park, the Roosevelt legacy is hard to miss. It’s always fascinating to see how towns sew their history into their retail fabric. FDR’s got two movie theaters that use his name or image — including a drive-in from 1950, shown at top — and I certainly hope both get the opportunity to screen “Hyde Park on Hudson.”

Above, the Eveready Diner has a “Delano Room,” and there’s an inn named after him as well. Both the diner and the inn will certainly get busier as interest in Hyde Park grows in advance of the film’s release.

Text and photos: Rolando Pujol

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