The FDR Gallery

The restoration was cost-intensive and time-intensive as it required dedication from all parties involved. Over four years’ worth of research went into the process to ensure that the renovation of the suite was entirely accurate. To this end, information retrieved from the Harvard Archives was helpful. The Harvard Archives provided a wealth of resources that included students’ scrapbooks, ephemera, souvenirs, teachers’ memoirs, and letters and notes written by professors and students, as well as 80 photographs of the student dormitory rooms in 1900.

 

Although none of the 80 photographs included a picture of Roosevelt’s room, they served as valuable references for how the suite ought to look. Together, these resources painted a clear picture of what student life looked like at the turn of the twentieth century. Further, the preserved correspondence between Roosevelt and his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, provided more inspiration for the suite’s design. Similarly, a letter written by Lathrop Brown to the master of Adams House yielded some insight into how the set of rooms were styled. Collectively, all these resources and pieces of information served as the bedrock for the restoration of the suite.

 

Besides these, the process of restoring the suite required much dedication, creativity, and resourcefulness. For instance, the common room was re-plastered based on the colors of a few tiny wallpaper fragments found on the original plaster on the wall behind the radiator. Similarly, an authentic packet of cigarettes on a side table in the suite was tracked down and obtained as a result of its advertisements in some editions of The Crimson that were in circulation during Roosevelt’s Harvard College days.

 

The suite is filled with historically accurate furniture and contains memorabilia from Roosevelt’s private collections. Thus, there are various rare photographs of Roosevelt during his undergraduate days hanging on the walls. The restored suite also features some donated historical pieces from the presidential museum as well as various rare Harvard collectibles from private collections around the world. These collectibles were carefully gathered from multiple individuals, reassembled in Cambridge, and after that placed in the suite. Presently, there are about 2000 period pieces in the FDR suite.

 

The FDR Suite is the brainchild of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation Inc. and several dedicated individuals, including alumni and affiliates, who are committed to preserving the legacy of one of America’s greatest presidents – Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The primary aim of having the suite restored is to preserve Roosevelt’s heritage while also renewing his legacy for the 21st century and for generations to come. The completion of the restoration in 2014, has, to a large extent, achieved that mission.

 

As it stands in its 1900 appearance, the restored suite is a living museum at Harvard, and it is the first of its kind dedicated to the memory of Roosevelt. As a museum, it not only sheds more light on the early life of Roosevelt, but it also preserves what daily college life looked like in the twentieth century. This is laudable as not much is known about Roosevelt’s early days in college. From a visit, a visitor to the suite, either virtually or in reality, can learn much about Roosevelt’s life, including the little details such as his taste in music, his ambition, his hobbies, and even his taste in decor.

 

Additionally, the suite serves as a museum by preserving the rich history of Adams House. From the time of its restoration, the restored suite has been a vital tool to educate numerous people and generations of students about Roosevelt and the history of Adams House, Westmorly Hall, the Gold Coast, Harvard, and Cambridge during the gilded era. In all, it is a significant part of Roosevelt’s history, showing more about him than any other place until he arrived at the White House.

 

Since the FDR Suite is located in a functioning dormitory, it is not open to the general public. However, students, alumni, and Harvard affiliates can take tours of the suite upon giving adequate notice. Members of the public can experience the richness that the living museum has to offer by taking part in virtual tours of the rooms through FDR Suite’s website.