Campobello Island located in New Brunswick, Canada, and a short trip over a bridge from Maine was an easy day trip for us. We had actually thought about exploring more of Eastern Canada since we were so close, but didn’t think we would have time since there is so much there and we wanted to be able to see the rest of the Eastern U.S. including New England and Appalachia before the end of Fall. So, it was at least fun to be able to go into Canada for the day and see not only a beautiful island but a former home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was also neat to see this home because we had been to his other home and presidential library in Hyde Park, New York. Above is a photo looking across at Campobello.
Our first stop on this day trip was West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, the most Eastern point in the United States and near the town of Lubec. The original tower was built in 1808 under orders from President Thomas Jefferson. The current tower was built in 1858. I thought the red and white striped tower was so pretty and it was neat to be at the most Eastern location!
The cute town of Lubec is the gateway to Campobello Island. In the photo above you can see the FDR Memorial Bridge which crosses from Lubec to Campobello. This is the only land crossing; all other transportation is by ferry. The bridge opened in 1962, well after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death. After crossing we stopped at the border station to show our passports and answer a few questions as to where, what and why and then we were on our way to explore the Island!
Our first stop was the Roosevelt Campobello International Park which is the only park administered jointly by the United States and Canadian governments. The park includes a Visitor Center, the Roosevelt home and several other historic homes. We first stopped at the Visitor Center to get tickets and information. The park offers a few programs including “Tea with Eleanor” which is a presentation about Eleanor Roosevelt accompanied with tea and homemade ginger cookies. The cost for the tea was about $12.00 each and we had hoped to use our ATM card as we were low on cash. Unfortunately the ATM machine was down. The lady working the counter told us that we really should attend the program, it was so nice and she would lend us the money. We explained that we weren’t staying on the Island and it would be difficult to get the money back to her. Without hesitation, she said that we could mail a check to her address when we were back home! In shock at her offer, we thanked her and said we would think about it. We managed to scrape up enough money when I realized we had our “laundry quarters” in the truck and Mark decided he would rather not attend it anyway, so we just signed me up. But this encounter with the very kind woman was a surprising act of generosity during our traveling.
We first had a tour of the Roosevelt summer cottage which is beautiful both inside and out. Although a cottage to me denotes a rather small place, this one has 34 rooms! Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) first summered on Campobello with his parents at the age of one and it became a beloved retreat for his parents. FDR’s father was a big sailing enthusiast and his son also grew to love the sport, receiving his own small sailboat when he was seven years old. Next door to FDR’s parent’s home was this cottage built in 1897 that the Roosevelts acquired in 1909 from the previous owner. The couple spent many happy summers here with their children and enjoyed lots of activities such as sailing, swimming and playing sports. Below is a picture from the game room displaying one of the model boats that Roosevelt built with his sons.
The Roosevelts enjoyed entertaining friends in this dining room but no political guests came here. This was a retreat, a sanctuary and away from the cares of the world. Many of the cottage’s rooms on two floors can be seen by visitors including the kitchen, living areas, family bedrooms and school room for the children. Daughter Anna loved horses and her bedroom window looked out on the stables.
Sadly, it was here in August 1921 that FDR at the age of 39 was stricken suddenly with symptoms of paralysis after a day of sailing and swimming. He soon lost all movement below his waist and was diagnosed with infantile paralysis or polio. How ironic that this debilitating illness came upon him in this beloved place where he had been so actively enjoying life. After his illness, FDR only came to the Island a few more times. The effects of his illness and political responsibilities kept him away, although Eleanor and the children continued to visit each summer.
Below is a photo taken from the back of the house looking down on the broad sweep of lawn leading to the water where the family enjoyed so many of their activities.
After the house tour, I headed over to the “Eleanor’s Tea” which was held in the historic Wells-Shober Cottage. Built in the late 1880’s, it had a lovely yellow painted parlor filled with tables for the tea.
The program was interesting with two presenters providing information on Eleanor’s life and her work as an activist. The cookies and tea were delicious and we were each given a little booklet called “Cookies for Eleanor” with recipes and pictures inside from teas and picnics Eleanor attended. Eleanor was fond of outdoor teas and they were a common occurrence. Eleanor’s granddaughter who compiled the booklet wrote: “I doubt that my grandmother ever baked a cookie. In fact, she was not known for fine cuisine. She loved picnics and indeed every mealtime, with lively conversation among friends and family.” I liked the photo on the booklet cover so thought I would include in this post. Eleanor is seated second from the left during a tea party.
After our Roosevelt visit, we headed for a late lunch at a restaurant next to the water that was known to have up close sightings of whales. From the outside deck, we ate our fish and chips and haddock fish chowder anxiously scanning the water for a whale visit, but none came in view. After eating we drove to one end of the Island next to Head Harbor Light Station where we had some good sightings of Minke whales in the distance. There are whale watching tours from the Island and we saw several out in the Bay. Below, Mark scans the water for whales.
Head Harbor Light is located in a very scenic area on a little island. Actually it becomes an island only at high tide. At low tide, you can cross over by way of rickety looking steel stairs or ladders. While we were there, the tide was still covering much of the passage area and a chain blocked the stairs heading down.
When we were getting ready to leave, they opened up the stairs and people started making their way across the beach area to the stairs going up to the light station. We ended up not going, although if it had been accessible when we first got there, I might have given it a go. The views were certainly beautiful and the 1829 wooden light tower was built in a remarkable spot on a rocky outcropping.
We had a great day on Campobello Island full of history and natural beauty!
For my next blog post I plan to do something different and write on the last state we just visited, West Virginia. This will make the blog more current to where we have just been. But I will return to write about the other states we have visited in between.