The Little White House – Warm Springs, GA

On this day 68 years ago in 1945, 32nd president Franklin D Roosevelt suffered a massive stroke and died just 83 days after taking office for his 4th term.  It happened while he was posing for a portrait being painted by artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, at his cottage home known as Little White House located at Warm Springs, GA.  The unfinished portrait can be seen exactly as it was abandoned in mid-brush stroke, as shown below.

FDRs Unfinished portrait
The “Unfinished Portrait” sketched by artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff

We seem to be keen on history lately, and were excited to spend a day at nearby Warm Springs to learn about the longest-serving president of the USA, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  We began our tour at the FDR Memorial Museum by watching an introductory film that includes some historical footage of his life and achievements during those tumultuous years.  The museum has a great collection of Roosevelt mementos and a storyboard of the many accomplishments befitting a great world leader.  On the wall was a family tree and we learned that FDR and the 26th president Theodore Roosevelt were fifth cousins.  Eleanor Roosevelt, who was of course the first lady, was Theodore’s niece.

During FDR’s time, only a few people knew he was unable to walk for he had contracted partial paralysis from polio in 1921 at age 39 and was paralyzed from the waist down.  With the help of his car’s hand controls, which he helped to design, he often drove while visiting Warm Springs.  The president’s 1938 Ford convertible is on display inside the museum.

1938 Ford Convertible

Roosevelts 1938 Ford Convertible
Inside the car – hand controlled

Completed in 1932, the Little White House is a modest six room one-story cottage.  Also on the grounds are a guest house, servant’s quarters and four Secret Service sentry posts standing much as they did in 1945.

Roosevelts Little White House
The Little White House

As a tribute to President Roosevelt, the 50 states (updated in 1959 to include Alaska and Hawaii) contributed a specimen of their state’s native stones for a memorial.

State Stones along walk
State stones along walk

We continued our tour at the Historic Pools Museum, where FDR searched for relief from polio when he came to Warm Springs in 1924 to swim in the naturally-heated water.  The pools are now drained to avoid damage to the historic structure, but we were able to touch the warm water bubbling from a basin.

Even before FDR knew about the warm springs, local legends tell of a time when the springs at the base of Pine Mountain were the site of a safe haven for warring tribes of Native Americans.  They took advantage of the 88 degree water (900 gallons per minute) and were supposedly all afforded safe passage.  The warm springs are no longer available to the general public to swim in, but to this day the springs feed the modern therapeutic pools at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute , a rehabilitation center founded by President Franklin D Roosevelt.

Although he was never again able to use his legs fully, by 1928 Roosevelt regained enough physical and emotional strength to return to politics and build the simple vacation cottage.  With the resort becoming popular and attracting other polio survivors, he purchased the resort and turned it into what became a world-famous polio treatment center – the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation.  During his presidency FDR returned to use the therapeutic waters at Warm Springs every year (except 1942) until his death in 1945.

This was really an excellent tour, and we recommend it to anyone while in the area.  Although we are not ardent history buffs, seeing so many artifacts from another time and learning so much is always inspirational.

On another front, people have to eat.  Steve somehow got the hankering for a Cobb salad and gave it a try.  He didn’t do too bad! As you may have noticed by now Steve is the chef in this house.

Cobb Salad
Steve’s Cobb Salad, yum yum

As I write this blog we are on a Tornado watch until 11PM.  As we are from the West, this would be our first tornado experience as we journey on to the east coast.  More to come on how we and Betsy make out!




  1. When I was stationed at Fort Benning, GA, back in 1983, I used to drive up I-185 and see the signs for The Little White House, but never did visit it. Once I left Fort Benning in 1986, I have never been back.

    The family and I plan on making it back to the Fort Benning area one day on our tour of America and I will make sure we visit The Little White House this time.

    Even though I have never visited the site, just the fact that you probably drove on the same road as I did, over 26 years ago, brought back a flood of memories.

    Don Lively

  2. Hi Mona Liza, what a great tour of The Little House. So much history there. My Mom actually worked at the rehabilitation hospital when she was younger and my Grandfather had a hand in the construction of The Little White House. This is so neat to me to read about your adventures in LaGrange.

    Hope the tornados passed on by your area…it is way scary.

    Can’t wait to hear about any other sites you visit while there….Pine Mointain and Callaway Gardens are pretty and fun too if you have time!

    • Wow, that is interesting and you must be proud to be part of history through your family. And yes we did go to the gardens and that is my next story. Being here on a Tornado watch was really scary,especially that we were parked near the lake at West Point. High winds and torrential rains and thunderstorms kept us awake all night.

  3. What a neat tour! John is a true history buff. He was even able to tell me what happened 45 years ago today and then went on to tell your story before I read it. Did they tell you at the museum the FDR had his girlfriend there with him? John said this was a fact they didn’t want the public to know.

    Looks like a tour for a future visit to the southeast.

    That is a beautiful Cobb Salad! At first I thought you were at a restaurant. Way to cook, Steve!

    • Now that you mentioned it I am unsure if I read it at the museum or at the NPS website about Lucy Mercer being there when he had that stroke. Im sure John would love this route, too much history to go through.
      Steve says thank you.

  4. COBB SALAD….you knocked that out of the park!! FDR one of my fav’s…thanks for the trip!

  5. Love the history, Our list of must see stuff out east is growing. Had not thought of Warm Springs, looks really interesting.
    good to hear you made it through the storm, whew.

  6. Stay safe … and may your experience be like ours was yesterday … a lot of rain and not much more than that. The aftermath of the storm has been wonderful here … sending today’s weather to you for your enjoyment tomorrow!

    Judy, one of the bloggers I follow, was lucky enough last year (I think) to not only visit the LWH, but also swim in the pool … a special event by the NPS that she lucked into.

  7. Another great gem uncovered and brought to us to enjoy. Thank you! I am learning so much about places I have never even dreamed about thanks to you and the other bloggers who write up these hidden spots. Appreciate it, and have added another spot to the map of places to check out!!

  8. Thanks for the great history lesson. It is tornado season in these parts so be safe. Last year while visiting some family in OK, we experienced 3 earthquakes and had tornado and hail warnings. Makes a person feel rather vulnerable knowing that a home on wheels would not fare very well in high winds like those of a tornado.

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