The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, located on Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, is the first of the United States' presidential libraries. The 16-acre facility was built during 1939-40 by Philadelphia contractor John McShain of Hudson Valley fieldstone in local Dutch colonial style. Conceived of and donated by President Roosevelt, the library was built at a cost of $376k and turned over to the federal government on July 4, 1940 to be operated by the National Archives. The museum section of the building opened June 30, 1941. However, the onset of World War II deferred the official opening of the library as a research facility as the President served a third term and then was elected to a fourth term in 1944. He visited the library often during the war to sort and classify his records and memorabilia; and from his study in the library he delivered several of his famous radio speeches or "fireside chats".
In addition to artifacts from the lives of President and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the Library includes papers from all Roosevelt’s political offices—New York State Senator (1910-13), Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1913-19), Governor of New York (1929-32), and President of the United States (1933-45) and his private collections of papers, books, and memorabilia on the history of the U.S. Navy and Dutchess County, as well as his White House Desk and 1936 Ford Phaeton. As per the President’s original vision, two wings in memory of Eleanor Roosevelt, which would house her more than three million pages of papers, were added in 1971.
Prior to Roosevelt's Presidency, the final disposition of Presidential papers was left to chance. Although a valued part of the nation's heritage, the papers of chief executives were private property which they took with them upon leaving office. Some were sold or destroyed and thus either scattered or lost to the nation forever. Others remained with families, but inaccessible to scholars for long periods of time. The fortunate collections found their way into the Library of Congress and private repositories. In erecting his library, Roosevelt created an institution to preserve intact all his papers. Roosevelt's actions served as a precedent. When Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955, it regularized the procedures initiated by President Roosevelt for privately built and federally maintained libraries to preserve the papers of future Presidents. Even though official presidential papers are now public property as a result of the Presidential Records Act of 1978, and there is legislation limiting the size and financing of museums, Roosevelt's original intentions of preserving papers in one place and making them accessible to the nation still hold true.
National Register #66000056 (1966)