Roosevelt House: Saving a National Treasure for a New Generation, 1943–2023


No houses could have a better background for the use they will now serve. Always in both houses there was an effort to look on all human beings with respect, and to have a true understanding of the points of view of others.

— Eleanor Roosevelt at the dedication of the house to Hunter College, November 1943.

Roosevelt House, a double townhouse at 47-49 East 65th Street in Manhattan, is three blocks from the main Hunter College campus at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue. From 1908 to1933, No.49 was the city home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and their five children, and Sara Delano Roosevelt, Franklin’s mother, lived at No.47. After Franklin and Eleanor left the house on March 2, 1933 to attend his first inauguration as president in Washington DC, neither of them lived here again but they made the unit available to friends and family for short stays. Sara continued to live in her part of the house until her death in September 1941. The family then put the building up for sale and a nonprofit group acquired it in 1942 to hold for the use of Hunter College. On November 22, 1943, 80 years ago, with Eleanor Roosevelt in attendance, it was dedicated as the “Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial House.” It remained a popular student center for the college until 1992, when it was closed in need of renovation.

Jennifer Raab became the 21st President of the College in June 2001. As soon as she took office, she pledged to restore the house, now badly deteriorated, and imbue it with a new purpose: as an institute honoring the legacies of the Roosevelts in public policy and human rights. The Roosevelts’ commitment to democracy at home and abroad and their support for the United Nations to foster peace and human rights for all peoples is captured in the mission of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute which moved into the refurbished building in 2010. Its rooms are now filled with classes for students in the Public Policy and Human Rights Programs, public programs, visiting scholars, and exhibitions.

The restoration had been led by President Raab. With seven years of experience heading the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and years prior to that in city government as well as legal training, she was uniquely prepared to undertake a complex adaptive reuse project. This required fundraising, selection of an experienced architectural firm, negotiations with multiple city and state agencies, and consultation with faculty and the Roosevelt family. From 2001 to 2010, she pressed on with the project, believing that it would enrich Hunter students, host many accomplished guests at conferences, book talks, and seminars, and keep vital the Roosevelts’ legacies. 

With the formal dedication on November 15, 2010, the doors were open. At the ceremony, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, spoke: 

FDR’s friend and contemporary, Winston Churchill, once said: “We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” If that is true, then surely 49 East 65th street is one of the most important houses of the modern era. These brick and limestone walls witnessed the birth of two legacies that have shaped our world: … a new era of multilateral cooperation for international peace, security and social welfare and an explicit commitment by all nations to recognize fundamental freedoms and universal human rights, including equal rights for men and women.

Since that celebration, over 900 events have taken place at Roosevelt House, attended by thousands. Hundreds of classes have been held, and many dozens of distinguished guests – scholars, heads of state and international organizations, authors, public officials, artists, filmmakers, and activists – have spoken, taught, and engaged the campus, the community, and the wider world. President Raab has ensured that in a building first occupied 115 years ago as a private home the values of its first residents continue to inspire and inform a new generation. 

The exhibit was curated by Roosevelt House Historian Deborah Gardner, designed by Roosevelt House staff Daniel Culkin and Aaron Fineman, with research assistance provided by Bianca Oliva. Thanks as always to Hunter Facility staff and to Anne Lytle and Terri Rosen Deutsch. Appreciation for providing pictures of the pre-restoration condition of Roosevelt House to Ward Dennis of Higgins & Quasebarth, and Michael Hassett and Richard Olcott of Ennead Architects.

The Roosevelt’s Home and The College Center

In The Beginning: Starting a Family




Fifth cousins Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945) and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) — always known as Eleanor — were married on March 17, 1905 in the home of Eleanor’s cousin on East 76th Street. Later that year at Christmas, Franklin’s mother Sara promised them a new house, with the location to be decided. Two lots were acquired in 1907 on East 65th Street in the fashionable Upper East Side, and the existing brownstones were torn down. Architect Charles A. Platt designed a double house where one neo-Georgian style façade disguised two identical units within, much like the multi-family house where the Roosevelts had been married.

In December 1908, Franklin and Eleanor moved into No.49, the east unit, with their two young children, Anna, age 2½ and one-year-old James. Sara moved into No.47, the west unit. In the following years, there were four more children (sadly, one, FDR Jr was born and died at the house in 1909 as an infant). By 1921 the family comprised five children — Anna, James, Elliott (who was born in the house in September 1910), a second FDR Jr, and John — and their parents. The house was full with four or five live-in employees and others who would come by for the day. Eleanor’s younger brother, Gracie Hall Roosevelt (1891–1941), stayed at the house when he was home from boarding school or college because their parents were long deceased.

Sara Delano Roosevelt (1854–1941)

Ecumenical in her support of varied creeds, SDR also gave generously to many non-profits in New York City, including settlement houses, art and culture organizations, schools, nursing and hospital associations, the Legal Aid Society, and the Women’s Trade Union League. She hosted national and international leaders at Hyde Park, and stayed at the White House numerous times, and at her New York home she became a friend of African-American educator Mary McLeod Bethune and helped fundraise for her college. From Mayflower roots to a cosmopolitan youth living in China and traveling through Europe, SDR matured into “America’s most distinguished mother,” noted one religious figure on her death. Thus, when Hunter acquired the house from the Roosevelt family, it was fitting that it was dedicated in November 1943 as the Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial House for Interfaith and Interracial Tolerance, true to Sara and to the history of the College.

The Double House Design


The original house was designed by architect Charles A. Platt (1861–1933). His firm was well known for landscape design, country estates, and institutional projects but he also had completed commissions for town houses in Manhattan, including one residence on 65th Street a block away from the Roosevelt property, and a large apartment building at 66th Street and Lexington Avenue. His firm did renovation work too for properties owned by the Astor Estate in New York. He was probably recommended to Sara Delano Roosevelt by her stepson, FDR’s half-brother, “Rosy” Roosevelt, who was involved with the business side of the Astor Estate. The total cost for the land, construction, and architect fees was $247,000 in 1908 (2023 equivalent of about $8,000,000).

Both Sara and Eleanor were familiar with double family houses. As Curtis Roosevelt recalled:

Actually it was not at all unusual for well-to-do families to have two adjacent houses. Franklin and Eleanor were married in such a house a few blocks north at 6-8 East 76th Street in the Parish’s twin houses. For the ceremony, in which Eleanor’s uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, gave the bride away, Uncle Henry and Aunt Susie had thrown the two parlor rooms together to make a space big enough to accommodate the large number of guests. It was easy, they just opened the sliding doors

We of course went back and forth between the two houses at 65th Street and never thought of the difference. When I was very young I crawled up the stairs to the next floor, and somehow, I crossed over into the other house and found myself absolutely lost, burst into tears, and had to be rescued. I didn’t differentiate. I went from one to the other without any sense of there being different houses

At Home on 65th Street

The family lived in the house until 1942. Sara used the New York residence continuously until September 1941 when she died at her country home in Hyde Park, New York. To accommodate FDR’s political career, he and Eleanor and the children lived briefly in Albany in 1911 when he was in the state legislature, and then moved to Washington from 1913 to 1920 while he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy; during those years when the family was in New York they would stay with Sara because their unit was rented to banker Thomas Lamont. The family returned in 1921 and FDR recovered from polio there as his friend and advisor Louis Howe moved in to assist him. During the 1920s, FDR commuted by car to offices at 120 Broadway where he worked a half day at a surety and bonding insurance firm and a half day at his law practice with his partner Basil O’Connor. From 1929 to 1933, FDR mostly stayed at the New York Governor’s mansion in Albany but made frequent trips to the city for civic and political activities. During that time, Eleanor commuted back and forth from 65th Street on a regular basis to teach at the Todhunter School and attend meetings while her younger children attended their schools nearby. In 1930, daughter Anna moved in with her husband Curtis Dall and three-year-old daughter Eleanor when they lost their home due to the stock market crash of 1929. In March 1933, Franklin and Eleanor moved to the White House, and Anna and her children (Anna age six and Curtis age three) followed soon after; her husband Curtis Dall remained in New York because they were separating. During the presidential years friends and family stayed at No.49 from time to time and Eleanor frequently visited with Sara during trips to the city.

Curtis Roosevelt remembered:

My sister and I spent many childhood months intermittently at the 65th Street house. She was born in the house in 1927, as she would remind me in a superior tone suitable to a sibling three years older. It was, my mother told her, the usual way of birthing — at home, surrounded by the women of the household, and perhaps a nurse in attendance. Our Uncle Elliot had been born in the 65th Street house in 1910… Granny [Sara], our great grandmother, would have been shocked if our mother had insisted on going to a hospital. But by the time I was born in 1930 my mother did insist, remarking that she would have much more privacy in a hospital!

My sister and I usually stayed in my great grandmother’s half of the house with our nurse, while my mother stayed with her parents in the adjacent half. We weren’t very far apart as connecting doors on the top floor made it easy to cross over.

Who Lived at Roosevelt House, 1908–1942

  • Sara Delano Roosevelt (1908–1941).
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt and their five children, Anna, James, Elliott (born in the house), Franklin and John, 1908–1933. Anna attends the Chapin School in the 1920s and Franklin and John the Buckley School before they go to Groton. A sixth child, the first FDR Jr, was born and died as an infant in the house in 1909. Franklin and Eleanor used the house intermittently 1933–1942.
  • Various household employees, 1908+.
  • Gracie Hall Roosevelt (1891–1941), Eleanor’s brother, 1908+, when home from boarding school or college.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Mortimer, Eleanor’s aunt and uncle, rented the house in 1911 when the family moved to Albany for FDR’s work as a State Senator.
  • Banker Thomas W. Lamont and his wife rented #49 (1914–1920) while Franklin and Eleanor lived in Washington. They paid $500 a year in rent ($15,000 in 2023). Franklin, Eleanor, and the children would stay with Sara when they needed to be in New York.
  • Louis Howe (1871–1936), 1921+, FDR’s political advisor, aide and friend.
  • Anna Roosevelt Dall, her husband Curtis B. Dall, and their two children Anna Eleanor (born March 25, 1927 in the house) and Curtis Roosevelt (born April 19, 1930 in a hospital), nicknamed “Sistie” and “Buzzie,” 1930–June 1933. Anna and her children went to the inauguration and then returned to the house so Anna could finish her school year, then went to Hyde Park for the summer, and to the White House in the fall, early September 1933. The Dalls had lived on a 36-acre estate in Tarrytown, NY, until they lost it due to stock market crash of 1929. When Anna and the children moved to Washington, Curtis Dall stayed in New York because their marriage was over.
  • Mollie Somerville stayed in 1934, at Eleanor’s invitation, to help Anna who was hosting a radio program, “At 49 East 65th Street, I was assigned the room that had been Mr. Howe’s and, before that, Anna’s”.
  • Anna is married to her second husband John Boettiger, January 18, 1935, in Franklin and Eleanor’s library.
  • James and his wife Betsey Cushing Roosevelt, married in 1930, stay in the house for a time, 1937.

Memories of 65th Street: The Presidential Years, 1933–1945

On the rare occasions when Franklin needed to remain overnight in New York, he would stay at the house. Eleanor traveled to New York City frequently during the presidential years, sometimes twice a week, mostly taking the overnight train or flying to Newark. She attended meetings, spoke at conferences or dedications of New Deal projects, shopped, went to medical appointments, enjoyed theater and art exhibits, and visited with friends and family. She had a small apartment in Greenwich Village where she stayed but she often went to 65th Street to have tea with Sara, or they would visit friends or the theater together, attend funerals, or Eleanor would accompany Sara to the docks for her annual trips abroad. During the later 1930s, Eleanor would go through the stored family belongings at the house as she reported in her newspaper column My Day of August 4, 1937: 

Every time I go there, I am appalled by the things one accumulates in the course of a long life. I went into the trunk room to look in the blanket chest and found that it was packed with trunks and I couldn’t remember what was in any of them! I feel sure that I could help to furnish several apartments, so I am going to start right in on my brother’s. 

She made sure the President’s papers were shipped to Hyde Park in 1940 for his new library. A month after Sara’s death in September 1941, Eleanor was joined by Franklin who “sorted many articles in his mother’s house.” Eleanor continued to meet people at the house and to consider what to do with decades of family belongings: 

(December 5, 1941) Since we have always kept certain things in locked closets, I fill up my spare minutes and hours trying to decide what to do with things that have a certain sentimental value and, which, perhaps, none of our children will have any real use for now, or in the future. 

Yesterday I found some very beautiful and very large old tablecloths and napkins with handsome embroidered coats of arms, such as no one would think of indulging in at the present time. In fact, very few people who are economically inclined, use large or small tablecloths anymore, and certainly not these large napkins, when table mats and small napkins are so much easier to launder. 

With children scattered all over the country, and only two owning their own homes; china, glass and silver, accumulated by former generations, seem irksome to them. Perhaps, what we are all learning is the fact that we should not be burdened by possessions, but should enjoy them while we have them. And, if they are destroyed, we should take it as lightly as our British friends have been able to do. 

Finally, in 1942, she went to the house a number of times to finish packing after the building was sold to Hunter. 

(April 15, 1942) The final moving day has arrived. The house is filled with barrels and boxes, the van is at the door and being packed as I write this. Before long the typewriter will be taken away from us, so we must get this finished soon! 

One cannot leave two houses with which one has had long years of association, without some reminiscent moments. I have spent many years away from these houses since my mother-in-law built them, but we lived here a number of years consecutively when our children were small. We lived here during the first years of my husband’s illness and have been here on and off since my husband returned to public life in 1928. 

Many human emotions have been recorded by many people within the walls of these rooms, and if walls could talk, an interesting book might be written. Perhaps the most stirring chapter would deal with the months and years after my husband came back here from the hospital and slowly took up new activities, adjusting meanwhile to a physical handicap which a very active and still young man certainly never could have envisioned.

Memories of 65th Street

Mary Vaughan Marvin (1884–1982)

Franklin’s buoyant personality always picked up the threads of friends at once and one enjoyed every meeting. On a February afternoon in 1921, as a big snowstorm was abating, he telephoned for us to take a walk with him and we three had Park Ave to ourselves save for a dumpcart with the man astride the horse, and on his head a knitted aviator’s helmet making him look like a medieval figure in chain mail, and he shouted with excitement, ‘No one else but me — I make the dump…’ This amused FDR greatly and we had a gay walk plowing through the snow back to 65th Street.

Mary Vaughan Marvin was the wife of Langdon P. Marvin (1876–1957) who was FDR’s law partner from 1911 until FDR left the firm in the early 1920s, unable to climb the steps to their Wall Street office. Marvin was a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School and early in his career worked with US Supreme Court Justice Horace Gray and Secretary of War Elihu Root. He was on the boards of a number of civic groups. FDR was the godfather to their son and Marvin was the godfather to FDR’s youngest son John (b.1916).

James Roosevelt (1907–1991)

When father was stricken with polio in 1921, Anna was fifteen, I was thirteen, Elliott ten, Franklin six, and John four. While father and mother struggled through his ordeal, obviously we did not have a typical family life. To keep his name prominent while he was sidelined, mother got into the game, became active in public life and was away a lot. By then we had begun to go away to school and were seldom home. When father began his comeback, I was old enough to help him.

Hunter Acquires Roosevelt House


Eleanor became a friend of Hunter College c.1939–40, and during the next twenty years, until her death in 1962, she frequently spoke at college events, visited with students on campus, invited them to her New York City apartment, to the White House, and to her summer home at Campobello, and mentioned Hunter in her daily newspaper column, My Day. FDR had come to dedicate the North Building on October 28, 1940, which had been constructed with New Deal funds to replace the original college building (destroyed by fire on February 14, 1936). Soon after FDR’s visit, Eleanor returned as she reported on February 19, 1941.

I had a most interesting time yesterday at Hunter College. Some time I want to go back to see that extraordinary sixteen story building which houses 7,000 students. The girls were a delightful audience and charming hostesses. I particularly enjoyed my question period.

Eleanor was also a friend of Hunter’s President George N. Shuster (1894–1977), as was FDR, and it was that acquaintanceship that led to the sale of the Roosevelt homes for college use in 1942, and their reopening as the Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial House in 1943.

After Sara’s death on September 7, 1941, the family put the house up for sale for $60,000 (approximately $1.1 million in 2023). After inquiries from Hunter, FDR lowered the price to $50,000 (approximately $922,000 in 2023) and in the spring of 1942 a group of businessmen and their wives (several of whom were Hunter College graduates) formed a non-profit group and raised the funds to buy the house for Hunter. FDR donated $1,000 (approximately $18,000 in 2023) to buy books for the students’ library. This was announced at commencement on June 24, 1942 with Eleanor present:

In the evening I attended the Hunter College Commencement exercises. It is amazing to see so many young women graduating, almost a thousand girls took their degrees. It was an inspiring evening and I shall watch with interest the girls whom I have had the pleasure of meeting in this class as they grow under their new responsibilities.

Dr. George Shuster, the President of Hunter College, announced that the two houses in which my mother-in-law and my husband and I lived in 65th Street, had been bought by Hunter College to be used as an inter-faith house where the girls would come together in different religious groups and also for social purposes.

In 1943 the college oversaw a few modifications to transform the residential building into a public facility. Mrs. Roosevelt attended the dedication, held at Hunter College, on November 22, 1943 and then visited the House a few days later.

Hunter Dedicates Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial House

Ms. Roosevelt speaking at dedication of Roosevelt House.

The dedication ceremonies for Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial House for Interfaith and Interracial Tolerance were held at the main campus on November 22, 1943. On that day, FDR was in Cairo, Egypt, at a conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General Chiang Kai-shek of China, and others to resolve war issues, but Eleanor was present. She relayed a congratulatory message from FDR:

I feel that my dear mother would be very happy in the realization of plans whereby the old home in East Sixty-fifth Street, with all of its memories of joy and sorrow, is now to become Interfaith House… It is to me of happy significance that this place of sacred memories is to become the first college center established for the high purpose of mutual understanding between Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic students. I hope this movement for toleration will grow and prosper until there is a similar establishment in every institution of higher learning in the land.

Eleanor also described the dedication ceremony in her November 24 My Day column, previewing the sentiment that would characterize the students’ experience at the House during the next 50 years:

Yesterday I went to New York City for the dedication of our old houses, which were bought by the Hillel Foundation for Hunter College to be used as an interfaith house by the girl students. We lived in one of these houses off and on for a number of years, but my mother-in-law lived in hers steadily for many years. My husband is particularly glad that something, which he feels she would have approved, is going to be carried on in her house.

My mother-in-law had travelled a great deal all of her life, beginning with her trip to China when she was a very small child, so she had a liking for many different countries and their people. Though she had been brought up as a Unitarian and became an Episcopalian after her marriage, she was very tolerant of all other religions. I think she would have been interested in having work go on in these houses which will bring about greater understanding and tolerance in young people.

I use the word “tolerance” with some hesitation, since hearing Dr. Frank Kingdon in the closing speech at those exercises yesterday. Dr. Kingdon remarked with great force that he did not wish to be “tolerated” or to “tolerate” other people. He wished to get on with them and to enjoy them That is, of course, what we ought to mean when we say we are tolerant. Tolerance ought only to be the preliminary step which allows us to get to know other people, and which prevents us from setting up bars, just because they may be of a different race or religion. The real value of any relationship is the fact that we learn to like people in spite of our differences. Dr. Kingdon also emphasized that it was from people who are “different” that we all gain something.

A week later Eleanor reported on her visit to her former home, now a college center:

It was interesting to go through it and to see how it had been adapted to its new uses. There have been very few structural changes, but those which have been made certainly increase its availability for its present purpose. There were girls in all of the rooms, and I am sure that this is going to be a successful and useful experiment. The willingness of young people of different religious faiths to live and to work under the same roof is sure to bring about helpful discussion and better understanding among them.

In the following years she would visit the house several times for meetings and performances. She also continued to attend events at the college, her last in January 1960 that marked the end of an era:

I took part on Monday in a convocation at Hunter College here in New York in honor of the college’s president, George Shuster, who is retiring this year. The citizens of New York City will regret his retirement, for he has made great contributions not only to education but to the civic life of the city. I felt flattered that I was able to pay my respects to him together with many other people who look upon Mr. Shuster as a respected and admired citizen of our city.

Hunter at Roosevelt House, 1943–1992



Many student groups had offices at the house — academic and cultural (including the Italian, German, and History clubs), religious (Roman Catholic Newman Club, Jewish Hillel, and Protestant groups), social (sororities and house plans), and college publications. It was a treasured place for student activities including dances, meetings, guest speakers, teas, weddings, and study. Faculty had meetings, social events, and classes at the house. Eleanor Roosevelt spoke at various Roosevelt House events and on campus.

For 50 years, it was a community center for Hunter students, facility, and alumnae, and welcomed the public to many programs. A beloved part of the Hunter community, the House was heavily used. By the early 1990s, it was worn out and no longer up to code. It was closed in 1992.

The college system was not really responsible for maintaining the property and you had a problem waiting to happen…The City University system itself went through very hard times in the 1970s and 1980s — so there really was no investment in any kind of restoration or real maintenance plan for the house. By the time 1992 came around it became too dangerous to really use the home for students and faculty anymore and it was closed.
— Jennifer Raab, 2010

Restoration and Change: A Public Policy Institute


Jennifer Raab Becomes President of Hunter College:
Rescuing Roosevelt House

When President Raab arrived at Hunter College in June 2001, Roosevelt House was in a state of serious disrepair. The building had been closed for almost a decade. Paint was flaking from the walls, leaks had weakened structural elements, and skylights let in the weather. Used in 1994 as a decorator showcase for a charitable organization, remnants of that event were still visible in fake architectural trim and peeling wallpaper. A previous Hunter president had launched a campaign in the late 1990s to restore the building to serve as a conference and social center at a cost of approximately six million dollars. When he left in 1999, only a quarter of the funds had been raised and project activities slowed. President Raab remembered:

One of the first decisions I had to make as the new President of Hunter was what to do with Roosevelt House. It was shut down and deteriorating badly, but the CUNY system was cash-strapped and there were those who suggested we sell the property to provide a one-time budget boost. After visiting the space however, I knew that we had to save it, rehabilitate it, and repurpose it for future generations of students. It was not only a historic landmark, but a place where the spirit of its Roosevelt past could still be felt­­ — and would continue to inspire us in the future.

Given its important place in city, state, and national Roosevelt history, and its landmark architecture, not to mention the multitude of Hunter students who had engaged in cherished social and academic activities there, she had no hesitation in moving forward. First, President Raab had to solidify title to the building. It had passed from the original nonprofit organized in 1942 to acquire it from FDR to the Hunter College Foundation in 1997. “It’s very difficult to raise private money for the guts  of a renovation like plumbing, new roofs and all the systems that need to be updated,” she noted, and decided that ownership should be transferred to the  City University which would make it eligible for public funding. Then, with the backing of CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and a promise of support from Governor George E. Pataki, she secured $25 million in funds from CUNY, New York City, and New York State to commence the project. She had the building façade cleaned and repaired and inaugurated discussions to shape a mission — for that would influence the physical plan.

Planning moved forward for a new mission — to create a public policy institute which would honor the legacies of both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. President Raab convened an advisory group of faculty and outside experts to discuss how to shape the program. Possibilities included a very narrow focus on an economic or political topic with guest researchers, or broader topics to involve Hunter faculty, guest scholars and speakers, and students. The final choice of topics was Public Policy and Human Rights — encompassing the Roosevelts’ domestic and international achievements — as the themes to shape research, classes, and public programs.

President Raab secured an historic preservation firm, Higgins & Quasebarth, to prepare a report on the history of the Roosevelts at the house, the original plan and fabric of the house, and its current condition. She retained the architectural firm of Polshek Partnership (now known as Ennead Architects) to analyze what renovations would be needed to bring the building to code, create a budget, and propose renovations to accommodate the new program for the building without compromising its historic character as the Roosevelts’ home. Within a few years the City and State would allocate millions for the restoration, joined by private donors. The State Dormitory Authority, the fiscal agent for New York’s public colleges, would manage the construction.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued in late 2001 and a number of firms submitted prepared plans. The Polshek firm was selected and by 2005 the design development was essentially completed and detailed plans for construction were being prepared. After intensive reviews by the relevant city and state building, finance, and landmark agencies, construction finally began in 2007 when vibration monitors were installed on neighboring buildings. Work was completed in 2010, and the building was dedicated on November 15, 2010.

Adaptive Re-use 1


The restoration of Roosevelt House would be a complex process for it entailed both the physical renewal of a century-old building and making the physical changes needed to support a mission that was appropriate for a 21st century college.

Restoration of the building required a complete overhaul of every utility system as well as changes to meet modern building codes. It included determining how existing floor plans would be retained or modified to meet the needs of the program. Because Roosevelt House was a New York City Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, any exterior or interior changes would have to be approved by several regulatory agencies, including the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office. It could be a daunting process. But because President Raab had served as the head of Landmarks for seven years prior to arriving at Hunter, she was well acquainted with what was required.

Once the mission was determined, the Request for Proposals was shaped by key questions: what historic spaces must be retained and revived to their original character? What areas could be changed for new uses, or required modification to meet modern codes? What rooms were best suited to be classrooms? What kind of space was needed for public programs and conferences? Was it possible to have an auditorium? Having an auditorium was a top priority for President Raab to host both college gatherings and public programs. Some changes had already been made in 1942–43 when Hunter acquired the building from the Roosevelts, but overall these had left fairly intact the original plans.

The Polshek Partnership was selected in 2002 to restore Roosevelt House. Led by esteemed architect James S. Polshek (1930–2022), the firm had decades of experience with historic preservation and restoration projects, as well as the adaptation of historic structures to contemporary uses. In New York it had designed the Standard Hotel, the Rose Planetarium, and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, and worked with the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, and the New York Hall of Science. In addition, the firm designed the Clinton Presidential Library/Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, and many other buildings in the US and around the world. The firm drew up plans and these were presented in sequence to the relevant agencies. First the Landmarks Committee of Community Board 8, and then the full Board approved the plans and sent its recommendations to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

Adaptive Re-use 2


The House had been designated a New York City Landmark in 1973. The purview of the Landmarks Commission was to review exterior changes to the building. On the street frontage, the only proposed change was the substitution of an almost invisible glass-walled lift for the east service stairs which descended one floor from the sidewalk level to the basement level. A lift would make the building compliant with the American with Disabilities Act. A more typical solution for access was a ramp. But there was no room on the sidewalk for a ramp and there were two sets of stairs — three steps outside and then seven steps inside the main entrance to be negotiated to enter the building. The lift delivered people to the L1 level (basement) and from there the main elevator could be accessed to take them to any other floor in the building. All other historic features on the street front would be retained.

On the rear of the building, the LPC looked at plans for a modest extension that would fill the backyard to the main floor level. The extension would include a new auditorium created by combining the former cellar, basement and backyard; its roof would form a terrace off the rear Four Freedoms Room. The backyard had been a utility space for the Roosevelts. The basement and cellar were not deemed historically significant spaces nor were the two-story kitchen pantry wings that extended into the backyard and connected the dining rooms with the kitchens below via dumbwaiters and stairs. It was architect Richard Olcott who — responding to President Raab’s hope for a public space at Roosevelt House — suggested excavating to build an auditorium. The proposed extension was not only much lower than most existing extensions in the surrounding buildings but also less intrusive. The LPC approved the changes for the lift and the auditorium extension.

Roosevelt House had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. This required that the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) review any interior changes because public funds were being used for the restoration. The most significant changes were to the least historic spaces: the backyard, cellar, and basement were transformed into the auditorium. The fifth floor and sixth floors, already modified during the 1940s and in later years, were changed from employee bedrooms and workspaces into offices on the 5th floor, and two apartments on the 6th floor to accommodate visiting scholars.

Other alterations included opening up doorways and pass-throughs from one side of the building to the other to meet fire codes, inserting new bathrooms, and enlarging one elevator shaft (the other elevator remained the original size) for an ADA-compliant elevator. Wherever new features were introduced, these were designed with replicas of historic features such as molding or doorways.

The Restoration Firm

The Polshek Partnership (now known as Ennead Architects) was selected for the project. It had the perfect balance of experience with historic restoration and adaptive re-use projects. James Polshek, who founded the firm in 1963, recalled his initial visit to Roosevelt House in 2001:

I remember my first tour through it, it was a bit of a mess. The shadows, the cobwebs, the broken pieces of steps, you know it really was decayed and yet you know the bones were good. Being a modernist at heart, I liked this, it’s very spare.

He sought the right balance between preservation and adaptation to a new era:

This is a facility at a large urban university that heretofore did not have a dedicated place for conferences. Everything had to be accessible. And it has to serve a whole variety of functions — small groups, large groups, it’s working simultaneously. So that’s the difference between a Williamsburg historic restoration and a working place. It seemed to me that the house should have along with its restored portions, it should have a place like an auditorium which spoke to coming generations.

One of his partners, Richard Olcott, later summarized Polshek’s commitment:

For Jim, this project checked all the boxes: a beautiful and unusual (double) house of landmark quality, a famous architect, for a family who changed the course of history (with an interesting story themselves), and who Jim deeply admired. Being given the opportunity to not only restore this gem, giving an old building new life, but then transform it into a place for civic discourse through Hunter’s progressive program, made this a project he really took to heart. For him it represented a great example of architecture in the public realm, for a noble purpose, which is what he cared about most.

Restoration Mission: Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute

Curtis Roosevelt

William vanden Heuvel

The vision behind the restoration was that we would reopen the home as a public policy institute. …. I had a vision for our students that they would be able to learn in the home of these incredible leaders that it would raise them up a level.

Why are the Roosevelts important? Why are we having some of the same conversations today that we had in the 1930s that we had about economic recovery? We’re actually bringing the whole history of the Roosevelts alive…it’s very special in a public college setting for the students to feel that their college really owns a piece of the history of these extraordinary American leaders. We are not just keeping the physical structures alive, although that is certainly very important. But we are keeping the most important legacies in the history of this country alive.

And for us at Hunter College, to have turned this into a public policy institute, and to welcome classes of the next generation of leader — our students — who take classes here in public policy and human rights and come to events. They are absorbing the Roosevelt legacy surrounded by the history in the house and the Four Freedoms carved on the wall of the auditorium, they all stand up a little bit taller, a little bit straighter with pride, knowing that Hunter College is part of the Roosevelt legacy and they are now also a part of the Roosevelt legacy. I am so proud of the work we did to restore and re-imagine Roosevelt House, and remain deeply grateful to the private and public supporters who make it happen.

— Jennifer Raab, 2012

In 2001, Curtis Roosevelt (1930–2016) was the oldest living grandchild of the Roosevelts. He had spent his earliest years in the house, assisted his grandmother as a teenager with her work at the United Nations, and later went on to work for that organization. He played an important role in garnering support for restoring the house, having also been active with the restoration of Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s home at Hyde Park. When Curtis visited the house on 65th Street years later, he said “I remember coming back, it was quite dilapidated and uncared for.” Of his role with the restoration, President Raab recalled:

Curtis Roosevelt was passionately committed to making sure that Roosevelt House was also renovated, restored, and reopened. And he worked for that for a long time before I arrived at Hunter. And when we did get to meet, he walked right into my office and sat down, barely said hello and said ‘You’ve got to get this house renovated.’ So it is a great mark of reunion, whenever Curtis comes back, and sees the beautiful work that’s been done here.

For so many aspects of planning, fundraising, and governance of the new institute, President Raab also enjoyed the advice and counsel of former Ambassador William vanden Heuvel (1930–2021), an avid student of all things Roosevelt who had attended Franklin’s funeral as a teenager and befriended Eleanor in her final years. Already a key supporter of the FDR Presidential Library at Hyde Park and driving fource behind the construction of Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, vanden Heuvel advocated tirelessly for establishment of Roosevelt House. One of its greatest champions, he became the first person named to its Board of Advisors — on which he served until his death. Today the original family elevator — located at No.47 East 65th Street — is named in his honor.

The Exterior: Landmark Status

The House had been designated a New York City Landmark in 1973.The purview of the Landmarks Commission was to review exterior changes to the building. On the street frontage, the only proposed change was the substitution of an almost invisible glass-sided lift for the east service stairs which descended one floor from the sidewalk level to the basement level (now L1). A lift made the building compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). All other historic features on the street-facing façade were retained including the family crest above the third floor and the beautiful iron doors what led into a vestibule from which each family unit was entered.

FDR figured out how to exit the house without assistance after he had polio. His grandson Curtis Roosevelt later explained: At the side of the steps were wooden railings for my grandfather to swing himself down the three steps to street level. In this way, FDR maintained an appearance of independence and strength and limited the public’s awareness of the fact that he could not walk on his own. From 1921 when he contracted polio until his death in 1945, there are only a few photographs of him in a wheelchair. Instead the public saw him with crutches or ‘walking’ with a cane (while wearing the invisible braces that supported his legs) and assisted by an aide or one of his sons.

This public space outside the house was important. Curtis Roosevelt remembered the attention FDR received after he became governor in 1929.

If my grandfather was in New York City rather than in Albany at the Governor’s mansion, my nurse took me outside in the mornings to say goodbye to him. And also to my sister who was leaving for her first grade at the Todhunter School nearby. I became accustomed to the crowd of people, photographers and reporters surrounding FDR, as well as his regular entourage of staff. When we moved to the White House in the spring of 1933 — all of us except Granny — it was routine for me to live with grandparents who were public figures.

On the rear of the building, the Landmarks Commission looked at plans for a modest extension that would fill the backyard to the main floor level. The extension would be part of a new auditorium created by combining the former cellar, basement and backyard; its roof would form a terrace off the rear Four Freedoms Room. The backyard had been a utility space for the Roosevelts, accessed through the pantry wings. The basement and cellar were not deemed historically significant spaces nor were the two-story kitchen pantry wings that extended into the backyard connecting the dining rooms to the kitchens below via dumbwaiters and stairs. The extension was much lower than most existing extensions in the surrounding buildings and less intrusive. The LPC approved the changes for lift and the auditorium extension.

The Cellar, Basement and Backyard Become an Auditorium

Originally each cellar housed the furnace, coal supplies, wine closet, ‘heater’ and ‘filter’ (below the butler pantries) rooms. Coal was delivered via sidewalk shutes. Sara Delano Roosevelt installed a large air-conditioning unit in the 1930s in her portion of the cellar. 

Originally each basement housed a servant’s hall (where employees had their meals), storage, space for kitchen supplies, a kitchen, and entrance to the butler’s pantry.

Curtis remembered:

The kitchen and the servants dining room, all on the ground floor, underneath the vestibule, were the places I remembered best — good smells, fresh com bread, tidbits of various things, and a great deal of personal attention. People talked to me, I sat on various laps, and I enjoyed the laughter and easy exchange among the servants. I had· my meals in a high chair in their dining room.

Originally the backyard was a small utility space. It was accessed through the basement level. About half of it was filled with two, two-story kitchen pantry extensions.

The new plan combined the cellar, basement, and backyard to create a new, two-story auditorium with enough space for 110 people to sit. Architect Anne Asher, Hunter College Representative for Project/Construction Management, recalled:

The most challenging physical aspect of the project was creating the auditorium. There was no way to bring in heavy digging equipment to the building so the backyard actually had to be dug out by hand down to the cellar level. Wheelbarrows of dirt were rolled through the building, up a ramp, and approximately 366 cubic yards of dirt were taken around the corner to fill large green dumpsters stationed on Park Avenue. At the time, it was a very unusual sight for the Upper East Side.

The spectacular auditorium features soaring ceilings, a large natural skylight (from the terrace), and wood paneled walls and ceiling. Guests immediately see a silkscreen mural of two striking photo images of smiling Franklin and Eleanor on the front of the auditorium wall, spanning 35 feet and 25 feet in height. It is a dramatic and thrilling welcome to the space, where their historical presence presides over the public programs whose themes resonate with their legacy. Eleanor’s image is the iconic photo of her taken by Yousuf Karsh in 1944.

An abbreviated version of the Four Freedoms passage is inscribed on the auditorium’s rear wall, thus forming the very foundation of the new Roosevelt House programs:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression everywhere. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want… The fourth is freedom from fear.

Jennifer Raab described the importance of the auditorium as a defining space:

And for us at Hunter College, to have turned this into a public policy institute, and to welcome classes of the next generation of leaders, our students, who take classes here in public policy and human rights, to come to events. They are walking in here and absorbing the Roosevelt legacy. The Four Freedoms on the wall behind you, the history in the house and they all stand up a little bit taller, a little bit straighter with pride, knowing that Hunter College is part of the Roosevelt legacy.

New restrooms, a coatroom, and lobby were placed on the former basement level, now known as L1, where the auditorium is also accessed at the mezzanine/balcony level which has the sound and video equipment for programs. The sidewalk lift opens to L1 and the elevator there provides access to the rest of the building as well as the main auditorium entrance one floor below. A restroom and caterers kitchen was built on the former cellar level, now known as L2, which has the floor level access to the auditorium.

Dedicating Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaks at dedication of restored Roosevelt House, November 15, 2010.

President Raab accepts 2010 Preservation Award from Peg Breen, President New York Landmarks Conservancy.

Welcome to Roosevelt House

The Interior: The House Floor by Floor

Originally plans were identical for each unit. When Hunter College acquired the building from the Roosevelts in 1942, a few changes were made to what are now the Four Freedoms Room (former dining rooms) and the second floor parlors (now the conference/classroom). The restoration and adaptation to a new use as a public policy institute (2007–2010) led to further changes although the historically significant spaces and plans for the first-fourth floors were essentially retained with minor modifications. Where materials were too damaged to be salvaged, James Polshek recalled, “everything had to be taken out and rebuilt but we rebuilt it in the exact style of Platt’s drawing.”

Adaptive Re-use: Summary of The Plans

The cellar, basement and backyard became the auditorium.

The floor plans of the main, second, third and fourth floors remained basically the same. Originally, the two rear dining rooms and the two rear parlors had been separated by walls with sliding doors permitting access from one side of the house to the other, or the use of both rooms together. These walls had been partially removed in 1942–43 by the college as it transformed the house into a public facility, creating spacious social rooms even with the remaining load-bearing columns. With the insertion of new steel support in the rear wall, the columns in each room were removed. The two dining rooms — now known as the Four Freedoms Room — on the main floor could function as an event space or a conference room.

The two parlor rooms on the second floor were designated as a classroom or a conference or event space.

The two family libraries on the second floor would remain as they were: Franklin and Eleanor’s library was exactly as it had been during the family’s residency, and Sara’s library retained its historic features with the addition of bookshelves — similar to those in the other library — in 1943.

The former family bedrooms on the third and fourth floors would become offices with the two, rear third-floor bedrooms combined to become a classroom.

The fifth-floor employee bedrooms became offices.

The sixth-floor laundry and bedrooms became two guest apartments.

The Main Floor


Originally, the entrances to both houses opened into front reception rooms. The center of the floor was filled with stairs and service halls, closets and elevators, and at the rear were the dining rooms and access to the butler pantries

Because of new safety and fire codes, new pass-throughs from one side of the building were required. Thus one new doorway was designed between the two reception rooms, with decorative molding similar to the historic design. A corridor was created between the two elevators. As Jennifer Raab noted in 2010,

One of the things that Sara had the foresight to do was she had two elevators installed in the home when it was built, which was somewhat unusual in 1908.

The East elevator, fittingly on the Franklin and Eleanor side of the house — as FDR had used it to move from floor to floor in a wheelchair after he had polio in 1921 — was enlarged to 22 sq. feet to conform to modern accessibility standards. The elevator on the Sara side — approximately 8 sq. feet — retains its original size though with an updated interior. Sara’s elevator had an unusual passenger as reported in the Ladies Home Journal in 1934:

The tiny house elevator, which Mrs. Roosevelt herself spurns when going merely from one floor to another. Its function is mostly appreciated by those making the longer ascents from basement to servants’ sleeping quarters on the fifth floor, and by Mrs. Roosevelt’s Pekingese, a very superior dog.

At the rear of the main floor, the two dining rooms were originally separated by a wall that had sliding pocket doors so that they could be partially opened one to another. In 1942–43, Hunter College removed portions of the wall to create a large room for social and academic activities. However, load-bearing columns remained in place.

By installing new steel beams in the rear structure of the building during the restoration, it was possible to remove the columns and have a completely open space. Now it is known as the Four Freedoms Room where the images created by artist Norman Rockwell in 1943 to represent freedoms of speech and worship, freedom from want and fear, enunciated by FDR in his State of the Union address to Congress on January 6, 1941, are on display.

A new terrace off the room was created on the roof of the auditorium and it is accessed through the doorways that previously led to the kitchen pantries. The pantries held dishes and other supplies and had dumbwaiters to bring up food from the kitchens below. The two-story kitchen pantries had been removed to create space for the auditorium.

The Front Halls: Reception Rooms

The front halls were busy spaces reflecting family life and the changing public lives of Franklin and Eleanor. 

Curtis Dall, Anna’s first husband, remembered family scenes from the 1920s. 

I also recall, with much amusement, some occasions in the morning around 8:30, school time. It seemed particularly difficult in the winter for Franklin, Jr. [b.1914] to keep track of his muffler and rubbers, etc., so when the appointed time came for Franklin, Jr., and Johnny [b.1916] to depart, often a great commotion would arise out in the front hall. Closet doors slammed; angry kid voices in crescendo arose, with the voice of Mademoiselle, their Governess, rising still higher above the rumpus… Soon his mother would have to appear upon the scene to quell the disturbance. Then, the missing piece of winter clothing would finally appear from somewhere. With a mild parental admonishment to the effect that, ‘you boys must not be so ‘rough’ with Mademoiselle,’ and that ‘they better take better care of their things,’ the front door would slam and the two youngsters, under the care of the indignant and harassed Mademoiselle, would start off to school; whereupon the rest of the household would relax at the breakfast table to finish their morning cup of coffee…. The two younger boys were full of life, always up to something. I was very fond of them. 

After FDR was elected governor in 1928, Eleanor’s public life and responsibilities expanded, as Dall reported: 

Whereas, Mama [ER] prior to Albany, used to leave her town house in the morning carrying a briefcase about three inches thick, she soon carried a briefcase about ten inches thick. 

From the front hall Eleanor would depart for meetings at the Women’s City Club, the League of Women Voters, the Women’s Trade Union League, and the Women’s Division of the New York State Democratic Party as well as for her teaching responsibilities at the Todhunter School and social events at the nearby Cosmopolitan Club. 

When FDR ran for president in 1932, his victory and the development of his administration and the New Deal was reflected in the comings and goings of the front hall. FDR returned to 65th Street on November 8th, election night, from Democratic election headquarters knowing that he had won: Cheered by more than 1,000 in the street outside, the President-elect left the Biltmore at 1:40 o’clock and motored to his city home at 49 East Sixty-fifth Street. He was greeted warmly there by another crowd, but went within his home immediately. FDR was, in fact, greeted by his mother at the door, and overheard by another reporter to say, “This is the greatest night of my life.” 

James Farley, FDR’s campaign manager (and soon to be Postmaster General), reported: 

On the morning after election, I went up to Governor Roosevelt’s house on Sixty-fifth Street in New York City to talk over a few things in connection with his future plans that had to be taken care of without delay. The victory spirit was very much in the air, and dozens of people were dropping in to pay their respects while hundreds of idle curious were milling around outside eager to see what was going on. Roosevelt and his aides posed for pictures for the news photographers times without number. 

A New York Times reporter also described the scene in the house on November 9, 1932: 

A long stream of callers thronged the town house at 49 East Sixty-fifth Street, from soon after daylight on, but the Governor saw only a few. Edward J. Flynn, Bronx leader, and close political associate, called with Acting Mayor McKee. “We just chatted about things,” said the Governor….“There must have been about 300 people here, but I was able to see only Senator Byrnes, Ray Moley, Colonel House and, of course, Jim Farley,” the Governor explained. 

Telegrams of congratulations poured in on the town house, and the telephones were buzzing constantly about the home. There was an air of celebration and of bustle. As the Governor met with a large group of newspaper men he bantered them about the events of election night, but said that he would make all his election comments in the statement to be handed out. 

In the following months, as FDR planned his administration, members of his “Brain Trust” (aka Brains Trust) — academics and experts — who helped him formulate the New Deal policies, and candidates for his cabinet, passed through the hall. Frances Perkins arrived at the house in the early evening of February 22, 1933, to talk to FDR about taking the position of Secretary of Labor, and described the condition of the front hall: 

The place was a shambles. Ever since the nomination six months before, a great many visitors, from cranks to persons destined to play important roles in the Roosevelt administration, had converged on the house for conferences or to seek favors from the President-elect. The press had established a base of operations on the first floor. 

The constant flow of visitors left the small staff of servants powerless to retain any semblance of order. Furniture was broken. Rugs were rolled up and piled in a corner. Over-shoes and muddy rubbers were in a heap near the door. The floor was littered with newspapers. Trunks were jammed in one corner, and in another stood boxes containing Roosevelt’s papers which had just been sent down from Albany and had to be sorted and filed for reshipment to Washington. 

Sara’s front hall remained a quieter place. There were Chinese porcelain vases, lamps, and furniture, all evidence of Sara Roosevelt’s cosmopolitan upbringing. Sara had lived in China during her youth with her family, and she had also traveled through Europe. The ‘oriental’ carpets covering the floors here and elsewhere in the house were typical of the period for families sharing the Roosevelts’ economic status. 

Now students and all guests enter through the East front hall. It also functions as an exhibition space along with West front hall. 

Sara’s Reception Hall (West Gallery)

Dining Room: Franklin and Eleanor

The Roosevelts opened their home to a wide range of people. FDR’s savvy use of media was reflected in his friendly outreach to the press invited into the house from the very start of his political career. For instance, in December 1930, FDR entertained newspaper reporters in the dining room who were with him on a campaign trip during his second New York gubernatorial race, a race he won by a landslide of 700,000 votes. FDR’s political friends visited often, including Edward J. Flynn (1891–1953), a New York Democratic stalwart — head of the Bronx Democrats and on the National Committee — who worked for FDR’s election campaigns and served as New York Secretary of State when FDR was Governor.

In the dining rooms were guests from many walks of life, the press, politicians, public figures, old friends such as Henry Morgenthau, Sr. (1856–1946) who became a major supporter of FDR when he ran for public office in 1928. His son, Henry Jr. (1891–1967) and his wife Elinor (1892–1949), were great friends of Franklin and Eleanor, and their neighbors in Manhattan and the Hudson Valley. Henry would come to the house to play Parcheesi with FDR during his recovery from polio; he also served in FDR’s cabinet from 1934 to 1945 as Secretary of the Treasury.

Curtis Dall remembered Eleanor’s role:

When Eleanor Roosevelt presided at dinner, she was a most observant and gracious hostess, anticipating each guest’s needs and keeping the over-all conversation balanced and on an even keel. Her interest in each guest was much in evidence, though at times some were on the dull side. She made all those seated around her table, the great and the lesser-great, feel equally important, in a friendly atmosphere, which made the occasion both enjoyable and a distinct success!

In 1924, Eleanor’s crowded dining room was the setting for a victory party. A group of three dozen guests gathered to celebrate the re-election victory of incumbent Governor Al Smith against her first cousin Republican Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the eldest son of the late president. He had lost his run by over 100,000 votes, undone by the campaign work of Eleanor and her colleagues in the Women’s Division of the New York State Democratic Party.

Another friend of the Roosevelts who remembered her visit to the dining room was Emma Sargent Russell (1889–1964), a social worker active with Eleanor and Franklin in supporting the League of Nations and other progressive groups. In her memoir, she wrote about a visit in the 1920s:

I had a memorable luncheon with Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt at their home on East 65th Street in New York. At that time, Mr. Roosevelt’s mother had a home adjoining theirs. While we were eating, she came through the dining room to make some casual inquiry. Mr. Roosevelt was in his wheel chair and I remember the tender pat his mother gave him on the shoulder as she passed through. Another homey touch was a lazy-daisy revolving tray holding salt, pepper and condiments at the center of the table which… was quite convenient at so large a table. The conversation was about the affairs of the Women’s Trade Union League, a meeting of which Mrs. Roosevelt and I had attended in the morning.

On Tuesday November 8, 1932, Franklin, Eleanor, and Sara voted in Hyde Park and then drove to New York City along roads lined by cheering supporters. They came to 65th Street, where, the New York Times reported, ….the Governor and Mrs. Roosevelt were hosts at a buffet supper to a small group of friends and the correspondents who have been with him during the campaign.

Memories of 65th Street: Rose Schneiderman

Rose Schneiderman (1882–1972), originally a seamstress and then a union organizer of women in the garment trades, was head of the New York Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL). By 1921 the organization needed new headquarters for its many activities. At a tea organized by one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s friends to start a fundraising campaign to pay for a building, Rose met Eleanor for the first time.

From the moment we were introduced I was impressed by her simplicity of manner and her lovely eyes. As we shook hands, she told me how nice it would be for the league to have its own house and how glad she would be to help us.

The next time I saw her was in her own house. She was very genial in a hail-fellow-well-met sort of way. It was Sunday night and I had been invited for one of those scrambled-egg suppers that became famous after F.D.R. became President. There was a chafing dish on the dining table, and Mrs. Roosevelt made the eggs herself while a coffee urn babbled away.

Naturally we talked about the work I was doing. Mrs. Roosevelt asked many questions but she was particularly interested in why I thought women should join unions. I remember so well telling her that that was the only way working women could help themselves. I pointed to the unions of skilled men and told her how well they were doing. By contrast, women were much worse off because they were less skilled or had no skills and could be easily replaced if they complained. They were working for $3.00 a week for nine or ten hours a day, often longer. It all seemed understandable to her. There was no doubt about that. Of course I told her about our educational work at the League.

Eleanor became a member of the WTUL and in the 1920s Franklin and their sons participated in its holiday activities. Later, Rose was a guest at the White House. She, as well as Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, helped shape the Roosevelts’ views on the needs of American workers.

Memories of 65th Street: Sara’s Dining Room


Curtis B. Dall (1896–1991), Married to Anna Roosevelt (1926–1934)

Curtis Dall described the setting:

Downstairs, her dining room was rather dark, on the English side, with oak paneling-attractive, but definitely on the heavy side…. During the winter months, which were spent in New York, Granny frequently invited friends to her home for Sunday dinner, at one o’clock. Sometimes, her guests were most interesting — sometimes they were not. But, they were her friends. When in town on Sunday, we were often invited to join her gathering there. Although in a different age bracket, we added something to the general ‘bouquet’ of the conversation, as it were. I really enjoyed these Sunday occasions.

On one occasion in 1927, the guests included Nicholas Murray Butler (1962–1947), longtime president of Columbia University and Republican Party powerbroker:

Soon, Dr. Butler and FDR were in conversation clashing politely across the table. Looking back, that was no dull Sunday dinner, where everyone ate too much and then sought for some excuse to take a nap to sleep it off, and get ready for a busy Monday. Although I was then quite ‘unaware,’ politically, I listened with eight other people to Dr. Butler and FDR… I thought both gentlemen argued well, particularly Dr. Butler, who was appearing in the role of guest… Mama [ER] listened attentively, but she maintained an attitude of complete reserve.


Old dining room pantry and new terrace (where the old pantries stood)

Photographs of Events in the former dining rooms, now the Four Freedoms Room

  • Jessica Neuwirth (Human Rights Program Director), Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces (President of the UN General Assembly 2018–2019, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ecuador, 2017–2018), Professor Allan Frei
  • Author Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Author Geoffrey Ward with filmmaker Ken Burns

  • Jennifer Raab with guests from the Association for a Better New York
  • Harold Holzer and author Jonathan Alter
  • Jennifer Raab and Dr. Ruth Westheimer
  • Jennifer Raab and Bel Kaufman, Hunter 1934
  • Author Nicholas Confessore and Chris McNickle
  • Phoebe Roosevelt and author David Woolner

Preserving History

Second Floor

The second floors contained each family’s library at the front of the building, stairs and service hall in the central area, and drawing rooms in the rear. The libraries and drawing rooms were deemed historically significant and retain their original configurations with slight modifications.

There were swinging doors in the wall separating the drawing rooms that could be opened to create a larger space. In 1942–43, the college removed portions of the wall to create a large room for social and academic activities. However, load-bearing columns remained in place. During the recent restoration, by installing new steel beams in the rear structure of the building, it was possible to remove the columns and have a completely open space now used for classes, conferences, and social events.

In the center hall, over the staircase, there is a skylight that brings in daylight from the lightwell rising above it to the roof.

When Hunter renovated the building in 1942–43, library shelving similar to that in the Franklin and Eleanor Library was installed in the Sara Library as it was intended to serve as a student library. Both libraries retain all other original features.

The Sara Library is still a student library but is also used for small classes, seminars, and meetings. Its book collection encompasses American history, public policy, human rights, and Roosevelt history.

The Franklin and Eleanor Library houses a collection of books about the history of the family, the Presidency, the New Deal, and the career of Eleanor Roosevelt. The room hosts distinguished visitors and guests who come to Roosevelt House for events.

Guests in the Franklin and Eleanor Library

Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, Laurie Tisch, Jennifer Raab, Harold Holzer, and winners of 2020 Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize for Excellence in Urban Public Health.

Jessica Neuwirth (Human Rights Pro0gram Director), Margot Wallstrom (former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sweden),  Roosevelt House Board member Rita Hauser, and Jennifer Raab.

Harold Holzer with author Jon Meacham and Jennifer Raab

Franklin and Eleanor Library

Former Governor Al Smith with Governor Franklin Roosevelt


Hunter President George N. Shuster (1940–1960) with a student

This is possibly my favorite room in the house, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library. So from November 8th, 1932 when he returns home as President-elect to March 2nd, 1933, when the family left to travel to Washington for the inauguration, this is where he plans his administration and essentially this is where the New Deal was created.

In late February, Franklin had invited Frances Perkins up to his library, and it was here he makes the offer for her to become the first woman cabinet secretary in United States history as secretary of Labor. But she was a very shrewd woman and she proposes to him a concept which ultimately becomes Social Security and she makes it a condition for accepting the cabinet position. He agreed and in August 1935 he signed the legislation creating Social Security.

— Jennifer Raab

This space, a library and meeting room for over 100 years, has retained all of its original fixtures, including the multi-paned windows looking out on a decorative balcony and historic streetscape, bookshelves lining the east and west walls, a fireplace, and paneled cabinets on the north wall. Adding to its historic ambience is a donated oriental rug of the type that would have been found throughout the house. Over one fireplace hangs a self-portrait of the Florentine Renaissance painter Francesco di Cristofano (known as ‘Franciabigio’), c.1516, which was given to the college by the Kress Foundation through a national initiative in 1943 to promote arts education. It was the type of painting that families like the Roosevelts might have had in their homes.

Eleanor and Franklin’s Library first functioned as a private space for the family, where FDR kept his books and maritime print collections. The library became an office for FDR and Eleanor after 1921, and a recovery room for FDR, where he was able to confer with business associates and political allies as he rebuilt his physical strength. Eleanor also hosted meetings in the library with women from the numerous organizations.

In December 1921, one of FDR’s first visitors after contracting polio was Edward W. Bok (1863–1930), the distinguished philanthropist and eminent editor of the Ladies Home Journal, who had retired in 1919 after 30 years of building the influence and mass circulation of the magazine. Within two years, Eleanor would work with Esther Lape and others on setting up the $100,000 Bok Peace Award, which Bok himself endowed.

The library witnessed a number of memorable moments as FDR restarted his public life and won a public office. Many of the visitors left memories of the conversations they had at 65th Street. FDR’s return to a highly visible public life after polio came when he was invited to give the nominating speech for Governor Al Smith’s presidential candidacy at the 1924 Democratic Convention, which was held at the old Madison Square Garden at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street in New York City. FDR famously referred to Smith as “the Happy Warrior” in his address on June 26, 1924 and the speech marks a milestone in his recovery. But this triumph was only possible because, as his friend Marion Dickerman (1890–1983) revealed, FDR practiced “walking” the distance to the Garden podium measured out in his 65th Street library and hallway. Dickerman was a teacher, Democratic activist, and friend of Eleanor and Franklin.

Franklin said he would nominate Smith if he could stand on his own feet, and he would have to work out how he could get to the podium. Nobody knows how that man worked. They measured off in the library at the 65th Street house just what the distance was, and he struggled and struggled and struggled.

[At MSG] Franklin walked, with the aid of, Jimmy, and a crutch to the podium. Then the sun came out, and as it shone through the skylight it struck his head, and you know what a handsome person he was. It was very dramatic.

That night Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. O’Day were holding a reception at the 65th Street house for the New York delegates to the convention. I went up a little early to see if I could be of any help. The butler told me that Mr. Roosevelt was in his room in bed and wanted me to come up. I went up and he was sitting up in bed. I remember him so vividly. He held out his arms and he said, “Marion, I did it!” It was really stupendous, just stupendous.

Mayor Jimmy Walker (1881–1946) had been to the House to meet with FDR in the library as James recalled:

Father liked Jimmy. Almost everybody liked Jimmy. It was hard not to, no matter what he did. He may have been the most popular political personality in New York City’s history. But Walker was a crook. He used his office to stuff his pockets. And when the newspapers revealed his misdeeds, sentiment to impeach him rose. People did not expect father to act against the pride of Tammany Hall; presumably, Tammany meant too much to the governor. But nothing meant that much to father. He appointed a special prosecutor, Samuel Seabury, to investigate the case and brought Jimmy to his knees.

FDR conferred with his advisors in the library, including Louis Howe and local political powers such as John F. Curry, the leader of the Manhattan Democrat’s organization known as Tammany Hall.

Another visitor was Herbert H. Lehman (1878–1963) who joined the family investment firm Lehman Brothers, founded by his immigrant father. He became active in Democratic affairs in the 1920s and was elected FDR’s Lieutenant Governor in 1928 and 1930. He then succeeded FDR as Governor, elected four times, and pursued state programs that emulated the New Deal which he strongly supported.

Eleanor used the library to meet with small groups such as the leadership of the National Association of Women’s Clubs and the Newspaper Women’s Club.

From the library FDR spoke via a telephone-radio connection to the Trustees of the Georgia Warm Spring Foundation. Entitled in the newspaper listing “Conquest of Infantile Paralysis,” the speech was broadcast on Saturday, January 18, 1936 at 10:30pm on the major radio stations WABC, WJZ, WOR, WMCA, WHN, and WEVD. Family members listened to it on the third floor in Sara Delano Roosevelt’s bedroom.

This was similar to one of the annual addresses that FDR gave on the occasion of the fundraising “balls” — held around the country on the President’s January 30th birthday — which varied from small town parties and country dances to large elegant dinner dances at the major hotels in New York, Washington, and elsewhere. Over the years, the monies raised went to Warm Springs (the first polio treatment center founded by FDR in 1926) and other polio treatment centers to care for the patients and for research to find a cure for the disease; the latter led to the first polio vaccine available for distribution in 1955. In addition to radio, FDR could ‘broadcast’ via the telephone from the library as he did speaking to the meeting of the National Committee for the Birthday Ball for the President at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1936:

It is a happy privilege to talk to you once again about Georgia Warm Springs Foundation and its fight against infantile paralysis. It is a privilege because I can tell you of the accomplishments of those who are fighting this battle and it is a duty because as one of many who are interested and aiding in this battle against a most mysterious and baffling disease I should pay tribute to those who have given of their skill, energy and material resources to the fight. Listening tonight also are those who have been the victims of this disease-a disease which attacks with little regard to age and none to race or station; which strikes those in the full stride of useful work as well as children in their play.

Small wonder, then, that so many people unite in the attack against it-that the army is one of volunteers. This army needs no cheering from me, but I do want to thank, in the name of the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, all those who in a few days [January 30th] will be making their contribution to the fight by attending the thousands of birthday celebrations throughout the country…. Thus, both in ideals and in practical working, Warm Springs Foundation carries on the fight.

These Birthday Balls continued until FDR’s death in 1945. By then, the Warm Springs Foundation had been succeeded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, popularly known as the March of Dimes.




Memories of 65th Street: A Wedding in The Library

Mollie Somerville, an assistant to Mrs. Roosevelt, described the day Anna married her second husband, journalist John Boettinger (1900–1950), in the library on January 18, 1935.

Several members of the Roosevelt family attended the 9:30 morning ceremony, including Mrs. Roosevelt, who arrived by midnight train after attending a White House reception for the judiciary. Afterwards, the press, which had gathered in a group in front of the house, pressed the first lady for a description of the bride’s dress. ‘I really don’t remember,’ she admitted. ‘I believe she wore a dark suit and blouse, but I am very vague about it all.’ “….Secrecy as well as simplicity marked the marriage. The ceremony was performed soon after 9 o’clock by Presiding Justice Frederic Kernochen of Special Sessions, a friend of the President, in the partly dismantled library of the President’s house. Mrs. Roosevelt gave her daughter in marriage.

Mrs. Dall was married in a gray traveling costume and Mr. Boettiger wore a brown business suit. There were no flowers, attendants or even a bridal breakfast, for immediately after the ceremony the couple left by automobile for an unannounced location.

From Washington the President telephoned his congratulations. Those present at the marriage, besides Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, were the President’s mother, Mrs. James Roosevelt; Mrs. James Roosevelt Jr., wife of the President’s eldest son; Mr. and Mrs. Elliott Roosevelt, John Roosevelt, the President’s youngest son; Henry S. Hooker, a former law partner of the President, and William Astor Chanler, Assistant Corporation Counsel.

The marriage license was not issued until about an hour before the ceremony. Philip J. Hines, Deputy City Clerk, was summoned from the marriage bureau in the Municipal Building to the Roosevelt home after 8 A. M., and signed the document there…..Justice Kernochen said it was the usual ceremony performed by the City Clerk ‘As you know, ‘he said,’ the word ‘obey’ is not included in the clerk’s reading.’

Franklin and Eleanor Library: Birth of The New Deal

FDR and Frances Perkins

Harold L. Ickes and Henry Morgenthau, Jr.

Between November 9, 1932, when he awoke as president-elect, and March 2, 1933, when he left 65th Street to head to Washington DC for the March 4th inauguration, FDR had many more meetings in the library. Members of his “Brain Trust” (aka Brains Trust), such as Columbia University professors Rexford Tugwell and Raymond Moley, discussed the development of economic revival policies, and FDR invited others, such as Harold Ickes and Henry Morgenthau, Jr., to talk about becoming members of his cabinet or holding other offices within his administration.

One of the most important meetings that took place in this room was between FDR and Frances Perkins (1880–1965). FDR offered her the job of Secretary of Labor, based on more than a decade working on a wide range of labor issues with both Governor Al Smith and himself as Governor. And thus she became the first woman to serve in a President’s Cabinet. Another key appointment was that of Harold Ickes (1874–1952), a moderate Midwestern Republican lawyer and supporter of civil rights, who was offered the position of Secretary of the Interior. Like Perkins, he would serve for the entire duration of FDR’s presidency. Ickes remembered:

I arrived at Governor Roosevelt’s home at the appointed hour of 10:30 the following morning, and along with a lot of other consolation-prize winners, was ushered into the study on the second floor….As I sat tete-a-tete with the President-elect, he said:

Mr. Ickes, you and I have been speaking the same language for the past twenty years, and we have the same outlook. I am having difficulty finding a Secretary of the Interior. I want a man who can stand on his own feet. I particularly want a Western man. Above all things, I want a man who is honest, and I have about come to the conclusion that the man I want is Harold L. Ickes of Chicago…. I required no coaxing. After all, this was the job I wanted-miraculously falling into my lap. ….It was just like that. And it wouldn’t happen again in a millennium. The newspapers were taken by surprise and so was everyone else, myself included.

Frances Perkins recalled that FDR introduced her to Ickes:

Roosevelt gave me a friendly greeting and, extending his hand toward the stocky blond man, said, “Frances, don’t you know Harold…It’s Ickes,” he laughed. “Harold L. Ickes.”

That was my introduction to the only person other than myself who was to serve in the Roosevelt cabinet from its first to its last day. Ickes had been practicing law in the Middle West. A former leader of the Progressive party, he had done yeoman work for Roosevelt in the campaign. Now he had agreed to serve as Secretary of the Interior.

After Ickes left, Roosevelt came right to the point. “I’ve been thinking things over and I’ve decided I want you to be Secretary of Labor. His words came as no great surprise to me. The newspapers had been speculating on this for days. Moreover, I knew that he wanted to establish the precedent of appointing a woman to his cabinet. Since the call from his secretary, I had been going over arguments to convince him that he should not appoint me.

I led off with my chief argument, that I was not a bona fide labor person. I pointed out that labor had always had, and would expect to have, one of its own people as Secretary. Roosevelt’s answer was that it was time to consider all working people, organized and unorganized. I told him that it might be a good thing to have a woman in the cabinet if she were best for the job, but I thought a woman Secretary of Labor ought to be a labor women. He replied he had considered that and was going on my record as Industrial Commissioner of New York. He said he thought we could accomplish for the nation the things we had done for the state.

Since I seemed to be making little headway, I tried a new approach. I said that if I accepted the position of Secretary of Labor I should want to do a great deal. I outlined a program of labor legislation and economic improvement. None of it was radical. It had all been tried in certain states and foreign countries. But I thought that Roosevelt might consider it too ambitious to be undertaken when the United States was deep in depression and unemployment.

In broad terms, I proposed immediate federal aid to the states for direct unemployment relief, an extensive program of public works, a study and an approach to the establishment by federal law of minimum wages, maximum hours, true unemployment and old-age insurance, abolition of child labor, and the creation of a federal employment service.

The program received Roosevelt’s hearty endorsement, and he told me he wanted me to carry it out. But, I said, have you considered that to launch such a program we must think out, frame, and develop labor and social legislation, which then might be considered unconstitutional? “Well, that’s a problem,” Mr. Roosevelt admitted, “but we can work out something when the time comes.” And so I agreed to become Secretary of Labor after a conversation that lasted but an hour. On Sunday, March 5, Mr. Justice Cardozo of the Supreme Court administered the oath of office to the new cabinet, and we solemnly swore “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Sara’s Library





Most wealthy families had libraries in their homes which were as much social centers as places for reading or correspondence. Sara used this small room as a library and for entertaining family and friends. In Sara’s library, there was comfortable seating, plants, furniture and china imported from China and Japan, as well as art work that included a portrait of FDR, a portrait of family ancestor James Roosevelt (1760–1847), and photos of the family’s country home in Hyde Park. This was a family-oriented room, in contrast with the public dimension of FDR’s library, as recalled by Curtis Dall:

The front room on the second floor at 47 East 65th Street, which she referred to as her library, was attractive and informal. The parlor located in the rear was quite formal and seldom used…. Her library in New York was unusual. It was furnished with a mixture of the formal and informal. The Aubusson rug on the floor was formal, but the pictures on the wall were not. As for her desk, it was literally cluttered with silver desk ornaments, papers, letters received and to be answered, and books and magazines that she was reading, all surrounded with family photographs galore. Her library, however, was the gathering place for most occasions in her home.

When the house became part of Hunter, students used the library that had been newly and comfortably furnished for them. A new portrait of FDR was given to hang in the library, where it remains today. Eleanor Roosevelt described that gift in her newspaper column of May 10, 1944:

Yesterday evening I went to Carnegie Hall to the meeting of the B’nai B’rith Centennial War Service Convention. I accepted for my husband a copy of the Salisbury portrait which is to hang in the Hunter College Inter-Faith House. I know my husband would have been glad to attend this meeting and to hear Justice Murphy’s fine speech. Since that was impossible, he asked me to take his place, and I was very happy to hear the Justice take his stand so courageously against all religious and racial intolerance. He pointed out that to allow anti-Semitism to grow among us would be to play into Hitler’s hands. That is what Hitler wants—a division in our own ranks.

Years later, she wrote more about the artist:

Mr. [Frank] Salisbury, although British, has painted no less than five American Presidents from life, and is well known and popular in his own country. Mr. Salisbury has done a number of copies himself of his own portrait of my husband, and one of these copies was chosen by President Truman to be the portrait of my husband to remain in the White House.

The Drawing Rooms: Second Floor Rear

James Roosevelt, Anna Roosevelt, Sara Delano Roosevelt, and FDR on November 9, 1932.



The Roosevelts used the drawing rooms for family occasions, to entertain visitors, and for special events. Originally, this classroom/conference room was two separate rooms with sliding pocket doors in the center wall (now removed) so that they could be opened up for large meetings or parties. In Sara’s drawing room the décor featured pastels and French style furniture with a baby grand piano while for Franklin and Eleanor the walls were cream color and red curtains framed the windows.

Eleanor Roosevelt hosted meetings of civic groups and Democratic Party committees here, building her organizational and public speaking skills through such activities, and helping FDR’s career too. Eleanor held annual sales of Val-Kill furniture, produced by a company co-founded by Eleanor to employ workers in Hyde Park, in this and other rooms of the house from 1927–1933. The New York Times reported that, on one occasion, 700 people had attended the sale. It was remarkable that Eleanor, throughout her time as First Lady of the State, would open her home to the public in this way, seizing the opportunity to draw fellow New Yorkers to support the project and to garner publicity at the same time.

Sara Delano Roosevelt entertained family and friends in her parlor, among them her friend Mary McLeod Bethune, distinguished educator and African-American leader. Bethune first met Sara and Eleanor at a luncheon they held for educators in 1924 at the house. Bethune subsequently advised President Roosevelt on African-American matters and held a post in the New Deal.

From his parlor Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his first radio broadcast to the nation as President-elect on November 9, 1932, the day after his election. His remarks were also filmed as a newsreel by Fox Movietone News for airing in the nation’s movie theaters. He was surrounded by his mother, Sara, and his two oldest children, Anna and James.

I am glad of this opportunity to extend my deep appreciation to the electorate of this country which gave me yesterday such a great vote of confidence. It is a vote that had more than mere party significance. It transcended party lines and became a national expression of liberal thought. It means I am sure that the masses of the people of the nation firmly believe that there is great and actual possibility in an orderly recovery through a well-conceived and actively directed plan of action. Such a plan has been presented to you and you have expressed approval of it. This my friends is most reassuring to me. It shows that there is in this country unbounded confidence in the future of sound agriculture and of honorable industry. This clear mandate shall not be forgotten and I pledge you this and I invite your help in the happy task of restoration.

After Hunter College acquired the house and reopened it as a student center in 1943, students used the newly combined parlors for a wide range of social events. These included lectures, dances, weddings, and club meetings such as that of the Toussaint L’Ouverture Society, the first African-American student group at Hunter College.

In 1943, Hunter had removed most of the wall separating the two rooms so the larger space could be used for social gatherings or quiet study. During WWII, Hunter students hosted dances for men in the military as well as the occasional wedding. The room has now been completely opened up; the resulting grand space spans the width of the house and is used as a classroom, conference room, and special event room. It is the most elegant room in the house, with large windows, decorative molding, and original fireplaces.

Memories of 65th Street: Mary McLeod Bethune

Sara Delano Roosevelt hosting Mary McLeod Bethune, civil rights leader and educator at her home on 65thStreet, 1934.

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955) was a prominent educator and college president, civil rights leader, advisor to Eleanor and Franklin, and friend of Sara who welcomed her to a luncheon in 1924. Daughter of slaves, she became a college president, leader of the National Council of Negro Women, directed Negro Affairs in the New Deal’s National Youth Administration, advocated for equal pay and equal opportunity in peace and wartime, and sought a federal law to end lynching allied with Sara and Eleanor. Eleanor’s friendship with Bethune was reflected in visits to Bethune-Cookman College in Florida, and numerous mentions in Eleanor’s column My Day.

At a luncheon for the National Council of Women which Sara and Eleanor hosted in 1924, Sara seated Bethune, the president of the Bethune-Cookman School (later College) and head of the National Association of Colored Women, in a position of honor beside Eleanor. In a memoir, Bethune reminisced that Sara put her at ease and made a statement by that placement to the other attendees that Bethune was a welcome guest, in spite of the color of her skin.  

I first met that grand old lady at a luncheon Eleanor Roosevelt gave for representative women’s leaders at the old Roosevelt family house in New York in 1924. I had just returned from a European tour and attended the luncheon as president of the National Association of Colored Women. Mrs. James Roosevelt, Sr. was present at the luncheon and it was there that I first met her.

I can still see the twinkle in Mrs. James Roosevelt’s eyes as she noted the apprehensive glances cast my way by the Southern women who had come to the affair. Then she did a remarkable thing. Very deliberately, she took my arm and seated me to the right of Eleanor Roosevelt, in the seat of honor! I can remember, too, how the faces of the Negro servants lit up with pride when they saw me seated at the center of that imposing gathering of women leaders from all over the United States. From that moment my heart went out to Mrs. James Roosevelt. I visited her at her home many times subsequently, and our friendship became one of the most treasured relationships of my life. As a result of my affection for her mother-in-law, my friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt soon ripened into a close and understanding mutual feeling. She is today one of the dearest friends I have. Our lives have become deeply intertwined.

Eleanor, Sara and Franklin would all become good friends with Bethune, who wrote of Sara, “our friendship became one of the most treasured relationships of my life. Sara hosted fundraisers at the 65th Street house for Bethune-Cookman College. Bethune became a trusted advisor on African-American matters for Eleanor and FDR, and head of his “Black Cabinet.” Eleanor also helped raise money for the college, and warmly praised Bethune in a My Day column reporting her death in 1955: I will miss her very much, for I valued her wisdom and goodness. I will cherish the spirit she lived by and try to promote the causes that she believed in, in loving memory of a very wonderful life.

Professor Peter Kwong, Dalai Lama, Jennifer Raab, and Students.

Old Plans and New Uses

Third Floor Center Hall


On the third floor in the center of the building are windows into the lightwell which rises to a large skylight at roof level. This feature was installed in 1908 to bring light into the center of the building from the second through sixth floors. It was also part of the air circulation/convection system. Heated air from the cellar furnaces came into the front and rear rooms, flowed into the center halls, and was drawn into the lightwell through the windows and then up and out through the original louvered skylight. The skylight had been painted with a dark hue during WWII as a security precaution and remnants of that remained before the renovation. The skylight was replaced by a leakproof one without louvers. The actual size of the lightwell had to be slightly reduced to make space for various new utility systems but it still floods the center of the building with abundant light.

Third and Fourth Floors: Family Bedrooms

The third and fourth floors contained the family bedrooms, one in the front and one in the rear in each family unit. The rear bedrooms were somewhat smaller than the front bedrooms, but all bedrooms had a bathroom and a large closet (a dressing room). FDR spent his time recovering from polio in the third floor rear bedroom “because it was quieter,” according to Eleanor. Louis Howe stayed in the third floor front bedroom to help FDR with his recovery.

The third floor rooms have been changed: the two rear bedrooms are now one room, used as a classroom or meeting room, and the two front bedrooms are now offices for staff and faculty. A pass-through has been inserted with restrooms on the third floor.

The original fourth floor plan was the same as the third floor but there was a door between the front fourth floor bedrooms. As James Polshek surmised: The reason we can presume is there were four bedrooms and five children and there was a lot of coming and going.

On the fourth floor, all of the former bedrooms areas are now staff and faculty offices. There is a pass-through with access to stairs to the fifth floor, and there is one restroom.

Third Floor Bedrooms: Franklin and Eleanor


FDR became ill with polio in August 1921 while vacationing at the family summer house on Campobello Island off the coast of Maine. He lost his ability to walk and for the rest of his life used braces, crutches, and canes, along with the help of an aide, in public; he used a wheelchair in private and was assisted by a valet at home. Starting in 1926, he would develop Warm Springs, GA as a therapeutic center for “polios” and founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (popularly known as the March of Dimes) in 1938 to raise money for care, treatment and cure. It funded the work of Jonas Salk (vaccine shot, 1955) and Albert Sabin (oral vaccine, 1960) which eradicated polio in this country and later, much of the world.

FDR traveled back to New York from Maine by train in mid September 1921 and went to the Presbyterian Hospital at 70th Street and Fifth Avenue. After six weeks, he returned to the house at the end of October and maintained a demanding regimen of physical therapy and exercise to build up the strength in his torso and to regain the use of his legs — which he never did — in the third floor rear bedroom. During the first months, the therapist came nearly every day. FDR gained strength and moved about in a small wheelchair he designed that fit in the house’s small elevators. The weight of his braces and the stress of standing with them or sitting long hours in the wheelchair led FDR to relieve himself of those burdens as soon as he could, and he would retire to bed while continuing to conduct business. FDR often received close friends in his bedroom and it became a semi-private space after he was afflicted with polio.

Turnley Walker, a journalist who had had polio, described FDR’s challenging recovery at 65th Street:

His helplessness was complete. He could not turn over in bed. On a heavy frame over his bed a trapeze was slung, and after weeks of effort greater than any he had ever known, he reached for it with one hand. Day by Day he hauled himself upward to a sitting position. When he reached it, pain took his breath away. His entire upper body was slowly regaining strength, but the tireless athlete’s legs had wasted to bone ridges and hangings of flesh. Monumental concentration would merely make them twitch.

Steel braces from the heels of his shoes to a clamping fit against his buttocks. Crutches. A strong man on either side. Finally he could drag himself inch by inch across the floor, like a broken-backed animal. [About his future]…his own attitude remained experimental. First, he must stand and walk. No political leader in history had been unable to do these things.

There were family tensions during FDR’s recuperation from polio. The house was full: four of the five children (except the oldest son James, at Groton) were home. There was a nurse for Franklin who would use Louis Howe’s bedroom during the day to take a rest. Louis Howe was in residence and went downtown to 120 Broadway every day to take care of FDR’s job at the bonding company. It was the start of his live-in experience with the family that carried over to the Governor’s Mansion and the White House. Howe, a former journalist, had been FDR’s valued political advisor since 1912 and would remain so as Roosevelt’s career blossomed in the 1920s until FDR’s death in 1945. Howe also encouraged Eleanor’s public career in the 1920s. 

Curtis Dall remembered Howe’s work with both Roosevelts:

I was aware that he had a daily conference with FDR and that Louis spent even more time during the evening going over political and ideological matters with Mama! [ER] Often, thru her, people ‘got’ to FDR on certain matters. Night after night, after the dinner hour, the lengthy conversations of Mama and Louis would take place in the third floor front room. Usually, many newspaper editorials and clippings from various newspapers on political matters were under discussion or study.

Memories of 65th Street: The Family Adjusts to FDR’s Condition


Eleanor Roosevelt and Anna Roosevelt

James Roosevelt 

James Roosevelt and Louis Howe

In her autobiography, Eleanor talked about these crowded and stressful conditions during the early months of FDR’s recovery from polio in 1921–22.

The house was not overlarge and we were very crowded.

My husband’s bedroom was at the back of the house on the third floor, because it was quieter there. I had given my daughter [Anna], who was fifteen that winter, the choice of a large room at the front of the third floor, which she would be obliged to share with the nurse during the afternoon and early evening, or a small room on the fourth floor rear, next to Elliott’s room. This she would have entirely to herself. She chose the latter.

Mr. Howe took the big [front] room on the third floor, as he had come to live with us during the week…He was downtown most of the day at my husband’s office, so the nurse could use his room undisturbed.

We had a connecting door into a room in my mother-in-law’s house on the fourth floor, so the two little boys, [Franklin Jr and John] and their nurse had those rooms. This accounted for all the bedrooms and left me with no room. I slept on a bed in one of the little boys’ rooms. I dressed in my husband’s bathroom. In the daytime I was too busy to need a room.

…finally the entire situation got on my nerves and one afternoon in the spring, when I was trying to read to the two youngest boys, I suddenly found myself sobbing as I read. I could not think why I was sobbing, not could I stop. Elliott came in from school, dashed in to look at me and fled. Mr. Howe came in and tried to find out what the matter was, but he gave it up as a bad job. The two little boys went off to bed and I sat on the sofa in the sitting room and sobbed and sobbed. I could not go to dinner in this condition. Finally I found an empty room in my mother-in-law’s house, as she had moved to the country. I locked the door and poured cold water on a towel and mopped my face. Eventually I pulled myself together, for it requires an audience, as a rule, to keep on these emotional jags. This is the one and only time I remember in my entire life having gone to pieces in this particular manner. From that time on I seemed to have got rid of nerves and uncontrollable tears, for never again has either of them bothered me.

James Roosevelt, the oldest son recalled:

I was away at school when Father was sent home from the hospital at the end of October. When I came home for the holidays that first Christmas. I dreaded the sight of him on his back with withering legs, but I went to his room determined to maintain my composure no matter what. He was propped up on pillows, exercising his upper body on trapezes and rings that hung over his head. Seeing me, he stopped, smiled broadly, thrust out his chin in that characteristic way of his, stretched out his arms to me and told me, “Come here, old man.” I rushed to receive his embrace and was grateful to learn as he hugged me that whatever weakness had struck his legs, his arms were as strong as ever. I started to cry, but he just laughed and slapped me on the back and told me how “grand” I looked. Soon he dropped me to the floor and was roughhousing with me. Having easily beaten my younger brothers at arm wrestling, he challenged me. He beat me, too. He was astonishing, and I soon got used to his condition.

Anna, the oldest child, remembered her adjustment:

I gradually grew accustomed to a new relationship with Father — a relationship where I had to go to his room and sit on a chair or at the foot of his bed when I wanted to talk to him. For some months my knowledge that he was suffering made me shy with him. But gradually his gaiety, his ability to poke fun at himself as he learned to move himself around through the use of his arms, broke down the tension we had been feeling. . . .

Every time I saw him walking, with great effort, on his crutches, for as long a distance as he possibly could, I couldn’t help but feel a wrench in my heart…. But then his own spirit was transmitted to all of us. He apparently knew it would be a shock for us to realize that the useless muscles in his legs would cause atrophy. . . . So Father removed the sadness by showing us his legs. He gave us the names of each of the muscles in them, then told us which ones he was working hardest on at that moment. He would shout with glee over a little movement of a muscle that had been dormant. So, gradually, I almost forgot that he had once had well-developed muscles. The battle Father was making became a spirited game.

Memories of 65th Street: Meetings in FDR’s Bedroom

It became a regular part of FDR’s routine to receive guests in the bedroom — a routine he would continue later in the White House. In November 1928, for example, Edward Flynn (1881–1953), Democratic leader, arrived the morning after the election to share the good news that FDR had been elected to his first term as governor by a slim margin of 25,000 votes:

Although when morning came I realized that I had not been to bed for thirty-six hours, I decided to visit the Governor-elect at his home on Sixty-fifth Street and crow over the results. He was in bed, and he received the good news with undisguised astonishment.

At another meeting there, FDR finally persuaded Flynn to accept the post of New York Secretary of State:

When I arrived at Roosevelt’s home all of the great charm and persuasiveness of that remarkable man were turned on. Finally, he said to me, “Eddie, when you were insisting that I run for Governor, you said that I owed a duty to the party to accept. I am now saying to you that you owe a similar duty to the party to accept this office.” I had to consider the fact that, after all, I had made that statement. I had also to remember that, over the years, the party had been good to me…..In my book, such loyalty is reciprocal. When the elected head of the state government and the titular leader of the party in the state put the request on that basis, I could not refuse.

Four years later, in November 1932, Raymond Moley (1886–1975) came to the house on the day after the election. A professor of law at Columbia for many years, he helped organize the “Brain Trust” (aka Brains Trust), recruiting other academics to help FDR formulate his ideas during the 1932 presidential campaign and then continued to shape the New Deal once he was in office. He also wrote speeches for FDR for several years.

When I came to the 65th Street house on the morning of November 9th to clear up the last bits of unfinished business, the household was just awakening. Stacks of telegrams had piled up on the first floor: new ones were being brought in from time to time by messengers… I went up to the Governor’s room. He had finished his breakfast and lay abed contemplating the President’s [Hoover’s] telegram of congratulations. We talked about the reply that ought to be made to it, and following Roosevelt’s suggestions, I scribbled one out on the back of a telegram envelope. In the midst of such amiable confusion we prepared a brief message for broadcast to the nation. When it had been drafted and delivered, I thought I had written a finial “finis” to the story of the past eight months. Roosevelt left for Albany.

James A. Farley (1888–1976) described his meeting with the president-elect in his bedroom a few weeks before the first inauguration on March 4.

I had another hint of my own coming appointment as Postmaster General several weeks before inauguration. Frank Walker and I went up to keep an engagement with F.D.R. at his New York City home where he was staying temporarily. It was a morning appointment, and he was still in bed when we arrived so he sent down word for us to come up. He was reading the newspapers and had them spread all over the bed. There was a dispatch from Washington which caught his eye. The story said that Postmaster General Walter Brown had purchased a costly new limousine out of department funds, although the government had already provided one, simply because the roof of the old car was too low for the silk hat which he wore to official functions. One paper had a cartoon showing Brown’s head, plus the silk topper, sticking though the roof of a swanky limousine. F.D.R. remarked with a chuckle, “Frank, did you see this picture of Jim’s immediate predecessor?” An opening like that was too good to be overlooked, and I promptly replied, “Thank you, sir, for the appointment.” He never really notified me officially that he wanted me in the Cabinet, except in off-hand conversations such as the one just described. He employed the same way of breaking the news to a lot of other folks, whom he knew well, and who were given places in the new administration.

Third Floor: Sara Bedrooms

The third floor front bedroom was Sara’s bedroom. Daisy (Margaret) Suckley (1891–1991), FDR’s distant cousin and frequent social companion, was invited to the house by Sara to listen to the broadcast by FDR (over the radio from his Library on the second floor) to the National Committee for the Birthday Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria, on Saturday evening, January 18, 1936. The next day, on January 19, in a display of family amity, Franklin, Eleanor, Sara, and Daisy all went to the dedication of the New York State Theodore Roosevelt Memorial at the American Museum of Natural History. There FDR eulogized his cousin whose progressive presidential agenda he greatly expanded during the New Deal.

Daisy Suckley described Sara’s ebullient mood and listening to the broadcast in her usual jaunty style.

Mrs. James Roosevelt came to the reception at 4 & told us the news that her dear Franklin was arriving at five & we must excuse her if she said anything queer! Her cheeks were pink and she looked better and handsomer than I had seen her look for a long time. When she was leaving, she put her arms around me, and said: “Would you like to come in this evening for the broadcasting?”

…Dinner was not yet over, so we went upstairs to the drawing room, where the ladies came pretty soon — When the President came up he went into the library where he was to broadcast — It was very tantalizing to be way off, where I could see but couldn’t talk to him…About 10:15, Mrs. [James] Roosevelt asked all to go up to her bedroom to hear the speech on her radio! So we all trooped upstairs & sat around the room — on bed, chairs & sofa — Almost anyone else would have apologized for taking us up to her bedroom! Afterward we all went to say goodnight to the President & to then go down for refreshments.

Fifth Floor


The fifth floor had four bedrooms for the family employees in each house; these were approximately half the size of the family bedrooms. There was a bathroom in each house, a trunk (storage) room, as well as a linen closet.

The fifth floor has been reconfigured to have offices for staff and faculty in a plan similar to the fourth floor.

Franklin and Eleanor’s youngest children and their nannies in the early 1920s spilled over to Sara’s side; a similar arrangement prevailed 1930–33, with Anna’s young children when she and husband Curtis Dall moved to the house. Curtis Roosevelt remembered staying on the fifth floor as a toddler, Back upstairs on the top floor, five flights, my mother [Anna], grandmother [ER] and great grandmother [SDR] joined in putting me to bed. A few minutes did the trick.

Sixth Floor

The sixth floor had two bedrooms for employees and a bathroom in each house. It also had a laundry. These rooms occupied about two-thirds of the floor space of the lower floors and the last one-third was a terrace at the front of the building, designated the “drying roof” where wet clothes were hung to dry. This terrace is hidden from street view behind a brick parapet wall.

The sixth floor has been reconfigured into two guest scholar apartments, one in the front and one in the rear.




Roosevelt House Students

Photographs of Roosevelt House Students

Top Row:

  • Professor Catherine Tinker with Human Rights class
  • Professor Matthew Washington with Grove students section
  • Margot Wallstrom, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sweden, Jessica Neuwirth, and students.
  • Professor Sam Schwartz with Kheel students’ seminar
  • Students visit Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania, 2023 with President. Raab and Harold Holzer

Second Row

  • Harold Holzer and Grove students section
  • 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege and students
  • JFEW students visit Washington DC

Third Row:

  • Human Rights Director Jessica Neuwirth and Grove students
  • Election program 2016
  • Joyce Miller and Public Policy class

Fourth Row:

  • Joyce Miller and Congressman Jerry Nadler visit Public Policy class of Professor Basil Smikle
  • Jennifer Raab and veterans enrolled at Hunter
  • Public Policy students with Professor Smikle visit Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY

Roosevelt House Academic Programs: Faculty 2022–2023

Public Policy Program

Ruth Finkelstein; Cyril Ghosh; William Herbert; Peter Kauffmann; Joyce Miller; Eri Noguchi;
Ram Raju; Robyn Rowe; Dr. Basil A. Smikle Jr.; Catherine Voulgarides; Hon. Latrice Walker

Human Rights Program

Teng Biao; Alhaji Conteh; Marc Edelman; Stephanie Fillion; Dorchen Leidholdt; Mihir Mankad;
Jessica Neuwirth; Babatunde Olugboji; Bojan Perovic; Mark Shulman; Catherine Tinker

LGBTQ Policy Center

Erin Mayo-Adam; Cyril Ghosh

Kheel Transportation Fellowship

Sam Schwartz

Public Service Scholar Program

Hon. Gale Brewer; Hon. Ruth Messinger; Susan Nayowith

Eva Kastan Grove Fellowship Program

Sasha Ahuja; Hon. Eric Dinowitz; Hon. Andrew Gounardes; Kevin Jennings; Hon. Carolyn Maloney; Matthew S. Washington

Student Programs at Roosevelt House

The Public Policy Program, is based on the understanding that the preparation of informed individuals is the key to a vibrant participatory democracy. Students have an opportunity to interact first-hand with policy experts and practitioners, both in the classroom and outside, and learn how policies responding to urgent issues are created, how communities — across race, class, gender, sexuality, immigration status, among other differences — come together to demand change leading to greater equity and justice, and the ways in which the impact of laws can be assessed. These important skills enable graduates to embark on careers in law, medicine, public affairs and the nonprofit sector, and remain engaged in social justice issues at local, national, or global levels. Students can expand their classroom studies with internships, lunch time programs with experts, and field trips. Two graduates of Hunter College were crucial to planning this program. Distinguished economist Anita Arrow Summers, ’45, with the enthusiastic support of Dr. Joseph Viteritti, BA ’69, MA ’73, who soon joined the Urban Policy and Planning faculty at Hunter, delineated the key themes for the program which also reflected President Roosevelt’s tremendous role in shaping public policy for this country.

The Human Rights Program, aims to give students the tools they need to address human rights problems intelligently and constructively, whether as advocates, scholars, researchers or informed citizens. Via academic study and hands-on experience, students explore both the theoretical and practical underpinnings of current human rights debates. By learning about human rights law, theory and practice, students in the program understand how human rights norms and aspirations can shape public policy, international relations, and corporate behavior. They learn about issues such as accountability, humanitarian intervention, freedom of expression, and the rights of immigrants. They are introduced to the structure of human rights enforcement mechanisms, assessing the way in which international treaties and multilateral institutions influence the behavior of national governments. Students can expand their classroom studies with internships, lunch time programs with experts, and field trips. Another Hunter graduate, accomplished attorney Rita Hauser, ’54, and now the chair of the Roosevelt House Board of Advisors, proposed a human rights program, based on her experience as the former US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council. This program honors the critical work of Eleanor Roosevelt in creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 75 years ago during her term as a member of the US delegation to the United Nations.

The Jewish Foundation for Education of Women (JFEW) Eleanor Roosevelt Scholars Program is a two-year scholarship program that provides qualified candidates opportunity to explore careers in public policy and public service. Upon acceptance, scholars receive tuition assistance, mentorship, a paid summer internship in New York, a three-day seminar in Washington, D.C., dedicated workshops, and invitations to special events at Roosevelt House. This program and its unique offerings are made possible by a generous grant from the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women. Whether Scholars are interested in applying to law school, graduate school, or a position in the public service and/or public policy field, the JFEW Eleanor Roosevelt Scholarship Program is dedicated to preparing students for a range of post-graduate endeavors.

The Hunter College Roosevelt Scholarship provides a unique opportunity for academically talented students with a significant interest in public and civic affairs to take advantage of Hunter’s exceptional public policy, urban affairs, international human rights, and pre-law faculty and resources. Roosevelt Scholars explore and engage in public and civic issues through specially designed, shared courses, and unique events with government officials, policy makers, community activists, academics, and social sector organization leaders. Roosevelt Scholars receive a significant tuition award for four years, and preferred access to Hunter’s residential housing and housing aid. Roosevelt Scholars have a dedicated faculty mentor, Director Elise Jaffe, and academic advisors to help them succeed at Hunter, including guidance on internships and other learning opportunities.

The Eva Kasten Grove Fellowship Program is a prestigious and rigorous Fellowship that provides mentorship, professional development and a financial award to Grove Fellows, students who are committed to public service, public policy and human rights. The Grove Fellowship Program provides students with an opportunity to learn from Grove Leaders, accomplished public policy and human rights figures who spend a semester mentoring and facilitating discussions among Grove Fellows.

Under the supervision of a Grove Leader, Grove Fellows work on a project that advances public policy and human rights locally, nationally, or globally. Projects may include, but are not limited to, drafting legislation, preparing a public policy report, and publishing a policy-related story in a newspaper, magazine, or online forum. In previous semesters, Grove Fellows have assisted in organizing students across the country to participate in Campus Equal Rights Amendment Day, presented research on alternative methods of transportation to policymakers at City Hall, and created public service announcements to encourage New Yorkers to participate in the 2020 census. In addition to completing their projects, each week throughout the course of the semester Grove Fellows gather at Roosevelt House to participate in a discussion session led by a Grove Leader to discuss the relevant human rights and policy issues of the day, and also network with their peers. The fellowship program was made possible by the Grove family in honor of 1958 Hunter alumna Eva Kasten Grove’s 80th birthday. The Fellowship Program ensures that Eva’s lifelong commitment to advocacy, social service, and philanthropy endures.

The Public Service Scholar Program (PSSP) seeks to improve American cities and the lives of their residents by preparing talented undergraduates for careers in the public and non-profit sectors, and raise the representation of women, minority-group members, and new immigrants in leadership positions. PSSP is a one-year internship and academic program, providing up to 20 students per year with 12 credits and a merit-based fellowship to assist with tuition and basic expenses. The program is open to Hunter College juniors and seniors in any academic major. Public Service Scholars work 20 hours per week from September to May in non-profit and government agencies and elected officials’ offices. During their placement, they contribute to solutions for a broad range of critical issues, including homelessness, supportive housing, workforce development, community and economic development, industry retention, hunger and poverty, early childhood education, environmental conservation, youth services, and women’s issues. Program instructors bring broad public service experience to the classroom to guide students in their exploration of service careers.

The LGBTQ Policy Center at Roosevelt House provides educational and enrichment opportunities for students interested in LGBTQ studies, develops public programs on LGBTQ politics and policy for the broader community, and creates bridges between researchers and policymakers who are invested in advancing LGBTQ rights. The mission of the center is to support research on LGBTQ issues to inform policy decisions; to disseminate findings to inform public opinion and promote LGBTQ social, health, and political equity; and to provide academic training and practicum opportunities for Hunter College students in LGBTQ studies. The Policy Center offers undergraduate courses on LGBTQ rights, policy, history, and activism with an interdisciplinary and intersectional emphasis; fosters internship and fellowship opportunities for students interested in LGBTQ policy and advocacy; addresses current LGBTQ law and policy issues, with a focus on New York City and New York State; creates a public platform for law and policy scholars to contribute to public policy discussions; holds public symposium, events, panels, roundtables, and book talks on LGBTQ issues; increases the visibility of LGBTQ policy relevant research; promotes collaboration and collegiality between CUNY researchers addressing LGBTQ policy issues across CUNY campuses; and supports faculty in their LGBTQ research and in making their work accessible to a broader audience.

Roosevelt House Leaders and Guests

Roosevelt House Leaders

Directors of Roosevelt House 

Jonathan F. Fanton (Interim), 2010–2014 speaking with Jeri Laber, a founder of Human Rights Watch

Jack Rosenthal (Acting), 2014–2015 


Harold Holzer, 2015+

Directors of Student Programs

Distinguished Lecturer and Director of Public Policy Program

  • Terry Babcock-Lumish, 2010–12
  • Julia Kohn (Acting), 2012–13
  • Shyama Venkateswar, 2013–21
  • Basil Smikle, 2021+

Distinguished Lecturer and Director of the Human Rights Program

  • Joanne Mariner, 2011–2013
  • Lawrence Moss, 2013–2017
  • Smita Narula (Acting), 2017–18

Distinguished Lecturer and Rita E. Hauser Director of the Human Rights Program

  • Jessica Neuwirth, 2018+

Director of the LGBTQ Policy Center at Roosevelt House

  • Hunter faculty Markus BidellElizabeth Payne, Charles Kaiser,
    Erin Mayo-Adam2021+


Guests at Roosevelt House

Column 1

  • Mayor Ed Koch (1978–1989)
  • Mayor Bill DeBlasio (2014–2021)
  • Harold Holzer with Congressman Jerry Nadler and his wife, Public Policy instructor Joyce Miller
  • Jennifer Raab with Michelle Bachelet (former president of Chile 2006–2010, Under Secretary of UN and Executive Director of UN Women, 2010+) and Phyllis Kossoff, Hunter 1946
  • Honorary degree for photographer Arthur Elgort, Hunter 1964
  • Author Arlene Alda, Hunter 1954

Column 2

  • Jennifer Raab with Mayor David Dinkins (1990–1993)
  • Centro Director Yarimar Bonilla, Congressman Ritchie Torres and Jennifer Raab
  • NYS Attorney General Letitia James and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in 2012 at Roosevelt House
  • Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms.Magazine
  • Honorary degree for former Dean of Nursing Joan Hansen Grabe, Hunter 1960
  • Author Michael Beschloss with Harold Holzer

Column 3

  • Author Nadine Strossen
  • Author Nigel Hamilton
  • Author Steven Greenberg
  • Author Robert Caro and Ina Caro
  • Author Manal Al Sharif, Daring to Drive

Column 4

  • Author Sam Schwatrz
  • Author Blanche Wiesen Cook
  • Author Kermit Roosevelt III and Mac Barrett
  • Authors Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
  • Author David Levering Lewis

Column 5

  • Annual Kheel Lecture on Transportation Policy panel discussion
  • “ReImagining the Four Freedoms” discussion with participating artists
  • Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney with students
  • Ken Roth, Director Human Rights Watch (1993–2022)
  • Panel discussion “South Asian Americans in Politics”
  • Jessica Neuwirth, Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem, Senator Charles Schumer, Jennifer Raab and Carolyn Maloney Equal Rights program
  • Actors Stephen Lang and James Naughton performing “His Dark LandA World War I Tragedy” written by Lang

Column 6

  • Journalist Katie Couric and Thomas Farley, NYC Commissioner of Health (2009–2017)
  • Congressman John Lewis
  • Journalist Jim Lehrer and Joseph Califano, Domestic policy advisor to President Lyndon Johnson, and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President Jimmy Carter

Column 7

  • NY Times journalist Paul Krugman
  • Randi Weingarten, president (2008+) 1.7M member American Federation of Teachers, AFLCIO

Roosevelt House Public Programs

In order to introduce Roosevelt House to the community, public programs started on campus in 2007 while the house was being renovated. Since the House opened in 2010, over 900 public programs and events have been presented in the auditorium, sometimes with the addition of overflow spaces in the West Gallery. Occasionally, programs are moved to the large auditorium in the North Building at the college due to overwhelming demand. All live programs are recorded and later made available on the Roosevelt House website. When public health was threatened by Covid and all public facilities were closed, Roosevelt House pivoted to present its programs virtually, sometimes with several hundred people viewing and participating via the Q&A function; these 73 programs were also posted to the website. Once Roosevelt House was allowed to reopen, asking guests for proof of vaccination and masking for live events in the auditorium, these in-person events were simultaneously made available through streaming and then posted on the website. By the late spring of 2023, all restrictions on attendance had been lifted and many guests returned to the House to enjoy the discussions and afterwards meet the speakers at receptions in the Four Freedoms Room.

Roosevelt House Public Programs: Online During COVID
March 25, 2020 – June 22, 2021

The city-wide shutdown started on March 20, 2020. A few days later Roosevelt House initiated streaming-only programs which would continue for more than a year. The initial group of programs focused on health-related issues but then the range of topics broadened to include a typical mix of books, politics, history, the Roosevelts and the New Deal, current topics, and the 2020 elections. During the fifteen months when our audiences participated virtually, 73 programs were attended by thousands of engaged viewers. In-person programs resumed in October 2021. 

  • Virtual Brownbag. Responding to COVID-19: the Human Rights and Public Policy Implications of the Pandemic, March 25, 2020.
  • Awakening in Tomorrow’s Post-Pandemic World: Economic Policy in the Aftermath of COVID-19, Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
  • The Reality of the Coronavirus Pandemic for the American Medical System, April 16, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Fourth Annual Campus ERA Day 2020, April 27, 2020.
  • COVID-19, Cities, and Climate Change: Revelations, Ambitions, and Public Policy in a Pandemic World, April 30, 2020.
  • The Discriminatory Impact of COVID-19: The Pandemic’s Role in Highlighting Entrenched Racial Inequalities in the U.S, May 1, 2020.
  • Local Responses to the Pandemic: Lessons and Challenges, May 6, 2020.
  • “The Asian Americans” — Sneak preview with Renee Tajima-Pena, May 8, 2020.
  • The Moral Imperative to Center Racial Equity and Justice in Education During the Pandemic, May 22, 2020.
  • Modeling COVID-19: Disease Burdens, Economic Activities, and Policy Outcomes, May 27, 2020.
  • Remembering the AIDS Crisis in the Time of COVID-19: How Lessons from One Epidemic Can Guide the Response to Another, June 10, 2020.
  • Hunter@Home — Remembering Larry Kramer, June 17, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America, July 8, 2020.
  • Speaking of Justice — Protest as a Path to Progress: Making Black Lives Matter, July 9, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • America Through Foreign Eyes, July 14, 2020.
  • Speaking of Justice — Down with Monuments and Symbols? July 16, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Speaking of Justice — Health Care for All? Confronting the Racial Divide, July 23, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Speaking of Justice — Hunter Alumni Advancing Racial Equity, July 30, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Speaking of Justice — Code Switching: Style, Expression, or Survival? August 6, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Jill Watts — The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt, August 10, 2020.
  • Hunter@Home — The Presidents Vs. The Press: From the Founding Fathers to Fake News, September 1, 2020.
  • Chris Whipple — The Spymasters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future, September 17, 2020.
  • John Nichols — The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party: The Enduring Legacy of Henry Wallace’s Anti-Fascist, Anti-Racist Politics, September 22, 2020.
  • Speaking of Justice — Policing: Reform, Defund, or Abolish? October 1, 2020.
  • David Michaelis — Eleanor: A Biography, October 7, 2020.
  • The 2020 Jack Newfield Lecture — Celebrating the Publication of Wayne Barrett’s Without Compromise: The Brave Journalism that First Exposed Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the American Epidemic of Corruption, October 8, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Election 2020: Insights on Activism from Gen Z, October 14, 2020.
  • Charles A. Kupchan — Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself from the World, October 14, 2020.
  • Climate Change and Cultural Extinction: A Human Rights Crisis, October 21, 2020.
  • U. S. Senator Sherrod Brown — Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America, October 22, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Politics, Partisanship, and the 2020 Elections: Fresh Perspectives from Hunter’s Political Science Department, October 27, 2020.
  • David E. Sanger and John Maggio — The Perfect Weapon, October 29, 2020.
  • Speaking of Justice — Election 2020. Who has the answers? Students ask the questions. November 2, 2020.
  • Catherine Grace Katz — The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts, and Harrimans – A Story of Love and War, November 12, 2020.
  • Zachary Shirkey — American Dove: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Failure of Force, November 19, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Jonathan Alter — His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life, November 23, 2020. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Food Insecurity During COVID-19: Policy Lessons and Challenges, December 2, 2020.
  • Virtual Meeting Platforms: Government Control and Corporate Compliance, December 3, 2020.
  • John A. Riggs — High Tension: FDR’s Battle to Power America, December 17, 2020.
  • [Students Only] Speaking of Justice — After the Capitol Siege: Exploring History, Law, and Justice, January 11, 2021.
  • Dr. William A. Haseltine — My Lifelong Fight Against Disease: From Polio and AIDS to COVID-19, January 21, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Global Launch Event of The Lancet Commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era, February 11, 2021.
  • “Lincoln: Divided We Stand” Previewing The New CNN Original Series — A Discussion With The Experts, February 12, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Remembering Mayor David N. Dinkins: The Lessons and the Legacy, February 18, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Audre Lorde Now Series Presents: My Words Will be There, February 18, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • FDR’s Black Cabinet in Retrospect: A Conversation with Descendants of Roosevelt’s African-American Advisors, February 22, 2021.
  • Prisoner Reentry in the 21st Century: Critical Perspectives on Returning Home, February 24, 2021.
  • Ranked Choice Voting: How It Works and What It Means, March 1, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Jonathan Cohn — The Ten Year War: Obama Care and the Unfinished Crusade for Universal Coverage, March 2, 2021.
  • Eleanor: Poems, March 17, 2021.
  • Thomas Dyja — New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess, and Transformation, March 23, 2021.
  • Leandra Ruth Zarnow — Battling Bella: The Protest Politics of Bella Abzug, March 30, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • 2021 Election Season At Roosevelt House — Choosing A Leader For The Future Of Manhattan: A Borough President Candidate Forum, April 6, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • What is the Democratic Commons?, April 9, 2021.
  • Print, Podcast, Social: Public Humanities and Popular Media, April 16, 2021.
  • Climate Crisis and Infrastructure Policy in the Biden Era: Experts Discuss Next Steps, April 21, 2021.
  • Daniel R. Garodnick — Saving Stuyvesant Town: How One Community Defeated the Worst Real Estate Deal in History, April 22, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Reckoning with Monuments and Public Commemoration, April 23, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Confronting the Epidemic of Traffic Violence, April 27, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • The First 100 Days of the Biden Administration: A Conversation with CUNY’s Experts, April 29, 2021.
  • 2021 McNickle Lecture on Integrity in Government, May 3, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Ill Housed: Housing Policy for The New Deal and Today, May 10, 2021.
  • Anti-Asian Violence in the Pandemic Age: Confronting and Curing the Virus of Hate, May 12, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • 2021 Election Season At Roosevelt House — A Manhattan District Attorney Candidate Forum, May 13, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India, May 17, 2021.
  • Older Adults in the Plague Year: Times of Resistance and Resilience, May 18, 2021.
  • Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993, May 20, 2021.
  • X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II, May 24, 2021. Introduction by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab.
  • Citywide Candidates Take on LGBTQ+ Issues, June 1, 2021.
  • City Council Candidates on the Future of LGBTQ+ Representation, June 8, 2021.
  • Eric Rauchway — Why The New Deal Matters, June 10, 2021,
  • Scott Borchert — Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America, June 16, 2021.
  • David Schmitz — The Sailor: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Transformation of American Foreign Policy, June 22, 2021.


Guests at Roosevelt House

Photographs (from top to bottom)

  • Singer Judy Collins
  • Chirlane McCray, wife of Bill DeBlasio, mental health advocate
  • Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank
  • Richard Ravitch, Lt. Governor of NY (2009–2010), head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and head of the Empire State Development Corporation
  • Donna Shalala, former president of Hunter College (1980–1988) and Helene Goldfarb, Hunter 1951

President Jennifer J. Raab at Roosevelt House

Photographs of President Raab with special guests

Column 1

  • Mark Levine, Manhattan Borough President and Jennifer Raab
  • Jennifer Raab with husband journalist Michael Goodwin
  • Jennifer Raab with students

Column 2

  • Jennifer Raab with Governor Kathy Hochul
  • Jennifer Raab with actress Jane Fonda
  • Harold Holzer, journalist Leslie Stahl, author Chris Whipple, Jennifer Raab
  • Kate Roosevelt Whitney with Jennifer Raab
  • Jennifer Raab with filmmakers

Column 3

  • Jennifer Raab with Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation
  • Dalai Lama and Jennifer Raab
  • Emma Macari, CUNY, former President Bill Clinton, Jennifer Raab
  • Judge Bernice Donald, Ben Ferencz recipient of ABA Eleanor Roosevelt Prize for Global Human Rights (then last surviving Nuremberg War Crimes Prosecutor), Hillary Clinton, Jennifer Raab, and Harold Holzer.
  • NY Times journalist Maggie Haberman and Jennifer Raab
  • Jennifer Raab with Evelyn Lauder, Hunter 1958
  • Jennifer Raab with Rita Hauser, Hunter 1954, Gustave Hauser and Craig Thompson (President and CEO Memorial Sloan Kettering).
  • Joan Tisch, Jennifer Raab, Laurie Tisch, Jonathan Tisch
  • Jennifer Raab with Eva Kasten Grove, Hunter 1958 and Andrew Grove
  • Jennifer Raab, Roosevelt House Board member Tony Stepanski
  • Author Malachy McCourt, Jennifer Raab, and NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
  • Jennifer Raab with Senator Charles Schumer
  • Jennifer Raab with former Polish President Lech Walesa and translator
  • Ambassador William vanden Heuvel, Carolyn Maloney, Jennifer Raab and Hunter alums
  • Jennifer Raab with Maria Cuomo, Harold Holzer, and Elbrun Kimmelman, Hunter 1972
  • Jennifer Raab with Mitchell Silver (MUP Hunter, NYC Parks Commissioner 2014–2021)

Column 6

  • Professor William Solecki, Jennifer Raab, Hungarian President Janos Ader (2012–2022)
  • Jennifer Raab with Robert M Morgenthau, former District Attorney for New York County (1975–2009) and US Attorney for the Southern District of NY (1962–1970)
  • Author Heather Ann Thompson, Jennifer Raab, and author Ta-Nahisi Coates
  • Centro Director Yarimar Bonilla, Jennifer Raab, and author Xochitl Gonzales
  • Senator Charles Schumer, Jessica Neuwirth, Eleanor Smeal, and Gloria Steinem
  • Jennifer Raab and students