Roosevelt Campobello International Park to celebrate 50th anniversary

Pictured is the Roosevelt's cottage located at Roosevelt Campobello International Park, which is marking its 50th anniversary on Saturday.
BDN File Photo
Pictured is the Roosevelt's cottage located at Roosevelt Campobello International Park, which is marking its 50th anniversary on Saturday. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 06, 2014, at 5:29 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 06, 2014, at 7:23 p.m.

CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, New Brunswick — Roosevelt Campobello International Park will hold a celebration Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the park, where U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s summer home is preserved.

It is the world’s only true international park, according to officials, established by a treaty between the U.S. and Canada in 1964. Park admission is free.

The Roosevelt home and park visitors center is open seven days a week, from the Saturday prior to Memorial Day through the Saturday following Columbus Day, and draws about 130,000 visitors annually. The park grounds and 2,800-acre natural area are open year-round. Campobello Island is accessible from Lubec, Maine, via the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Bridge.

People are drawn to visit the island and the park “for the same reasons the Roosevelts did — the spectacular environment,” park Superintendent Ron Beckwith said this week. Visitors can enjoy the salt air, beaches, natural areas, wildlife and marine life, he noted.

“Simple pleasures and a slower pace,” Beckwith said in an email to the Bangor Daily News. “They are also interested in the history and how it came to be that an American president maintained a summer home on Campobello.”

The festivities on Saturday, Aug. 9, will begin with a concert by the Sea Chanters Chorus, the choir of the U.S. Navy Band, which will perform at 11 a.m. Atlantic Daylight Time on the ocean side of the Roosevelt Cottage. Admission is free.

The ensemble, based in Washington, D.C., performs a variety of music, including traditional choral pieces, sea chanteys, patriotic songs, opera pieces, Broadway show tunes and contemporary music. The performance will help mark the anniversary of the park and will pay tribute to Roosevelt, who served earlier as assistant secretary to the Navy.

The anniversary celebration program will begin at 2 p.m. ADT. The celebration will include a processional by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police J Division Pipes and Drums as well as honor guards by the Canadian 4th Artillery Regiment and the U.S. Coast Guard Station Eastport. The Sea Chanters Chorus will perform again, and there will be remarks by a number of Canadian and U.S. officials.

The park also will hold an open house and dedication of the Fireside Restaurant — its first public dining facility — from 1-3 p.m. Friday. The restaurant, which opened in May, once was the main lodge of the family compound of Frederick Adams, a cousin of Roosevelt. The park acquired the property from the Province of New Brunswick in 2010 and renovated the building.

The Fireside dedication and open house will be free and open to the public, and visitors will have the opportunity to sample foods served at the new restaurant, which is located across from the park’s main entrance on Route 774.

The 34-room summer residence of the Roosevelt family is preserved to replicate its appearance as it was in 1920, the summer before Roosevelt contracted polio during a visit to Campobello. Both floors of the home, filled with memorabilia, are open to visitors, and guides interpret the museum and answer questions.

The natural area walking trails travel through and to a number of picturesque sites that include shaded forests, marshes and bogs, cliffs and headlands, and beaches.

The park opened Aug. 20, 1964, in a ceremony that included U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s wife, Claudia “Lady Bird,” and Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson’s wife, Maryon. Three years later, in July 1967, Queen Elizabeth, also known as the Queen Mother, participated in opening ceremonies for the park’s new visitors center during her visit to Canada for the Canadian Centennial.

The park has expanded since then to include four additional period cottages, the natural area, miles of trails and carriage roads, a lighthouse, floating dock and dining facility.

Some of the most recent improvements, in addition to the restaurant, include a satellite visitors center in nearby Whiting, Maine, in 2011. The 400-foot floating dock on Friar’s Bay was added in 2001-02 to allow access to Campobello for passenger ferry service from St. Andrews. Overlooking the Lubec Narrows, Mulholland Point Lighthouse, built in 1885, was donated to the park in 1984, and a Marine Life Center was created in an adjacent building in 2012.

From the age of 1 in 1883 to when he contracted polio in 1921, Roosevelt spent the majority of his summers on the island.

Campobello was a resort for the wealthy in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A group of American businessmen purchased the majority of the southern portion of the island in 1881, and several luxury hotels were built. Visiting families, including Roosevelt’s parents, began buying land and renovating homes or building new summer residences. In 1909, his mother purchased what is now the Roosevelt Cottage and gifted it to Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.

The Roosevelts enjoyed a “simple lifestyle” as a family visiting the island, Beckwith noted, and visitors can enjoy “the same simple pleasures.”

“Enjoying the surroundings and the company of those around them was the focus of their time on the island,” he said.

A new documentary film by Ken Burns about Franklin, Eleanor and Teddy Roosevelt — which prominently features Campobello Island — will debut Sept. 14.

 

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