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FDR’s Top Cottage

Hyde Park, NY
Client: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute

Project Type: Restoration; Historic Structure Report; Cultural Landscape Report

Top Cottage was constructed in 1938 as a private retreat for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. With its simple forms, steeply pitched roofs, and rubble fieldstone walls, Top Cottage embodied Roosevelt’s ideas about the appropriate architectural style for the Hudson Valley and the importance of the Valley’s Dutch heritage.  The house was one of the first barrier-free buildings constructed in the United States and remains a symbol of FDR’s determination and independence in coping with his disability.

Rendering showing the proposed restoration of Top Cottage, restablishing the open porch to the west. The site has since been fully restored.

After researching Roosevelt’s papers, other contemporary archival materials, and the recollections of those associated with Top Cottage, John G. Waite Associates Architects assembled a history of the building design, construction, and subsequent alterations.  All the constituent parts of the building’s fabric were examined to determine existing conditions and the scope of needed repairs.  Measured drawings and a detailed architectural description of the structure were also prepared.  Subsequently, construction documents were completed to restore the house to its April 1945 appearance, the period of its greatest historical significance, embodying the original design and subsequent modifications of President Roosevelt.  JGWA directed the restoration of the house, including original finishes, exterior materials, and the installation of new, unobtrusive, museum-quality building systems.  Following the restoration, the house and site were transferred to the National Park Service and opened to the public in June 2001.