Both Eleanor Roosevelt -- who like her husband grew up in the Hudson River Valley -- and FDR maintained serene and simple private country retreats away from Springwood. When FDR was away, and after his death, Eleanor -- one of the most admired and influential women in American history -- lived and worked out of Val-Kill Cottage, the only home she ever owned. A simple, rustic, cabinlike home, Val-Kill is where Eleanor received world leaders and made her mark on civil rights legislation and international humanitarian issues (as a U.N. delegate, she chaired the committee that drafted the U.N. Human Rights Universal Declaration). The grounds were also the headquarters of Val-Kill Industries, which Eleanor and several other women established to teach trades to rural workers and produce Colonial Revival furniture and crafts.
FDR's retreat on a hilltop, which he christened Top Cottage, was more rustic still. He built it on Dutchess Hill in the 1930s as an informal place to get away from it all and think about issues confronting his presidency. FDR was at his most relaxed here, even allowing himself to be photographed in his wheelchair. Restored but unfurnished, Top Cottage has recently been opened to visitors who come to see FDR's cherished views of the Catskill and Shawangunk mountains from the famous porch, where he entertained guests such as Winston Churchill and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II of England (guests at his "scandalous" 1939 hot-dog dinner). A wooded trail leads from Springwood to Val-Kill and Top Cottage. Visits to both cottages are by guided tour only (tickets are available at the visitor center at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum).