5. FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt Townhouse 47-49 East 65th Street
The adjoining townhouses at 47-49 East 65th Street were commissioned by FDR’s mother for the new couple as a Christmas gift. In 1908, Eleanor and FDR moved into 49 East 65th Street while Sara Delano moved into 47 East 65th Street.
Architect Charles Platt designed the building to have two identical residences joined with a single entrance (FDR’s mother lived in the adjacent residence). In later memoirs from Eleanor, she lamented the first few years of living in the house next to her mother-in-law as she never felt like it was a place of her own. Throughout the property, there are interconnecting doors between the parlor rooms, reception areas, and main sitting areas. The six-story building has a facade made predominantly of brick and limestone. The house was acquired by Hunter College in 1942 and became a New York City landmark in 1973.
It was largely during their residence here that the most significant events and political policy contributions by Eleanor and FDR were made. Roosevelt recovered from his diagnosis of polio here in 1921, began his ascent into politics as a New York senator, was elected President, and inked the New Deal. Eleanor was very involved with the Women’s Trade Union League at this time and forging equality in women’s rights.
Unfortunately, the house decayed over the years and it wasn’t until the President of Hunter College, Jennifer Raab, secured funding for a remodel and new additions to the house in the early 2000s, that the house was under proper care. The library was converted into a museum and seminar room, the reception rooms were opened up as spaces for classes, receptions, and presentations, and the upper floors became offices as well as apartments for special visiting scholars.
The remodel was completed in 2010 and became the home of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. While the school is only open to students and staff of Hunter’s College, you can contact the school to set up a tour with an advance reservation. The website for the college provides great background on the history of the house during the Roosevelts’ residence, the Hunter College acquirement, and the remodel.