Rare Chance to View FDR's Historic Ice Yacht "Hawk" on March 17, 2012

FDR sailing the ice yacht "Hawk" in Hyde Park, NY. 1905. Photo courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, New York.

Long before he entered politics, Franklin D. Roosevelt enjoyed ice yachting on the Hudson River near his home. His ice yacht Hawk hasn't been on public display for years, but visitors can get a rare, one-day look at the historic craft on Saturday, March 17, 2012.

Unless you live in northern climes, you may not be familiar with "ice yachting," which involves sailing or racing specialized boats on frozen rivers and lakes. The sport became popular on the Hudson River back in the late 1700s, and clubs for enthusiasts are still active today.

According to historians at Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York, Roosevelt became passionate about ice yachting as he grew up watching his uncle John Aspinwall Roosevelt compete in races on the Hudson River in the winter. John Roosevelt, who lived just down the road from the future president, won the prestigious Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America and helped found the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club, which exists today.

Built by George E. Buckhout of Poughkeepsie, New York, the ice yacht Hawk was a Christmas gift to Franklin Roosevelt from his mother in December 1901. From 1901 to 1904, FDR sailed and raced the Hawk on the Hudson River, chiefly during the years he was a student at Harvard.

President Roosevelt donated the Hawk to the National Archives and Records Administration in 1941 for exhibition in his newly constructed presidential library, which is located adjacent to his Hyde Park, New York, estate.

In June of that year the boat was placed on display on the lower level of the Library building in a gallery with other transportation-related artifacts that FDR collected, including carriages and sleighs. The ice yacht remained in the same location for nearly 55 years, while exhibits around it changed over time. In 1948, for example, FDR's car was exhibited beside the Hawk.

In April 1995 the exhibit space was converted into a museum collection storage space. While FDR's car and other items moved to new locations, the Hawk remained mounted on the wall. This month the National Archives and Records Administration will officially transfer ownership of the ice yacht to the National Park Service, which can provide a more suitable space for the long-term storage of this artifact.

On Saturday, March 17, the Hawk will be on display in the lobby of the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center, which serves both the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and the National Historic Site.

According to a park spokesperson, "The exhibit will be for one day only, as the ice yacht 'sails' from storage on the lower level of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum to its final docking in the curatorial storage facility of the National Park Service. This is a rare opportunity for visitors to see FDR's personal ice yacht." Each tour of the Roosevelt Home on that day will begin beside the Hawk, and a member of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club will be on hand to present information about ice yachting.

The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site contains "Springwood," the lifelong home of America's only four-term President. Visitors may enjoy a guided tour of FDR's home, take a self-guided tour of the Museum and stroll the grounds, gardens, and trails of this 300-acre site.

The Presidential Library and Museum, operated by the National Archives, is also located on the site. You'll find information to help plan a visit on the websites for the park and for the Presidential Library and Museum.