This Week in History


A Presidential Haven in Canada

This story was initially published in 2002

On August 20, 1964, the Roosevelt Campobello International Park officially opened. Located on Campobello Island off the coast of New Brunswick, the park is the entire 1134-hectare island, and is a tribute to the close relationship between the United States and Canada.

Franklin D. Roosevelt on Campobello Island in 1933

Franklin D. Roosevelt on Campobello Island in 1933
Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library & Museum

Campobello Island was first settled in 1770, but wealthier families in Canada and the U.S. began to summer on the island by the 1880s. The Roosevelt family first came to Campobello Island in 1883 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a year old. His father bought land and built a summer home that was completed in 1885. Roosevelt’s mother purchased a nearby cottage in 1909 and left it to Franklin.

From the age of one until 1921, when he contracted polio, Roosevelt spent most summers on the island. As a child and later as a father raising his own children, he enjoyed outdoor activities such as sailing, hiking, picnicking, and swimming. After 1921, his visits became infrequent due to time and health restrictions.

Roosevelt was elected the 32nd President of the United States in 1933. His visits to Canada were then predominantly for government business. At Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, in August 1938, Roosevelt promised to protect Canada if threatened by aggressive nations. In 1941, with Britain at war and the United States still neutral, he met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on a ship off the coast of Newfoundland. There they established the Atlantic Charter, which focussed on issues such as trade during wartime, and world social and economic conditions. In two separate visits, August 1943 and September 1944, Roosevelt met again with Churchill in Québec, to plan the conduct of the war and the post-war settlement. Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King acted as host, but was not involved in the discussions. After the first Québec conference, Roosevelt became the first American president to visit Ottawa, where he addressed a special session of Parliament.

Franklin D. Roosevelt residence in<br>Roosevelt Campobello International Park

Franklin D. Roosevelt residence in
Roosevelt Campobello International Park

© Parks Canada / Philip Goldring

The Atlantic Charter, the Quebec Conferences (1943-1944) and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Campobello Island all have designations of National Historic Significance. The Roosevelt Campobello International Park was established by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. It is one of five international parks between Canada and the United States. The park is not administered by Parks Canada or the U.S. National Parks Services, but by an International Park Commission, and is a unique example of international friendship and co-operation.

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