I'm a couple of nights behind watching Ken Burn's documentary series on The Roosevelts, So it was nice to see last evening the first mention of Franklin and Eleanor's home at Campobello. I had the opportunity to visit there when I was working on the movie Pet Sematary, which was shooting in Ellsworth, Maine.
On my days off, while most crews on location tended to prefer to crash, I liked to explore the area as much as possible. One day, while planning my upcoming Sunday, I was perusing the map and noticed something called Campobello Island. The name being so odd, I figured it had to be the Roosevelt estate, and it was. I was boggled because I had no idea that it was in Maine. I didn't even have any idea that it was on an island. Pretty much all I knew about it was from having matched the classic movie Sunrise at Campobello, based on Dore Schary's play about Franklin Roosevelt contracting polio there and his rehabilitation and re-entry into politics. So, knowing how historic this place was, there was no way I wouldn't go there. Though I couldn't get anyone to join me.
It's a gorgeous drive up there, and a magnificent ride over the bridge to the island. But the biggest shock to me was that it's not listed on the map as a "National Park," but rather...an "International Park." It turns out -- Campobello Island is not in the United States! It's in Canada.
And for anyone who doesn't believe that -- check out the Canadian and American flags.
Inside, the rooms seemed fairly small, it was all very intimate. But very elegant in a rustic way and extremely charming.
Most views I think that people see of Campobello are this above, but I do like to wander, so rather than just going into the house itself, I headed across the huge lawn which angles downward, and I walked to the edge of the property below.
So, this is the view of Campobello that you usually don't get...
Actually, though, I'll take this a step (or several steps...) further. I suspect that most people tend to make the drive across the bridge specifically and solely to see the house. They tour inside, note its charm and then head back to the mainland and the United States.
But I figured, hey, I made the long trip up here, probably a 3-4 hour drive in each direction. And this is an island after all, so why not actually wander around the island and see what the entire area is like. Beside which, this is all part of what takes a historic and particularly iconic location and makes it live as a real place that breathes on its own.
Campobello Island a fairly small place, and hasn't been built up much at all. Being very far out of the way -- that's no understatement, when you head off onto the bridge, you're in about as far northeast as you can get in the U.S. -- it's all incredibly provincial up there. It's not that you're in Canada -- and out in the ocean, at that -- but you're pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
So, this then is the island part of Campobello Island that most people have never seen. Friar's Bay, it's known as. And yes, most of the day up there was in the fog. I suspect that most of most days up there are, as well. It was therefore a very generous thing that Dore Schary did for the people there, naming his play Sunrise at Campobello. Because without the title, you might never know...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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