VAL-KILL. Val-Kill is the modest country retreat Eleanor Roosevelt called home. Named after the Fallkill Creek or, as it was known to early Dutch settlers, the “Val-Kill,” stream of falls, the property—now about 180 acres—was part of the Roosevelt landholdings in Hyde Park,* New York, and is about two miles east of Springwood, the Roosevelt family estate.
The area along the Fallkill was a favorite picnic spot for the Roosevelt family and friends. After a picnic in the fall of 1924, ER and her two friends Nancy Cook* and Marion Dickerman* lamented the fact that it would be their last opportunity to visit the site until the following spring. Franklin D. Roosevelt* then suggested that they build a cottage there and use it as a year-round retreat. He drew up a lease on a building site, giving them a life interest in the property, engaged a young architect, Henry Toombs, to plan a stone replica of a Dutch colonial Hudson Valley vernacular-style cottage, and appointed himself as general contractor. The three women shared the $12,000 construction cost, and Stone Cottage was completed in 1926.
From the beginning, Val-Kill was more than a simple holiday retreat. It was a place where the free exchange of ideas in a relaxed atmosphere turned conversations into pilot projects. As the cottage was being built, the three friends, joined by Caroline O’Day,* decided to establish Val-Kill Industries in order to construct finely crafted furniture based on early American designs. They were encouraged by FDR, who shared their interest in training rural youth* for off-season employment within their own communities. The undertaking quickly outgrew Stone Cottage, so a separate two-story cinder-block structure about 200 feet northeast of Stone Cottage was then built to house the venture. A two-story addition was added as the business expanded.