Eleanor Roosevelt first came to Campobello in 1903, when she and Franklin were courting, to visit his parents at James and Sara’s summer cottage. Eleanor was nineteen. In her will, Mrs. Hartman Kuhn, fond of Eleanor, gave Franklin’s mother the right to purchase the Kuhn (now Roosevelt) Cottage for the young couple. Sara did this and the cottage became Eleanor’s own to furnish and run. She made it into a summer destination for both family and friends.
After 1921, Franklin did not return to Campobello until 1933. Eleanor came back in 1925, with the children and with friends. She loved the peace and quiet of Campobello - the salt air, the lack of telephones, and even the fog. She once wrote, “Fog is nice if you know a place and are with someone you like. It is like a winter storm. It shuts you in and gives you a close and intimate feeling and adds to the joy of your fire.”
Returning to the island in 1935, Eleanor began a volume of her memoirs, later published as This Is My Story, the first volume of her autobiography. (During a summer visit in 1947, she worked on the second volume of her autobiography, This I Remember.)
Eleanor shared Franklin’s interest in positive international relations, as evidenced by their making the Campobello home available to the Summer Student Leadership Institute, and by Eleanor’s leadership in the drafting and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As Eleanor had transformed her summer cottage, Campobello transformed Eleanor. Organizing a busy household and planning meals and summer activities for family and guests helped her develop her great organizational skills. Discussions with reform-minded, politically savvy friends helped her develop her thoughts on civic endeavors and human rights. Later in life, when referring to the time following Franklin’s contraction of polio in 1921, Eleanor said Campobello was the place where she began to grow into an independent person.
Eleanor Roosevelt last came to Campobello in 1962, for the dedication of the FDR Memorial Bridge linking the island with Lubec, Maine. She died a few weeks after this last visit.