The first time I wandered through the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute I was amazed by the beauty of the land. It looks and feels like a beautiful park, or an exclusive school a bit past it’s glory days. I kept going back so that I could take it all in. I took my husband, my mother and step-father, my aunts, my sister, and my friends. I felt like I was walking along side the hundreds of brave men, women and children who faced Polio with dignity and bravery. I felt a connection.
I can tell you all the reasons why Mark and I bought the Hardaway Cottage, but the truth is I felt it before I could defend it. This project spoke to me in so many ways. Of course the home and grounds are beautiful in their own right, but there is more to it than that. The history of the house is fascinating. Each family who owned it lived through a different period in U.S. history and was drawn to the home for their own reasons. We hope for the Hardaway Cottage to be a celebration of all the wonderful families who have called it home. We look forward to sharing it with you.
Over the next few weeks I will be posting a brief bio of each family who has owned the Hardaway Cottage with available photos, interviews and original documentation of the unique character of each family. Each family made special contributions to the home and used it to meet the specific needs of their family. I have felt like I was on a treasure hunt as I both explored the closet’s and attics of the buildings, and as I searched the web and chased down leads to discover the stories this home had to reveal.
Mrs. B. H. Hardaway was a remarkable and independent woman with vision and tenacity. In the late 1920s, after the death of her husband, she made the bold decision to sell Coca Cola stock and build the Hardaway Cottage on the grounds of the Roosevelt Institute for Rehabilitation.This was a bold choice for anyone since the country was recovering from the great depression, but she as a woman was moving about in a man’s world and demonstrated incredible determination.
Prior to the mission of polio treatment and research the grounds of the Warm Springs institute had also served as a resort for the wealthy. In the page above from the 1933 edition of the Polio Chronicle it is noted that, “Mrs. B. H. Hardaway of Columbus, Ga. who for years has owned a cottage near the Inn and spent part of summers here has completed a fine brick home.” Clearly the Hardaway family and Rebecca had a fondness for the area prior to the arrival of Franklin D. Roosevelt. But, I can only surmise that as Roosevelt promoted the area for the treatment of Polio, established a home in the area, and hosted important dignitaries Rebecca became convinced of the importance of the area.
I love stories. My earliest memories are of my father telling me stories. After supper he would let me sit in his lap and he would tell me about life in rural Alabama during his childhood. He grew up in a close knit family that shared work, adventures, food and love. Those stories are my heritage. With the help of my mother I feel in love with books. My mother would read great books to us on long car trips. This was before the days of seat belt laws and I remember hanging over the front seat to catch every word. I still love books and stories, and now I believe every old house has a story to tell.
I am having the time of my life discovery the rich and amazing story of the Hardaway Cottage. My mom said that as a little girl I had a habit of “plundering” in closets and drawers. Now that has turned into a useful skill. I am turning my nosy tendencies into investigative power and contacting the families of all the past owners. They have been very patient and generous with information and fascinating details. I actually have two parallel stories to share; one is the history of the house, and the other is the process of renovation and restoration. I plan on sharing both, but tomorrow I will introduce you to the namesake of the Hardaway Cottage; Mrs. Rebecca Hardaway of Columbus, GA.