WARM SPRINGS - An early Tuesday fire destroyed two historic cottages at the Georgia Department of Labor's Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. They are McCarthy Cottage and E.T. Curtis Cottage.
"As the first home President Franklin Roosevelt built in Warm Springs, the nation has experienced a great loss with the burning of the McCarthy Cottage," DoL Commissioner Mark Butler said. "Because President Roosevelt resided there for four years, the McCarthy cottage was the cottage of most historical value."
An institute employee, who lives near the cottages, discovered the fire at about 5:30 a.m. The cause is under investigation, but authorities believe the fire may have been the result of an electrical storm in the area.
Built in 1927, McCarthy Cottage was Roosevelt's Warm Springs home until 1932 when he moved into the Little White House. The president first came to Warm Springs in 1924, seeking a solution for the paralysis of his legs caused by polio, which he contracted three years earlier.
Upon building and moving into the Little White House, Roosevelt leased the cottage to Leighton McCarthy, a well-to-do Canadian businessman whose son also had polio. McCarthy would go on to become Canadian ambassador to the United States during World War II and his son's family would continue to reside there during treatment visits to Warm Springs until the 1970s.
McCarthy Cottage had been used for staff and VIP housing since 1974, when the state assumed ownership and operation of Roosevelt's famous treatment center. In 2005, McCarthy Cottage was given renewed prominence as one of the primary set locations for HBO's movie Warm Springs, which won five Emmy Awards, including best picture.
The E. T. Curtis Cottage was built in 1928, adjacent to McCarthy Cottage. Curtis Cottage was built by the manager of the Meriwether Reserve, which was the corporation that Roosevelt originally established to run both the commercial and non-commercial operations and activities of Warm Springs.
The cottages, along with 27 others, are now part of the Warm Springs National Historic Landmark District. Both were to have been restored as part of the Georgia Rotary District 6900 Adopt a Cottage Campaign launched in May to eventually restore all 29 historic cottages.
"The Rotary's Adopt a Cottage Campaign makes it possible to restore these cottages and protect the historic legacy of the Institute without the use of state funds," Butler said.
Donations to the Adopt a Cottage campaign can be made through the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation Foundation. They can be made online at www.rooseveltrehab.org or by calling (706) 655-5666.