Through the centuries, the Valley has been home — at least temporarily — to several American presidents. Although he wasn’t commander in chief at the time, Gen. George Washington made important Revolutionary War decisions at his headquarters (and home) in Newburgh. Eighth president Martin Van Buren was born, and lived most of his life, in Kinderhook. The Hyde Park estate of Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions. Even Bill Clinton occasionally can be found relaxing at home in Chappaqua.
Without further delay, here are some fun facts about our “local” chief executives:
1) Martin Van Buren is the only president for whom English was not his first language. He spoke Dutch with his family and neighbors in Kinderhook.
2) George Washington bred hound dogs; he gave them unusual names like Tartar, True Love, and Sweet Lips.
3) Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to travel on official business by airplane. In 1943, he flew to a WWII strategy meeting in Casablanca with Winston Churchill.
4) During his 1840 reelection campaign, Van Buren supporters nicknamed him “Old Kinderhook,” which they abbreviated to “O.K.” This is thought to be the origin of the word “okay.”
5) Washington never had any children of his own. At 26, he married Martha Dandridge Custis, a widow who had two children.
6) While he famously played the saxophone on TV in 1992, Bill Clinton’s two Grammy awards were not won for his music, but for his narration (on the album Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks in 2004, and for a recording of his autobiography in 2005).
7) It is said that some of Washington’s favorite dishes were cream of peanut soup and mashed sweet potatoes with coconut.
8) FDR was a fifth cousin of 26th president Theodore Roosevelt. They had the same great-great-great-great-grandparents.