Jan 11, 2024 - History

Eleanor Roosevelt's connection to Treasure Island's origins

Photo of Eleanor Roosevelt sitting as she watches actors in costume perform a scene

Eleanor Roosevelt enjoys the antics of members of the cast for the children's fantasy "Hansel and Gretel" at the Federal Building during a visit to Treasure Island, date unknown. Photo: Visual Studies Workshop via Getty Images

Before Treasure Island became a hub for redevelopment and TreasureFest, it was first a landmark of interest for Eleanor Roosevelt, who visited several times during her tenure as America's first lady.

Flashback: In "My Day," her syndicated newspaper column, she wrote about attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the island's Federal Building in 1938 and called the decision to name it Treasure Island "delightful."

  • A year later, she returned to tour the Golden Gate Fair and wrote that "our first view of Treasure Island as we crossed the magnificent new bridge was one of almost dazzling beauty."
  • The Library of Congress also contains records reflecting her presence at a Treasure Island production sponsored by the Federal Theatre Project, an ambitious government effort to fund nationwide theater events during the Great Depression.

The big picture: The Army Corps of Engineers completed the construction of Treasure Island in 22 months in 1937. It was built to serve as a site for the Golden Gate International Exposition and eventually an airport.

  • Local leaders later decided the airport would be better situated closer to the city.
  • After becoming a naval base for World War II, the island was instead opened up to commercial and residential development.

What they're saying: "We hope it will contain so many treasures of beauty and educational value, that the whole of the United States will profit by the work which has been done there," Roosevelt wrote in her column on March 16, 1938.


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