Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation
In contrast to the centuries-old, still brightly flourishing European health spa model that frequently serves guests with disabilities, we in the United States are reminded of a forgotten and smaller health spa tradition for people with disabilities in America. Shadowed in the remote Georgia countryside, an accessible and barrier-free health spa politely waits to be fully regarded and regenerated.
Seventy miles southwest of Atlanta, deep in the lush, green, aromatic countryside lies a sleepy old rehabilitation center: The Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation (also called the Roosevelt Institute or Georgia Warm Springs). It sprawls on 900 acres as a monument - almost a shrine - to Franklin D. Roosevelt, its founder. The Roosevelt Institute is constructed as a village very similar to a German health spa. Besides having medical and recreational facilities, its campus has a chapel, schoolhouse, approximately ten cottages, two lodges, a firehouse, and a picnic area. The town of Warm Springs, within 2 miles, is filled with close to 100 enticing little tourist shops and attractions. These include Roosevelt's personal haven, the Little White House, and the famous Old Pools, which have been transformed into historic sites to visit.
Listening closely, a visitor strolling these grounds can almost detect in the whispering pines, the spirited laughter of mid-20th century children who, as they recovered from paralyzing polio, splashed in a game of water polo with FDR himself. It is a gracious neoclassical jewel of America's past that could be fully revitalized and rediscovered by and for those of us who could benefit from its barrier-free health and wellness services. In fact, having many of the necessary recreational, housing and medical facilities already in place, this Institute has the potential to become a residential wellness center for visitors with disabilities and their friends who might need and want to take a health vacation. A closer look at both the 75-year old Institute and its 5-year old Center for Therapeutic Recreation (CTR) with Camp Dream may elucidate its collective potential as a health vacation site.