President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s grandchildren once played on the lawn and splashed in the water at the white house on the sprawling estate at the end of a narrow, private lane on the northeastern tip of Mercer Island.
The president himself slept in the house.
It was a different era then — those were the last days of the Great Depression, and then the early years of World War II.
Roosevelt’s daughter, Anna Boettiger, who was born in 1906, lived in the 97th Avenue home with her husband, John; two children from a previous marriage, Anna and Curtis; and later the couple’s new baby, John Jr. Many years later, Anna’s older brother, Elliott, resided in Bellevue.
Neighbors’ children played with Anna’s boy, but didn’t know until later on that he was the president’s grandson.
Boettiger’s husband, John, was the publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1936 through 1943. The family had a home in Seattle’s Lawtonwood neighborhood, where they were pictured in 1937 in a portrait that is now part of the Museum of History and Industry archives. They then resided at the Mercer Island estate, and an old, undated picture of the house has a note that says, “Franklin’s summer home.”
Boettiger and her children left the estate in the spring of 1944, moving into the White House to be her father’s hostess and speechwriter. Her husband had enlisted in the army. After the war, the couple moved to Phoenix, Ariz., but divorced soon thereafter.
The house is now gray with white trim, and one of its rooms continues to be known as the “President Roosevelt room,” where the president and first lady, Eleanor, stayed while visiting their daughter.
A new generation of children now plays on the lawn and explores the house. Mick and Marnie Schreck are the third couple to raise a family in the home after the president’s daughter moved out.
Last week the Schrecks’ daughter and granddaughter, Kelly and Julia Panelli, hosted the first Camp Delano at the house, for the children of friends and relatives, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day. Julia will be entering Holy Names Academy as a freshman this fall. A weeklong camp on Vashon Island attended by the Schrecks’ grandchildren became the inspiration for Camp Delano, which filled up with a total of 15 kids within 24 hours of being announced.
The Schrecks have occupied the home for 32 years. When they first moved in, their four children — one daughter and three sons — were all younger than 13. Now, the couple has 11 grandchildren ranging from 8 months to 17 years.
The couple lived in three homes on Mercer Island before their current residence.
“As time wears on, you really realize what a historic home this is,” Marnie said.
Mick, who grew up in Eastern Washington, married Marnie in 1966. He is now retired from a career with Coldwell Banker commercial real estate. The couple is nearing their 50th wedding anniversary.
They contemplated moving out three years ago, but have decided to stay long-term.
“I want more grandkids running around here,” Marnie said.
The family and their historic home were featured in a Mercer Island Reporter article in October of 1984. The article was written by Laurie McHale, the mother of actor Joel McHale.
The home was built in the early 1900s in an old apple orchard, according to the article. The exact date is unknown — either 1905 or 1915 — and nothing is known of the builders or the home’s first occupants. Later, the Firland tuberculosis sanatorium used the property as an outpost. Small white cottages that once housed patients were added onto the home.
The home was reconstructed in 1935, and original framed blueprints decorate one wall.
The house and property are now a blend of the old and the new. There are still knotty pine paneled walls. The upstairs hasn’t changed, Marnie said. The maids’ quarters have been converted into an office, and the old sewing room is now the laundry room. A garage and large deck have been added. The guard house that once served as a post for Secret Service agents is no longer standing, having been taken down due to dry rot.
When the couple bought the house, they subdivided the four-acre property in order to be able to afford it. A white picket fence now encircles a house between the Schrecks’ home and the waterfront where there was once an expansive lawn all the way down to the shore. Waterfront access at the base of a narrow strip of lawn remains, and the Schrecks share the waterfront with their neighbors to the south. The dock, boathouse and pumphouse are original, and the couple’s daughter, Kelly Panelli, remembers a high platform and ladder for jumping into the water.
“It’s been fun — a really great house to grow up in,” said Panelli, a South end resident.
Framed photos of Pope John Paul II in private audience with the Schreck family decorate one wall of the “president’s room.” The family’s Catholic faith is evident by the many crucifixes throughout their home. Mick and Marnie are longtime members of St. Monica Parish.
The house is full of memories — the place of gatherings for graduations, marriages, funerals. And with each new generation, comes the laughter of the children.
Top, Anna Boettiger, center, poses with her husband, John Boettiger; mother, Eleanor Roosevelt; and son, John Jr., in 1942 (courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum). Middle, the Boettigers' house in 1943 (courtesy of the Schreck family).
Mick and Marnie Schreck’s grandchildren wave flags on the deck of the historic home (Kelly Panelli/Contributed Photo).
A new mantel stands where FDR and his grandson were once photographed in the living room.