Four Freedoms Park was city’s first
“Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt during “four freedoms” speech in 1941.
Cars rush by this small place of history daily along Cape Coral Parkway. An ice cream business sits nearby, so do apartments and other businesses. In 1964, when founders Jack and Leonard Rosen brought Four Freedoms Park to this fledgling community, they couldn’t have imagined such traffic or a population of 190,000 people.
As the city celebrates 50 years of incorporation, Four Freedoms owns the distinction of being the Cape’s first park. There were only about 3,000 residents in the community then and the two-lane Cape Coral Bridge was opening. The Rosens saw the need for the park and to give it a significant name.
The park is named for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms Speech.” He had been elected for an unprecedented third term, but the country was on the precipice of war as much of Europe had already fallen to the German Army and Adolph Hitler. Roosevelt wanted words that would unite the country, show the importance of supporting Europe in those dark times and provide a measure of strength, courage and hope for Americans as World War II was eminent. The speech also came just 11 months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
After seven drafts of the speech, Roosevelt walked to a podium in his annual State of the Union address to Congress on Jan. 6, 1941. He powerfully delivered words that ring true today. He talked of those “four freedoms” — the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear — essential to the cause as the country prepared for war and a fight for its individual freedoms.
An excerpt from Roosevelt’s speech:
“The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.”
That speech inspired many monuments and the Rosens’ desire to provide families with a place to enjoy next to the Bimini Basin. Franklin Roosevelt Jr., the president’s son, was a special guest during the park’s dedication in 1964. At the time, the World War II veteran and fifth of six children born to the president and Eleanor Roosevelt, was 50 years old and had built quite an impressive resume. He was a six-year member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was appointed Under Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce during the Kennedy administration and was preparing for a second run as New York’s governor — a race he would lose to Nelson A. Rockefeller.
For residents interested in a road trip, the original statue commissioned by Franklin D. Roosevelt to commemorate the 1941 speech now resides in Madison, a city in northern Florida, about six hours from Cape Coral. The original monument was dedicated to Colin P. Kelly, one of the first heroes of World War II. It was rededicated and moved to Madison — Kelly’s hometown — in 1944.
The first “Four Freedoms Park” sign was a repurpose from the original sign at the Nautilus Motel, one of the city’s first motels on Cape Coral Parkway. According to reports, the sign no longer exists.
Four Freedoms Park has been the site of many popular events in the city, including the Cardboard Boat Regatta and the Christmas Boat-A-Long Parade, as well as many community concerts and festivals. A children’s playground, a small beach and other amenities continue to attract residents year-round.
The park is one of 39 in the city, with many more neighborhood and community parks planned thanks to residents passing the $60 million GO bond referendum two years ago.
Submitted by Tom Hayden, a Cape Coral History Museum board member. As we celebrate 50 years as a city, much of our area’s history, chronicled at the museum, will be featured twice a month in similar articles provided to the Cape Coral Breeze.