Published: Aug 09, 2011 6:33 PM EDT

ATLANTA (AP) - A cottage used frequently by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who built it when he came to Georgia to start a polio treatment center, has been destroyed by fire, state officials said.
    
McCarthy Cottage burned to the ground, and all that remained early Tuesday was the foundation, a chimney and some stone steps, said Martin Harmon, a spokesman at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute. The fire was discovered early Tuesday morning.
    
"We have a picture of him and Eleanor sitting on those steps and the steps are still there," Harmon said of the former president and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. "It's a tragedy."
    
Harmon said there were lightning storms in the area Monday night, but the fire's cause was still under investigation Tuesday.
    
The home dates to 1927, and Roosevelt stayed there often while governor of New York from 1928-1932, Harmon said. He lived in the home about 65 weeks during that period, according to historical accounts of the cottage from the Georgia Department of Labor.
    
Roosevelt, who had contracted polio in 1921, had come to Georgia seeking a solution for the paralysis of his legs caused by the disease, according to a statement from the Warm Springs Institute.
    
The land was an old resort area when Roosevelt chose it to treat people who had polio, and he had hopes of the resort making a comeback to help support the treatment center, Harmon said.
    
Later, as president, he stayed in a building known as The Little White House during his many visits to Georgia. He then leased the cottage to Leighton McCarthy, a Canadian businessman whose son also had polio, according to the historical accounts. McCarthy went on to become Canadian ambassador to the United States during World War II.
    
The 940-acre campus is now run by the state of Georgia as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, which provides rehabilitation services to people with disabilities.

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