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The Executive Residence is the central building of the White House Complex located between the East Wing and West Wing. This central building, first constructed from 1792 to 1800, is home to the President of the United States and the First Family. The Executive Residence primarily occupies four floors: the Ground Floor, the State Floor, the Second Floor, and the Third Floor. A two-story sub-basement with mezzanine, created during the 1948–to-1952 Truman reconstruction, is used for HVAC and mechanical systems, storage, and service areas.
- 1 Sub-Basement and Sub-Basement Mezzanine
- 2 Ground Floor
- 3 State Floor
- 4 Second Floor
- 5 Third Floor
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Sub-Basement and Sub-Basement Mezzanine
This level was added during the 1948-to-1952 renovation, and contains the air conditioning and water softening equipment, The sub-basement and mezzanine also contain storage areas, the heating system, elevator machinery rooms, an incinerator, a medical clinic, a dentist's office, the electrical control system, a laundry room, and flatware and dishware storage.
Original kitchen and ancillary spaces
The Ground Floor of the White House originally contained service rooms. The White House is built on a slight hill that slopes to the south. To provide access to the north side of the Ground Floor, the area around the north side of the mansion and its northeast and northwest corners was excavated to provide light and air to this half of the Ground Floor. Architect James Hoban designed the Ground Floor so that the kitchen was directly beneath the Entrance Hall, the door to the kitchen below the North Portico. Storerooms were east of the kitchen, while a toilet and dishwashing room were to the west. The kitchen was relocated into the two rooms in the northeast corner of the Ground Floor by 1946, while the old kitchen space as transformed into an informal sitting room/reception space. As of 2010, this large central space originally occupied by the kitchen in the early 1800s had been subdivided into offices for the White House Curator and the United States Secret Service. The kitchen, too, continues to occupy the three rooms (somewhat altered in size now) in the northwest corner of the Ground Floor.
The storeroom to the east of the kitchen became a pantry in 1809, a meat locker in 1825, and and then a flight of stairs leading to the State Floor by 1946. This area remains largely unchanged as of 2010, with the exception of the narrowing of the stairs in 1952 to create an elevator shaft.
Library and ancillary spaces
The storeroom in the northeast corner of the Ground Floor remained in use as storage space only until 1809, when it became a laundry. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt hired the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to renovate the White House. They turned the room into a "gentleman's anteroom". This room became the White House Library in 1935. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy radically transformed the room in 1961. Kennedy consulted initially with a group consisting of members of the United States Commission of Fine Arts, designers from the American Institute of Interior Designers (AIID), and historians. The AIID agreed to take on the job of refurbishing the room, and Kennedy worked with decorator Jeanette Becker Lenygon of the AIID on the project. Lenygon designed an early American library room in the Federal style. Except for minor decorative changes, the White House Library remains the same as of 2010.
The toilet and laundry room west of the kitchen became general-use work areas by 1809, and a pantry, small kitchen, and cook's office by 1825. By 1946, these had become general workrooms, with a narrow, winding staircase inserted into the room closest to the former kitchen. The 1952 renovation turned the winding staircase into a steep, straight stairs and added an elevator in this space. As of 2010, a pantry-sized refrigerator also occupied a portion of this space.
Diplomatic Reception Room
The oval space beneath what is now the Blue Room was originally a Servants' Hall, but was turned into a furnace room in 1837. During the White House's 1902 renovation, the room was turned into a sitting room. President Franklin D. Roosevelt used it for his "fireside chat" radio broadcasts in the 1930s. Rebuilt (along with the rest of the gutted White House) during the 1948-to-1952 renovation, the room became the Diplomatic Reception Room. It was only sparsely furnished until First Lady Mamie Eisenhower received a large donation of museum-quality antique furniture from the National Society of Interior Designers in 1960. Except for decorative updating, it remains unchanged as of 2010.
West of the Servants' Hall, the Ground Floor originally contained a small bedroom and, in the two westernmost rooms, a Steward's Office. The smaller, westernmost of the two rooms in the Steward's Office became the White House vault. By 1825, the Housekeeper's Office had moved into the easternmost room of the Steward's Office. The Steward's Office and vault became general workrooms by 1946, but the 1902 renovation had turned the Housekeeper's Office into a ladies' powder room. Less than a decade later, President Woodrow Wilson turned it into a billiards room. At the outbreak of World War II in December 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt removed the billiards table and turned the room into a place where he could keep track of the war's progress on a wide range of maps and store top-secret communications with world leaders. The Map Room (as it was now called) was heavily guarded, as highly secret U.S. and allied military information was constantly updated on the maps kept in this room. In the early 1960s, the Map Room was transformed into a ladies' powder room again by Jacqueline Kennedy, and portraits of First Ladies were hung there. The Map Room continued to retain its name, but in 1970 was decorated in the Chippendale style and turned into a reception room. It retained its name and function as of 2010. A small medical clinic and the office of the White House physician occupy the three rooms to the west of the Map Room as of 2010.
East of the original Servants' Hall was the Housekeeper's Office, and then a room for general work. The Housekeeper's Office was turned into general workspace in 1809, while the bedroom became a general-use servants' room. All rooms east of the oval Servant's Hall were turned into staff bedrooms by 1825 (with the Housekeeper's Office taking up a portion of the Steward's Office). In 1837, President Martin Van Buren made the bedroom that would become the China Room into quarters for a stoker, whose job was to keep the White House furnace fueled 24 hours a day, seven days a week (with summers off). First Lady Edith Wilson turned this room into the China Room in 1917 to display the Executive Residence's growing collection of White House china. Just east of the China Room, the 1902 renovation turned the staff bedroom into a sitting room known as the Social Room. It was briefly renamed the Billiard Room after the 1952 restoration, but became the Vermeil Room in 1957 after mining heiress Margaret Thompson Biddle bequeathed 1,575 pieces of vermeil silverware to the White House. It remained little changed as of 2010.
North Lawn extension
During the 1948-to-1952 reconstruction of the White House, additional White House workspace was excavated under the North Lawn. Storage space had first been excavated here in the 1930s, but was greatly expanded and enhanced during the Truman renovation. The Trumans included a bowling alley in this space as well (it is architecturally aligned with the entrance to the Diplomatic Reception Room on the other side of the White House). President Dwight Eisenhower had the bowling alley moved to the Executive Office Building west of the White House, but President Richard Nixon (an avid bowler) had it restored to its original spot in 1969. As of 2010, this space continues to house the bowling alley, as well as the White House chocolatier, the office and workspace of the White House Chief Floral Designer, a cold storage room for flowers and other perishable items, a carpentry shop, and general workrooms.
The State Floor was unfinished when President John Adams moved into the White House on November 1, 1800. Work continued through the four remaining months of his presidency and into the first term of Thomas Jefferson to make the Executive Residence habitable. There were no floors in the East Room, the Blue Room, or the western third of the Cross Hall (which at that time extended all the way to the west, as the State Dining Room would not be extended all the way north until 1902). There was also no grand staircase east of the Entrance Hall, and the only way to access the Second Floor was via temporary stairs on the exterior of the building which led up to the top of the South Portico.
Entrance Hall and Grand Staircase
Until the North Portico was completed in 1829, providing access from the Nort Lawn and carriageway, the Entrance Hall was used as space to exhibit items brought back by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. A glass screen was placed between the columns along the Entrance Hall's south side to reduce the hall's draftiness, effectively reducing its apparent size. The ordinary glass was replaced by a red, white, and blue colord glass screen designed by Tiffany & Co. in 1882. The Tiffany screen was removed in the 1902 renovation.
The area that now contains the Grand Staircase originally contained a much smaller, unadorned staircase to the Second Floor. The Grand Staircase was moved into this area during the 1902 renovation.
Although architect James Hoban included space for the East Room in his 1792 plans for the White House, it was unclear what purpose the room should fulfill. The room's floor was finished after President John Adams moved in, but the walls remained bare brick and First Lady Abigail Adams famously hung her laundry to dry in it.
Thomas Jefferson furnished the room with some chairs during his administration, and had the room partitioned (using canvas and sailcloth for walls) and the southern end used for a bedroom and office for Meriwether Lewis and Lewis Harvie (both Private Secretary to the President).[a] But it wasn't until 1807 that architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe gave the East Room its function as a site for public audiences and large social events.
Rebuilt after the burning of the White House in 1814, its walls remained bare brick and it was used as storage space. President James Monroe's daughter was married in the East Room, at which time it was temporarily furnished, but it was not until the administration of John Quincy Adams that its walls were plastered and painted. The East Room was finally completed in 1829 under President Andrew Jackson. Major redecorations have occurred, but the room continues to serve its function as a site for large social events.
Green, Blue, and Red Rooms
James Hoban designated what is today the Green Room as a Common Dining Room, and Thomas Jefferson's family took their meals here. A rectangular ceiling frescoe with small circles and trapezoids, designed Thomas Ustick Walter, was added in 1853. In the 1902 renovation of the White House, a second door, south of the existing door, was cut from the Green Room to the Blue Room. At the same time, a new, southern door was cut from the Green Room to the East Room.
Hoban's original plans for the White House created an oval-shaped Drawing Room (now the Blue Room) in the center of the south part of the executive mansion. Since its inception, the Blue Room has remained the centerpiece of the Executive Residence, serving as the formal reception space for heads of state, ambassadors, and other important people. Since its creation in 1801, it has been redecorated more times (18) than any other room in the White House. Originally, a door in the center of the western wall led to the Yellow Room. A fireplace was set in the eastern wall opposite the door. Originally, niches to either side of the door in the north wall mirrored the three windows in the south wall. The reconstruction of 1817 radically changed the Blue Room. Doors replaced the northern niches, and the western door to the Red Room was sealed. On the Red Room side of the wall, a false door was cut into the wall south of the now-sealed central door, and the false door north of the now-sealed door also concealed. An oval ceiling frescoe with curved trapezoids, designed Thomas Ustick Walter, was added in 1853. A jib (or disguised) door was cut through the false door to the Red Room in 1891, and a second jib door cut through to the Green Room south of the fireplace in 1902. The ceiling medallion and cornice moldings were altered by architect Edward Vason Jones during the Nixon administration to more closely resemble early 1800s styles.
To the east of this room was a President's Antechamber (later known as the Red Room). This room originally had two doors, set close together, leading into the Blue Room. (The one on the north was false.) Beginning in 1809, it became the music room for the White House. During the 1817 rebuilding of the White HOuse, the President's Antechamber was turned into a Yellow Parlor. It was sometimes called the Washington Parlor, as the Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington hung in this room after the Burning of Washington. At this time, the two doors were rebuilt further apart. (Now the south door became a false door.) In 1845, the Yellow Parlor was redecorated in crimson, and took its current name as the Red Room. A rectangular ceiling frescoe with a small central circle, curved trapezoids, and half-moons, designed Thomas Ustick Walter, was added in 1853. The false door was cut through in 1891, and has remained open to the present.
State Dining Room
The northern third of what is now the State Dining Room was originally the western part of the Cross Hall. Two flights of stairs (one against the north wall, one against the south wall) led from the State Floor to the Second Floor. A single, central stair then led up to the Third Floor. Not completed when the White House was occupied in 1800, the Grand Stairs were probably finished by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1803 or shortly thereafter. An extensive chimney breast was added to the fireplace in the room's west wall when it was reconstructed in 1817.
A large greenhouse was added to the west side of the White House in 1857, replacing one on the east side which had been torn down that year to make way for expansion of the Treasury Building. The greenhouse burned down in 1867, and in 1869 President Ulysses S. Grant built a larger, higher greenhouse in its place. Later presidents expanded the greenhouse, until it occupied most of what is now the West Wing. Grant built a billards room atop and to the south of the breezeway leading from the west end of the Ground Floor of the White House, but this became a Palm Court in 1877 during the Rutherford B. Hayes administration. Hayes authorized new doors cut through the stone of the mansion's walls to provide access between the Palm Court and State Dining Room.
In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant rebuilt the Grand Stair. Now, only a single staircase against the north wall led to the Second Floor, while a second stair on the south wall of the Second Floor led to the Third Floor. (The new space created on the Second Floor became the West Sitting Hall.)
To the south of the Grand Stair was a smaller room, to be used as a Cabinet Room or President's Library. The 1817 reconstruction of the White House saw the Cabinet Room/Presidential Library turned into the State Dining Room. The White House was extensively renovated in 1902, during which the Grand Stair was demolished and a new Grand Staircase was built east of the Entrance Hall. The State Dining Room expanded northward into the space formerly occupied by the Grand Stair. The small fireplaces in the east and west walls of the State Dining Room were removed, and the northern door to the Palm Court sealed. (Another door to the Palm Court, beneath the former Grand Stairs, was also sealed.) Where the old Palm Court door existed, a new, massive stone fireplace and oversize mantel (the famous "Buffalo mantel") were added, to match the enlarged room's size and grandeur. The great Venetian window which formerly spanned the width of the Cross Hall in the mansion's west wall was reduced in size to the width of a standard First Floor window. A French door in the lower half of this window now led to the breezeway. The room was paneled in English oak in a Renaissance Revival style, and the furnishings replaced to turn the room into a Beaux-Arts baronial hall (complete with tapestries, cooking racks over the fireplace, and stuffed animal heads).
During the 1948-to-1952 reconstruction of the White House, the State Dining Room was radically redecorated. The "Buffalo mantel" was not reused, and instead given to President Truman (who had it installed it in his presidential library). The oak paneling, heavy damaged during its removal, was reinstalled and given a coat of bright celadon green to hide the flaws. (Some of the frieze had to be recarved where it had been sanded down to accommodate the stuffed animal heads.) The painting scheme proved too much. Jacqueline Kennedy had the room painted bone white in 1961, but that proved too bright. The room was painted antique white in 1971 and again in 1981, and then off-white with an umber glaze in 1985.
Family Dining Room and Chief Usher's Office
As originally constructed, north of the Cross Hall was a Public Dining Room and (between the dining room and the entrance hall) a Porter's Lodge and a narrow, winding Private Stair. When the White House was rebuilt in 1817, the Public Dining Room became the Private Dining Room. The room was partitioned to make it smaller, and the western third of the room turned into a pantry. President James Monroe gave State Dinners in the Private Dining Room from 1817 to 1825, and subsequent presidents used it as a formal dining room for the First Family or as a space for official but small official events. By 1849 it was used primarily as a ladies' receiving room, a function it retained as late as 1865.
During the White House's 1902 renovation, the pantry received a mezzanine to increase its utility. To the Family Dining Room were added a vaulted ceiling, faux paneling, and a frieze featuring Neoclassical designs. The frieze was broken by the high windows in the north wall, but the windows were lowered in 1961 and the frieze allowed to continue unbroken around the entire room. The faux paneling was also removed at this time, and the walls painted yellow. The Family Dining Room underwent its first significant renovation sinc the Kennedy years in 2015. First Lady Michelle Obama had the room painted a light grey, and the decor, furniture, rug, and artwork now reflect a Mid-20th Century Modern look.
The area immediately to the east of the Family Dining Room, tucked against the Entrance Hall, was originally service space. A porter's "lodge" (work and storage space) occupied the northern two-thirds of the sapce, while a narrow, sharping winding back stairs allowed servants to access the Second Floor. By 1801, the porter's space had become a generic workroom. It was made into a porter's lodge again in 1825. It retained this use as late as 1865. The renovation of 1902 moved the servants' staircase into the center of this area, creating a corridor on the north and west sides and a small closet to the south. After the 1948-to-1952 gutting and restoration of the White House, the northern space became the Chief Usher's office. It continued to retain this layout as of 2010.
The Second Floor contains the private living apartments and kitchen of the president and his family. Some of these rooms are used for official entertaining, but most are reserved for private use. Residents choose from a weekly menu offered by the White House chef. The government pays for state dinners and other official functions, but the president pays for food that he, his family, and personal guests consume; the high food bill often amazes new residents. The following rooms are found on the Second Floor: Yellow Oval Room, Treaty Room, President's Dining Room, Lincoln Bedroom, Lincoln Sitting Room, Queens' Bedroom, Queens' Sitting Room, Central Hall, East Sitting Hall, and West Sitting Hall. The Truman Balcony is also located on this floor. Four private bedrooms and a dressing room are reserved for the president. Different presidents have used various rooms as their bedroom. What is now known as the President's Bedroom has traditionally been used as the First Lady's bedroom, although this was Abraham Lincoln's bedroom; historically many presidents used what is now called the Private Sitting Room as their bedroom.
During a 1927 renovation the White House attic was rebuilt into a third floor. It was further expanded with the Truman Reconstruction and currently contains 20 rooms, nine bathrooms, and a main hall. This floor was once used for staff bedrooms, but no staff currently live in the White House. Jacqueline Kennedy extensively decorated these rooms with her favorite White House antiques, with her best known room being the "Empire Guest Room" (finished in First French Empire style). President Jimmy Carter had one room paneled with wood panels taken from an old family barn in Georgia. First Lady Hillary Clinton turned one of the rooms into a soundproof music room where President Bill Clinton could play his saxophone without disturbing others, turned a guest room into an exercise room, and created an "Eleanor Roosevelt Room" for her own use. A sunroom with wet bar (atop the south portico), billiards room, and outdoor rooftop promenade are also features of the third floor. Visiting dignitaries are normally housed in the Second Floor state bedrooms and foreign heads of state customarily stay at Blair House.
- Jefferson also asked Latrobe to design permanent partitions for the East Room in 1807. Latrobe did so. It is widely assumed that these were never implement, but Phillips-Schrock argues, based on photographs taken during the mansion's 1952 reconstruction, that these alterations were in fact implemented in the northern half of the East Room.
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- White House Historical Association - an official virtual museum of the White House, with floor plans, photographs, and extensive descriptions of both historical and current furnishings.