State Dining Room
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The State Dining Room is the larger of two dining rooms on the State Floor of the White House, the home of the President of the United States. It is used for receptions, luncheons, and larger formal dinners called state dinners for visiting heads of state on state visits. The room seats 140 guests. The room measures approximately 48 feet by 36 feet. It has six doors leading to a butler's pantry, the Family Dining Room, Cross Hall, and Red Room, and the West Terrace. During the Andrew Jackson administration the room came to be formally called the "State Dining Room."
Early history and furnishings
Earliest White House floor plans by architect James Hoban label the southwest corner room on the first floor as a dining room, but it was used as an office, library and cabinet room before finally being used as a dining room. Following the 1814 fire and the 1817 reconstruction of the house President James Monroe ordered gilt service (purchased from France in 1817) and ornamental bronze-doré pieces. A plateau centerpiece, with seven mirrored sections, measures over 14 feet long when fully extended. Standing bacchantes holding wreaths for tiny bowls or candles border the plateau. Three fruit baskets, supported by female figures, are often used to hold flowers. The two Italian marble mantels presently in the Green Room and Red Room were also bought by Madison, and were originally installed in this room.
The original State Dining Room, located in the southern area of the present room, was almost half the size of the present room. Removal of a grand stairway on the west end of the house in the 1902 renovation by the architecture firm of McKim, Mead, and White allowed for the enlargement of the room, and reorientation with the length of the room running north-south. Charles Follen McKim modeled the style of the room after that of neoclassical English houses of the late eighteenth. Below a ceiling and a cornice of white plaster, a dark natural oak paneling with Corinthian pilasters and a delicately carved frieze was installed. This work was executed by Herter Brothers. Stanford White designed the William & Mary-style armchairs and Queen Anne-style side chairs, along with a large serving table and two large console tables, each with eagle supports. The furniture was produced by A. H. Davenport and Company, a Boston furniture company. This included large, heavy Chiavari chairs. The serving table was placed against the north wall, and the two console tables on the east wall. A silver-plate chandelier and complementing wall sconces by Edward F. Caldwell & Co. were installed, but these have now been gilded. The two rococo-revival candelabra on the mantel date from the Hayes administration.
Systematic failure of the internal wood beam structure required reconstruction during the administration of Harry S. Truman. The building was dismantled and an internal steel superstructure was constructed within the sandstone walls. While providing critically needed repairs, much of the original interior materials were damaged or not reinstalled. The State Dining Room, more than any room had the majority of its wall and ceiling materials reinstalled. Damage to the wood, and a desire to make the room feel less English and more American led to the painting of the oak paneling. The McKim mantel was moved to Truman's presidential library and replaced with a simple neo-Georgian style mantel of dark green marble. A set of reproductions of Chippendale-style side chairs replaced the McKim's Queen Anne-style chairs at the dining table.
Jacqueline Kennedy worked with American antiques expert Henry Francis du Pont and French interior designer Stéphane Boudin on the restoration of the State Dining Room. Du Pont and Boudin both recommended that changes should emphasize the earlier work of McKim. Most of the changes made to the room are still visible today. The silver plate chandelier and wall sconces were gilded, and the sconces formerly mounted on the pilasters were reinstalled in the side panels, bringing more focus to the pilasters. The 1902 mantel was restored during the Kennedy renovation and includes the inscription placed there by Franklin D. Roosevelt, from a letter by John Adams to his wife Abigail written immediately after he first moved into the house in 1800: "I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this House, and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."
McKim's mahogany consoles were painted ivory white and the eagle supports and bowknots gilded; the new color scheme for those pieces were intended to make the pieces blend into the paneling. A new carpet, a copy of one Boudin designed for Leeds Castle was woven and installed. Stark Carpet Co. of New York wove the rug. At large dinners the formal horseshoe configured table was replaced with a series of smaller round tables, a tradition that continues today. The portrait of Abraham Lincoln by George P.A. Healy was restored, reversing conspicuous damage. The Chippendale reproduction sidechairs were removed and replaced by the Chiavari chairs by McKim, Mead and White. The gold damask draperies installed during the Truman administration were retained.
Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush refurbishments
In 1967, Lady Bird Johnson oversaw the installation of new draperies, based on a design created by Stephane Boudin shortly before President Kennedy's assassination, as well as reupholstery of the 1902 chairs. First Lady Pat Nixon worked with White House curator Clement Conger to refresh the room in 1971, replacing the Kennedy-era carpet with one of Indian manufacture.
In 1973, a man and woman broke away from the public tour of the White House and splashed six vials of blood on the walls and some of the furniture in the State Dining Room. The couple said they were protesting the status of oppressed people everywhere.
During the presidency of George W. Bush, the badly worn 1952 floor of the State Dining Room was removed. New flooring made of white oak, manufactured by Kentucky WoodFloors, was installed by Mountain State Floors (a West Virginia company) in a herringbone pattern.
By the early 1990s, more than 50,000 people a year were being entertained in the State Dining Room. The heavy use left the room shabby and in need of significant repair and conservation.
In December 1998, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled a renovated State Dining Room. She was advised by interior designer Kaki Hockersmith (a long-time friend of the Clintons), interior designer Mark Hampton of New York City (who had worked on the White House for President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush), and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. The room's walls were repainted a light stone color. The console tables were restored to their original mahogany finish. The room's 66 chairs were reupholstered in a gold damask. New ivory silk draperies, manufactured by F. Schumacher & Co., with printed full-color baskets, flowers, and ribbons, replaced the solid gold fabric drapes of the 1980s. The drapes were designed to reflect the color pattern of the White House china. A $113,031 ($163,546 in 2015 dollars), 43-by-28-foot (13.1 by 8.5 m) carpet with a floral medallion pattern was also installed. The carpet was woven by Scott Group Custom Carpets in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The wall sconces were also refinished, their matte finish replaced by a brilliant metallic gold. Sources differ as to the cost, with one putting it at $270,507 ($391,401 in 2015 dollars) and another at $341,000 ($493,399 in 2015 dollars), but the cost was paid for by the White House Endowment Trust. The Clinton refurbishment was not as successful as hoped. White House Curator William G. Allman noted that at night, the lack of backlighting from outside tended to make the drapes fade into the walls.
The Clintons were also the first to use the East Room for most state dinners, rather than the much smaller State Dining Room. The reason was size: The State Dining Room could accommodate only about 136 people, while the East Room sat 260. The Clintons also used maruqees, set up on the South Lawn of the White House, for state dinners, which allowed seating to run as high as 700 individuals. President George W. Bush, however, returned to the practice of hosting state dinners almost exclusively in the State Dining Room. The gold-upholstered chairs were often removed for meals and replaced with smaller chairs from elsewhere in the White House, as they proved too bulky to accommodate large numbers of guests around dining tables.
By 2011, the heavy wear and tear on the State Dining Room had taken a heavy toll on the rugs and drapes in State Dining Room.
On June 25, 2015, a renovated State Dining Room was unveiled by First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House began planning the renovation in 2012.[a] The first element of the renovation, a 28-by-43-foot (8.5 by 13.1 m) carpet, was installed in 2012. The wool rug,[b] woven by Scott Group Custom Carpets, features a border of wreaths surrounding a field of mottled light blue accented by clusters of oak leaves. The carpet's design mimics the plaster molding of the ceiling.
The new silk window draperies are ecru in color, accented with stripes of peacock blue intended to mimic the Kailua blue color of the White House china (which in turn mimics the waters of President Obama's home state of Hawaii). Fabric for the draperies was manufactured by an undisclosed firm in Pennsylvania. The window valances feature heavy swags, with gold bullion fringe, and reflect similar window treatments from the 1800s. The drapes hang from carved and gilded poles whose design echoes that of similar drapery poles in the Red Room and Green Room. The walls and moldings were repainted in various shades of white and glazed, to highlight their details.
A new set of 34 mahogany chairs replaced the Theodore Roosevelt-era Chiavari chairs, which had proved too large and cumbersome. The set includes six armchairs and 28 side chairs. The new chairs were designed to be multifunctional, and fit with both the heavy, main dining table as well as smaller dining rounds. The look of the Obama armchairs is based on chairs designed by Georgetown cabinetmaker William King, Jr. in 1818 for President James Monroe. The side chairs are an adaptation of this design. All the chairs are upholstered in brown horsehair fabric in a grid-like pattern, and trimmed with brass nailheads. The chairs were manufactured by Baker Furniture in Hickory, North Carolina, and the fabric by Brunschwig & Fils.
- Koncious, Jura (June 26, 2015). "Obama Legacy Includes a New Look for White House's State Dining Room". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
- Ross, Nancy L. (June 23, 1988). "New Presidential Rug". The Washington Post. p. HO11.
- Fernandez, Maria Elena (January 14, 1998). "Tourist at White House Defaces 2 Sculptures With Spray Paint". The Washington Post. p. B1.
- Koncius, Jura (December 24, 1998). "Dining in Style". The Washington Post. p. T5.
- Elving, Belle (August 8, 1996). "The Men Who Wood Be President". The Washington Post. p. T5.
- Fleming, Lee (July 23, 1998). "Floor Repair: What's New Underfoot". The Washington Post. p. 7.
- Superville, Darlene (July 7, 2015). "First Lady Gives New Look to State Dining Room". Associated Press. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
- Gerhart, Ann; Roberts, Roxanne (September 5, 2001). "At Last, the Bush White House Is Ready to Party". The Washington Post. p. C1.
- "Michelle Obama Reveals Her 'Modest' $590k Changes to White House State Dining Room". Daily Mail. July 7, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
- Lynch, Rene (July 9, 2015). "A $590,000 Makeover for the White House's State Dining Room". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
- White House Historical Association (June 2015). White House State Dining Room Fact Sheet (PDF) (Report). Washington, D.C. p. 4. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
For further reading
- Abbott, James A. A Frenchman in Camelot: The Decoration of the Kennedy White House by Stéphane Boudin. Boscobel Restoration Inc.: 1995. ISBN 0-9646659-0-5.
- Abbott James A., and Elaine M. Rice. Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration. Van Nostrand Reinhold: 1998. ISBN 0-442-02532-7.
- Clinton, Hillary Rodham. An Invitation to the White House: At Home with History. Simon & Schuster: 2000. ISBN 0-684-85799-5.
- McKellar, Kenneth, Douglas W. Orr, Edward Martin, et al. Report of the Commission on the Renovation of the Executive Mansion. Commission on the Renovation of the Executive Mansion, Government Printing Office: 1952.
- Monkman, Betty C. The White House: The Historic Furnishing & First Families. Abbeville Press: 2000. ISBN 0-7892-0624-2.
- Seale, William. The President's House. White House Historical Association and the National Geographic Society: 1986. ISBN 0-912308-28-1.
- Seale, William, The White House: The History of an American Idea. White House Historical Association: 1992, 2001. ISBN 0-912308-85-0.
- Wolff, Perry. A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Doubleday & Company: 1962.
- The White House: An Historic Guide. White House Historical Association and the National Geographic Society: 2001. ISBN 0-912308-79-6.
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