East Room

East Room





The East Room is the largest room in the White House, the home of the President of the United States. It is used for entertaining, press conferences, ceremonies, and occasionally for a large dinner. The White House's oldest possession, the 1797 Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, rescued from the 1814 fire, hangs in the East Room with a companion portrait of Martha Washington painted by Eliphalet F. Andrews in 1878.

History and design

In the earliest floor plans the room is labeled as the "Public Audience Hall." Many thought the title sounded too similar to a throne room, and too regal for a new republic. The East Room was among the last rooms on the State Floor to be finished and used. Abigail Adams hung laundry to dry there. During the Jefferson administration the room was partitioned and the southern end used for offices, one portion for Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery. In 1814–1815, following the burning of the White House, the East Room received new door frames and inlaid mahogany doors that remain in the room today. New finished plaster work in the form of a frieze of anthemion (a flowerlike, traditional Greek decorative pattern) was installed. This work was directed by architect Benjamin Latrobe with consultation with James Hoban, the original architect. Shortly after, the Monroes had a set of twenty-four upholstered mahogany chairs and four sofas made by Georgetown cabinetmaker William King. These were placed in the State Dining Room and the East Room. Still, the room was not completely furnished, or installed with suitable evening lighting. Not until 1829 during the administration of Andrew Jackson was the room truly finished and used regularly for public receptions. Jackson installed three large oil burning chandeliers, pier mirrors to reflect the light, and brilliant floral carpeting. A set of pier tables manufactured in Philadelphia were combined with the Monroe era chairs and sofas. Through the remaining nineteenth century a parade of highly ornamental revival styles decorated the room.

The Lincoln administration East Room is remembered for the president's anger at the cost of redecorating the room, for Union troops being quartered there, and sadly for the president lying in repose there after his assassination. President Grant installed large ornamental false beams, and three large cut glass gas chandeliers. The press derisively termed the style "steamboat gothic." Chester A. Arthur had Louis Comfort Tiffany repaint the room and install highly patterned metallic ceiling paper in a style known as the Aesthetic Movement. The room was increasingly filled with large potted palms, at one point so full as to look more like a green house.

Finally, during the Theodore Roosevelt administration renovation (1901–1902) by the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White, the room came to look very much like what we see today. Architect Charles McKim and his office did considerable historical research as to how the house appeared before, and immediately after the 1814 fire. As the East Room had not been decorated until 1829, McKim took. some liberties, devising a grand Beaux-Arts style reception hall. The room was panelled based on the 1780 Louis XVI style "Salon de famille" in the Château de Compiègne and painted cream white. Three large Bohemian crystal chandeliers, an oak parquet floor and a carved and gilded suite of banquettes and console tables completed the room. In 1938, working with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, staff architect Eric Gugler designed a concert grand piano built by Steinway & Sons. The piano is decorated with a gilded frieze illustrating American dance: alternating European style waltzes with western cowboy, African American and Native American dance. The piano is supported by three large gilded eagles in the Art Moderne style.

During the Truman White House reconstruction of 1949–1952, the East Room panelling, plaster ceiling and furnishings were dismantled, numbered, and stored. However damage to the original woodwork and plasterwork required both be replaced. New panelling was carved, but simpler and with considerably less presence. A simpler crown molding and ceiling medallions were also installed. While the feeling was similar, the robust architectural effect was diminished. The size of the large chandeliers was reduced by several inches and outfitted with internal illumination for softer lighting. Red marble mantels were installed during the Truman renovation.

During the Kennedy restoration, interior designer Stéphane Boudin recommended the mantels be faux painted to appear as white marble, providing more unity to the room. Boudin also oversaw design of new drapery for the room, not installed until the Johnson administration. Made of a custom manufactured gold silk lampas, the drapery was hung in straight panels without valances from the carved and gilded 1902 woode cornices.The Kennedys installed a small moveable stage for the room, the Johnsons had a larger temporary stage with Corinthian pilasters matching the room's architecture built. This allowed for small theatrical events to be performed as entertainment following state dinners. During the Clinton administration the faux marble finish was removed from the mantels revealing the red marble and new Aubusson style carpets were woven to protect the parquet floors. Mrs. Bush installed new curtains, following the Kennedy fabric but with deeper swagged valances than those selected by Mrs. Reagan in 1982. Hers were the second curtains to follow the Kennedy fabric for the East Room.


The East Room is presently in the design phase of a refurbishment by the Committee for the Preservation of the White House and White House curator William Allman. Refurbishment of the White House's historic rooms happen on a regular basis. Input from the current first family, along with reference to historical documents and sometimes new research help guide the decisions of the committee.


*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.
*Garrett, Wendell. "Our Changing White House." Northeastern University Press: 1995. ISBN 1-55553-222-5.
*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.
*West, J.B. with Mary Lynn Kotz. "Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies." Coward, McCann & Geoghegan: 1973. SBN 698-10546-X.
*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.

External links

* [http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/floor1/east-room.htm White House Museum: East Room] floor plan and historical photographs
* [http://www.musee-chateau-compiegne.fr/homes/home_id24349_u1l2.htm Photograph of the Salon de famille at the Château de Compiègne]

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