Just a few of the exhibits you'll see!

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Category: Exhibits
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A TOUR OF THE CHANGING WHITE HOUSE

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A TOUR OF THE CHANGING WHITE HOUSE
THE WHITE HOUSE IN MINIATURE
NATIONAL BUILDING MUSEUM • MARCH 29 - SEPTEMBER 17, 2000

COSPONSORED BY THE WHITE HOUSE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

COVER John Zweifel's White House replica shows the house almost as it appears today. Photograph by Kathleen Culbert-Aguilar. Courtesy John Zweifel
BACK COVER Aerial view of the White House from the south, ca. 1935. Photograph by Todd Aerial Mapping Service. Courtesy Lake County (IL) Museum, Curt Teich Archives

SINCE THE DAY IN 1800
WHEN SECOND PRESIDENT JOHN ADAMS MOVED INTO THE WHITE HOUSE, THE EXECUTIVE MANSION HAS UNDERGONE ALMOST CONSTANT CHANGE. 

As the official residence of the president of the United States, it has been redecorated to provide new social images for successive administrations. As the president's office, it has been expanded to create workspace for an ever-increasing staff. As the home of the First Family, it has been altered to accommodate different household sizes and styles of living. Serving as both private house and public stage, it has been patched, renovated, and even rebuilt to correct the wear and stress of continuous use.

The exhibition THE WHITE HOUSE IN MINIATURE explores the decorative and structural changes that two centuries of First Families, architects, engineers, and interior designers have brought to architect James Hoban's original design. It follows the historical development of the house as a symbol of the American democracy, from George Washington's desire to project great national expectations with grand size and Neoclassical style; to Chester Arthur's preference to entertain stylishly in avant-garde, high-art interiors; to Theodore Roosevelt's hope of recapturing the character of the Federal period through elaborate new state rooms; to Jacqueline Kennedy's efforts to remake the house as an historic landmark whose protection and preservation were assured by an act of Congress. 

This booklet provides a pocket historical tour of the exterior and interior of the White House. It shows some of the ways that both the building and its interior decoration have changed—and why those changes took place.

TOURING THE EXTERIOR
First published view of the White House, showing the north front, from The Stranger in America, 1807

COURTESY THE WHITE HOUSE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

This view shows the original portion of the White House as it appeared from the north—two floors with attic and basement and wooden steps leading to the front door. Enormous for its day, the building was from the beginning an expression of George Washington's great expectations for the early republic. Irish-born architect James Hoban designed it for a competition judged by Washington in 1792 and oversaw its fitful construction between 1793 and 1800.

Much of the White House was destroyed when the British army torched the building in 1814. It was reconstructed (with additions) using the repaired exterior walls between 1815 and 1829.

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TOURING THE EXTERIOR
Construction of the East Wing, 1902

COURTESY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Controlling and accommodating the annual crush of visitors was a challenge at the White House well before 1902. In that year, an expansive guest entrance was added to the east side of the house, its interior dominated by a cloakroom with hatboxes to accommodate 2,700 guests.

Specific visiting hours have existed at the White House since at least the 1830s, allowing the public to tour the state floor rooms. In addition, hundreds—sometimes thousands—of visitors at a time have come to the house throughout its history to meet the president and his family at both public and private receptions. Today about 40,000 invited guests annually attend special functions at the mansion, and between 1 and 1.5 million tourists take the public tours.

TOURING THE EXTERIOR
White House conservatories, ca. 1900

COURTESY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

The particular needs of housekeeping in the Executive Mansion have left their own mark on the changing house. A desire to improve the domes-tic service spaces led Thomas Jefferson to add wings in 1807. Stables for horses were constructed nearby after the 1814 fire. The growing demand for flowers, fruits, and greenery for the house resulted in a campus of conservatories that emerged after 1857. At one time including an orchid room and rose and palm houses, the greenhouses supplied the elaborate living decorations that were a central part of official entertaining in the late nineteenth century. They also provided a retreat for the president and his family, as well as another attraction for official and tourist visitors.

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TOURING THE EXTERIOR

West Wing being expanded, 1909

COURTESY THE WHITE HOUSE

Offices for the president and his staff were in the original portion of the White House from 1800 until 1902. For most of that time, they were located just steps from the family's bedrooms. As the executive staff—and the number of business visitors—increased, both the offices and the living quarters grew crowded. In 1902, an unobtrusive two-story west wing pro-vided new office space, replacing the offices in the main house and giv-ing the president a square, corner office. But by 1909, this wing itself was crowded. Further construction expanded it to the south, and a new, centrally located oval room became the president's office. Damaged by fire in 1929 and rebuilt, the west wing was expanded again in 1934, this time for Franklin D. Roosevelt and with yet another, differently situated, oval office. This office is the one the president uses today.

TOURING THE INTERIOR

Entrance vestibule, ca. 1889

COURTESY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

This circa 1889 photograph shows how successive generations of First Families and designers have sought to improve the amenities and update the style of the White House. The expansive entry vestibule was planned by James Hoban in 1792 for ceremonial occasions during which the President's House would be filled with people. A wood-framed glass screen was introduced in the 183os in an attempt to control both drafts and access to the state rooms. It was replaced in cast iron in 1853, and its red, white, and blue stained glass was installed later—by interior designer Louis C. Tiffany in 1882. The florid ceiling and wall paintings, combining natural and patriotic imagery, were created in 1869, and the floor was designed in 188o in stock colors and patterns of hard-wearing modern tile for both stylishness and practicality.

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TOURING THE INTERIOR

The Blue Room, 1882

COURTESY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

This photograph illustrates the effect one president's taste could have on White House decoration. Chester A. Arthur began his term determined to entertain in the avant-garde style he had enjoyed previously in New York society. He hired Louis C. Tiffany & Co. to redecorate some of the White House's rooms in 1882. Tiffany designed high-art "aesthetic" interiors especially suited for nighttime entertaining, when flickering gaslights could create dazzling effects in the firm's signature glass and metallic paints. The firm painted the Blue Room in graduated shades of blue. Above an eight-foot-high frieze highlighted in gray and pale silver, the ceiling showed patriotic shields created with gold, silver, copper, and bronze leafs. On the walls, glass mosaic rosettes reflected the light of seven-jet gas wall sconces. This decor survived in the Blue Room until 1891.

TOURING THE INTERIOR

The State Dining Room, ca. 1902

COURTESY THE WHITE HOUSE

Originally, the State Dining Room seated about 3o people. In the 188os, i-shaped tables expanded the room's capacity to as many as 65 diners. To better serve the president's social commitments, the 1902 renovation increased the room's size by a third by annexing the west end of the adjacent hall. To accommodate the tastes of Theodore Roosevelt, architect Charles F. McKim altered the room to suggest the rugged outdoor life of English country estates, complete with carved and polished oak-panelled walls, a deeply sculpted plaster ceiling, tapestries, and hunting trophies of North American animals. By the early 192os, 104 people could dine together in this room. Today, the oak panelling has been painted, the animal heads are long gone, and 140 guests can be accommodated.

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TOURING THE INTERIOR

Demolition of the interior, 1950 Photograph by Abbie Rowe

COURTESY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE AND THE WHITE HOUSE

Most of today's White House was built between 1950 and 1952. The Truman family lived for three years in the White House bothered by creaking noises, drafts, cracking plaster, and unusual floor movements. Studies in 1948 determined that years of use and modification had seriously weakened the building's structure, making it unsafe. Deciding to save what he could, Truman asked Congress for $5.4 million to totally rebuild the White House within the original exterior stone walls designed by James Hoban. The ruined main stair and soon-to-vanish cross hall appear in this 1950 photograph. Although the architects made detailed plans to reuse original woodwork and ornamental plaster, little was reused because of removal damage, time pressures, and cost cutting.

TOURING THE INTERIOR

The Red Room, 1962 Photograph by Robert Knudsen

COURTESY THE JOHN F. KENNEDY LIBRARY

Although Theodore Roosevelt and others previously had regarded the White House as an historic monument, it was in response to the efforts of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy that Congress in 1961 wrote into law provisions for the preservation and interpretation of the building's principal public rooms. Mrs. Kennedy brought a modern sensitivity to furnishing the White House. In 1961, she appointed a Fine Arts Committee of scholars and wealthy friends to acquire authentic Federal period furnishings to emphasize the White House's historical significance. She hired a professional curator, and, with the help of Parisian interior decorator Stephane Boudin, she created historically inspired but stylishly modern state rooms.

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THE WHITE HOUSE IN MINIATURE is cosponsored by the White House Historical Association. Additional funding has been provided by Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell; Chevy Chase Bank; The Clark Charitable Foundation; the Darby Foundation; Riggs National Corporation; Dr. and Mrs. Charts E. Walker; the Philip L. Graham Fund; Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc.; Eric and Marianne Billings; Marriott International, Inc.; Hitt Contracting, Inc.; the Mosbacher Foundation; Tyler and Bess Abell; and Fritz-Alan Korth.
PAMELA J. SCOTT, guest curator MICHAEL R. HARRISON, coordinating curator The exhibition was designed by Kevin Osborn and Anne-Catherine Fallen, Research & Design, Ltd.

PUBLIC PROGRAMS

Monday, April 10 6:30 — 8 pm

DESIGNING CAMELOT: THE KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE RESTORATION
$io Museum members; $14 nonmembers. Registration required.

Wednesday, May 31 6:30 — 8 pm

WILLIAM SEALE ON THE PRESIDENTS HOUSE
$10 Museum members; $14 nonmembers. Registration required.

Monday, June 26 6:30  — 8 pm

THE WHITE HOUSE IN THE 21ST CENTURY: SERVING THE PRESIDENCY AND THE PUBLIC
$io Museum members; $14 nonmembers. Registration required.

FAMILY PROGRAMS
Sunday, May 28 12 — 4 Pm WHITE HOUSE BY DESIGN Free. Registration not required.

FILMS

Saturdays and Sundays April 22, June 11, July 8, August 5

2 —3

pm INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE
Free. Registration not required.

Saturdays and Sundays May 13, June 18, July 22, August — 3 pm

UPON THESE GROUNDS: EXPLORING THE WHITE HOUSE GARDEN
Free. Registration not required.

Group tours of the exhibition are available. Registration required. Please call 202 272-2448 ext. 3300 for more information.

The National Building Museum, a nonprofit educational institution, was created by Congress in 1980 to celebrate American achievements in architecture, urban planning, construction, engineering, and design. It presents exhibitions and public programs, collects artifacts of the building process, and publishes books and a quarterly journal.

National Building Museum 401 F Street NW Washington, DC 20001 Metro Red Line, Judiciary Square Station

Telephone: 202 272-2448 Facsimile: 202 272-2564 Web site: www.nbm.org
Museum Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm Sunday, 12 to 5 pm

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