Second floor layout

Just posted a revised layout of the Residence second floor. By reviewing the floorplans at the back of Designing Camelot, I found that my source layout, even with changes I’d made from my own research, didn’t quite have the east end right. The closets are arranged rather differently and most of the walls are not the full thickness of the outer walls like they are on the first floor. This has the happy result of doubling my confidence that the kitchen elevator and spiral stairs both go all the way to the second floor at the west end. DC also has a partial third floor layout, so my half-completed redrawing of the third floor will now be better informed also.

Also, last night, I added a few of those new Truman West Wing photos I found on the UMD NARA site, including the old West Wing Lobby, the President’s Secretary’s Office (with a good view of the doors to the OO and the Rose Garden), and the OO before Truman changed the decor, finally giving a really good look at the Roosevelt window treatments (I liked them so much I did a close-up). Unfortunately, no pics of the old bowling alley or the pre-1952 elevators.

Speaking of close-ups, a while back I did a close-up of the TR trophies in the State Dining Room. Since the LOC and UMD NARA sites offer very hi-res images, I may do more of these in the future. Sometimes even a hi-res photo can be of very low quality (over- or underexposed), but sometimes the focus and tone are so clean that it allows us a peek into the room that the subject and photographer never intended.

Hoover, Truman, and Camelot

Added the rest of the Hoover pics. Visitor Dennis corrected my placement of a couple of images already as he graciously has in the past. They were actually Hoover-era Lincoln Bedroom photos, of which I already had one, but they’re good photos and nicely document the era. Getting help getting these details right is very gratifying. The mistakes and shoulder-shrugging I’ve found in the official archive sites attests to how tricky it can be.

I re-searched the Roosevelt and Ike files and still came up with nothing. For the heck of it, even tho I already have a million Truman pics, I looked at the Truman archive and found a half million more good images. What the heck were Roosevelt’s photographers taking pictures of? German u-boats?

However, much more important, after reviewing the floor plans in the back of Designing Camelot (one of the books I just got), I find I have a couple of details about the second floor wrong and a clearer view of what the third floor should look like. Sooo, I’ll be redrawing them again soon.

Nixon and Hoover(!)

I would never have imagined a year ago that I would get excited about finding 17 pages of an unpublished manuscript by Lou Hoover. But after adding several photos from the UMD NARA site from the Nixon era, I looked again at the Hoover papers and discovered Mrs. Hoover’s unpublished partial history of the White House, complete with contemporary pictures! I find Mrs. Hoover’s style to be so charming (if ideosynchratic) that I added a couple of quotes directly from the pages. But the real treasures are the high-resolution images of the pages featuring photos of rooms from about 1930.

Also– added a page for the WW Lobby. Pictures of this space are scarce, but Pete Sharkey’s 3D recreation provides a great view (thanks again, Pete!). When his project is further along, I’ll start linking to all his 3D White House models on Google.

Kennedy and GHW Bush years

Finished poring over the Carter pictures at UMD’s NARA site and processing some for inclusion in the site (and linking back to the page with hi-res versions). Then I moved on to Kennedy. Unfortunately, it appears that there aren’t nearly as many images in the pre-Carter collections on that site (oddly, the Kennedy pics are better preserved; not nearly as dingy altho with lots more dust). I found several good ones from the Kennedy era and moved on to George HW Bush. The Bush Library site has a good selection of large photos that I’ve already studied, so I didn’t find many good ones that I didn’t already have. Nothing from Hoover or FDR, unfortunately. I still have the Nixon and Reagan pictures to go thru.

Open note to UMD: the purpose of thumbnail images is to display many images on the same page. Putting each thumbnail on a separate page defeats the purpose, you dopes.

Carter photorama

Stumbled across the motherload of high-res archival photos from the Carter years. These seem to be some sort of demo done by the University of Maryland for the National Archives. It’s a very clunky interface, glacially slow, and often a crapshoot (click on a Menachem Begin visit, get Amy Carter posing with her cat Misty Malarkey Ying Yang) but far better than what the actual NARA site offers. Unfortunately, I had downloaded and processed about ten images from NARA’s Carter collection before finding this site, so there was a lot of rework.

The collection explicitly states what I already knew: that the Carters didn’t bother to have many photos taken in the residence. On the other hand, there’s a million shots of the president eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner with various guests. Just going by the photos, the guy should have outweighed Taft.

Photos of photos

I added some new photos that I got out of one of the books I just bought. They nicely update the Blue Room, Family Dining Room, Lincoln Sitting Room, and Treaty Room. I also found a picture of McKinley’s secretary (chief of staff) in his office in what is today the Queen’s Bedroom. That room really needed more pre-Truman pics. And I cleaned up some of the Kitchen and pantry pics and captions.

I also created a page for the West Wing Lobby and posted it but didn’t link to it from the floor plan so I could check with Pete first. I used two of his 3D recreation pic and wanted to check with him first, since the whole West Wing recreation isn’t finished and published yet.

Note: I fixed the archive links. You’d link Blogger would be easier to use than this. The settings are not very clear.

Pantry pictures

I’m continuing to add some of the terrific photos sent to me by visitors, especially Pete S. These have nicely filled in the Chief Usher’s Office, the West Wing Lobby, the modern Butler’s Pantry, and a few other holes.

Also, When I got home from traveling Friday night, I found that the books I’d ordered had arrived. Previously I had done nearly all my research online and had bought the White House Historical Association’s The White House – An Historical Guide as my only actual book. Now I have The White House – It’s Historic Furnishings & First Families, West’s Upstairs at the White House, and also Designing Camelot – The Kennedy White House Restoration.

West Wing redux

With a lot of help from visitor Pete (who is creating a phenomenal 3-D White House in Google Sketchup), I redid the West Wing with the much more accurate floor plan he found and added several pictures he culled from a DVD put out by the White House. The result is a major improvement, I think.

I’m still flummoxed by the layout of the Press Corps Offices, tho. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the video they showed at the last White House Correspondents dinner and the new pics by Julie Mason haven’t nearly as much as I’d hoped. Oh well… maybe we’ll get a tour when the renovation is complete.

Mail call!

Got a ton of e-mail from several visitors who are White House fans, including some with attachments of terrific new photos. I’ve added some already and will do more in the next couple of days. One attachment is a much, much better floorplan of the West Wing first floor (thanks, Pete!), so I’ll be redrawing the map ASAP.

New pics from 2006

I added a number of new photos that I managed to dig up on the White House site. These are all recent and of good quality (tho mostly smaller than my standard 600 pixels wide, so I had to blow them up). They really help illustrate the West Wing a bit better (like the Chief of Staff’s office) and a couple of rooms in the second floor of the Residence. In fact, until I found a photo, I didn’t even know that the Bushes had changed the wall coverings in the Private Dining Room again (the Clintons covered the Revolutionary War wallpaper).

I also added a few TR-era pics to the Kitchen and resequenced all the pages so the most recent photos come first and the oldest photos are at the bottom of the page.

New front page – Ford hospitalized

This week, I changed the front page picture from the 1962 Kennedy Blue Room to the 1948 FDR swimming pool under the Press Briefing Room, given that that room is in the news lately.

Also, former President Gerald Ford went into the hospital again today, the third time in a year. He turned 93 in July. As an honorary member of the White House Museum board of directors, he and his family have our best wishes.

External vs internal links

I spent most of last evening making some finicky changes to the White House Museum front pages to make them look nicer. This includes changes to the CSS file that allow me to make internal links blue and external links red, which seemed like a value to readers. However, it also means that I need to republish all the pages now, which is a bit of a chore, given the way I’ve structured the site.

However, since a lot of the pages are getting rather long, I think I’ll reorder the photos so that you go back in time as you scroll down. I suspect most people are interested in the White House as it is and was in the recent past, rather than as it was in 1873. Then, republishing all the pages at once will be more worth it.

Note to self: finished special project for GRF.

Residence expansion

I’ve posted dozens of new photos in the past couple of days and created a number of new pages to flesh out the third floor of the Residence and the pre-Truman second floor. It took some noodling to figure out which room was which, since the Truman Library archives don’t have them clearly labeled, and I may have made some mistakes. I’ve learned that I can’t always even trust the Library of Congress on rooms or dates, so it’s a pretty tricky puzzle. It actually helps a lot to draw a schematic of the room from the photo, with the doors and windows and fireplace, and then to try to fit it to the floor plan just like a puzzle piece. But even then, some rooms, like the Master Dressing Room and the Queen’s Sitting Room, have identical layouts.

Press Briefing Room closes

On Wednesday, the White House Press Briefing Room closed for renovations with a little ceremony and today White House staff began breaking it down. I found some nice snapshots from Wednesday, but it surprises me that real photographers don’t seem to have bothered to capture the Press Corps Offices over years.

Visits to the White House Museum spiked on Wednesday from people searching for “press briefing room.” It’s nice to see the site rising high in Google searches for those kinds of terms.

Encouraging words & newfound treasures

Got another terrific feedback note that included a little help on the Treaty Room and West Sitting Hall. I started linking the photo credit to the source image, partly to help prove that the West Sitting Hall photo was actually mislabeled by the Truman Library archives. Also, I found a fantastic resource in the Library of Congress by searching for “HABS” (Historical American Buildings Survey): Theodore Roosevelt-era hand-tinted super-high res versions of the same pics I’d been using to illustrate the TR era. Awesome. Some of those puppies are 130 MB TIFF files 7700 pixels across. Weirdly, altho these pics are labeled with a 1904 copyright by the original printer, the image of the Entrance Hall includes a portrait of TR, which seems odd to have while TR was still president. But the one of the President’s Office (rectangular version before the construction of the Oval Office) includes a calendar that is clearly May starting on a Sunday, which would definitely make it 1904.