Ike on parade

Took another look at the Eisenhower Library photo repository and found a handful of photos to add to help fill out the 1950s White House. He’s playing cards in the Treaty Room, looking over a space capsule in the Roosevelt Room, sitting quietly in the OO, and appearing on TV in the Library. I’d love to have a picture of his Trophy Room (YOR) or other family rooms, but these remain elusive.

Presidents’ bathubs

I’ve added a page just for the Living Room Bath to accommodate all the info I’ve gathered about the presidential bath, including the story of LBJ’s ridiculous shower, and a nice quote from the 1952 Plumbing News that describes the Truman bathroom. This corrects the mistake I’d made by including the LBJ story in the bath sections of the Master Dressing Room page. Meanwhile, on the Master Dressing Room page, I added a picture of the Taft bathtub to illustrate the old story about Taft getting stuck in a small tub.

However, I’m a little uncertain that the quote from the Plumbing News was actually referring to the president’s bathroom (Living Room Bath) rather than the Master Bath.

Books and photos

This past weekend, I got the WHHA’s White House History books I ordered: Kennedy 2 and Collection 1. I pulled a pic of Caroline K’s bedroom from the first, but didn’t even open the other. I’ve also ordered some videos, but not movies to review for the work-in-progress movie page. The ones I’ve ordered are historical documentaries and docu-dramas.

I’ve also quietly added a few other pics here and there (Nixon gals in the ESH, for example), but otherwise, I’ve been working on my other Web site (specifically, a new page of my photos and some other stuff).

UPDATE: Fixed the ref to Caroline’s bedroom. She had the east; Junior had the west.

A return to the second floor

I’m about a third of the way thru America’s First Families (which, it occurs to me, without the subtitle, could be a book about Eskimos), and twice Carl S Anthony refers to two back staircase on the west end second floor of the Residence. Previously, I had dismissed a similar reference as referring to the back staircase on the east end of the house that leads up to the Music Room, but Anthony is clear.

That leaves me wondering if maybe Margaret Truman’s bathroom was completely removed or drastically reduced to a tiny lavatory to allow the kitchen spiral staircase to be extended into the second floor during the Kennedy renovation that changed her bedroom into a kitchen. This is what I had thought after exploring the kitchen elevator, but later I wasn’t sure enough to keep the change.


Where the heck is this?

Welcome to the first installment of “Where the heck is this?” the fastest-growing White House trivia game on the Web. Today’s mystery: this photo was taken of three presidents at the time of the state (vice-state? semi-state? cum laude?) funeral for Hubert Humphrey in 1978, but where the heck was the picture taken? It’s driving me nuts. The combination of doors, arch transom, fireplace, and table is baffling.

Feel free to reply as a comment to this post. Nobody is using the comments feature for some reason.

UPDATE: The comment mystery is solved at least. I had user validation turned on.

SOLVED: Jack M writes: I located the Time Magazine from Jan. 30, 1978 with another picture and article by Hugh Sidey, the late Presidential Historian. It reads in part……

Almost with eagerness, Carter, Ford and Nixon followed Baker into an anteroom for a historic picture of the three. In a few minutes it was time for these people to take their places beneath the Capitol dome to honor Hubert Humphrey. Not since Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy came together in Bonham, Texas at the funeral of Sam Rayburn in 1961 has such a gathering occurred.

Second floor and West Wing

A few minor adds to the second floor and West Wing and its patio.

Pete S suggested creating a page for reviews of movies that feature the White House prominently, meant to evaluate the accuracy of the portrayal. He has done The American President. Once we’ve got a couple more (feel free to volunteer!), I’ll post it.

UPDATE: Actually, if you’re reading this weblog, you’re probably interested enough that I might as well let you see it in the draft stage.


As the site grows, I’m trying to decide how best to present information without it becoming overwhelming. The White House site divides their room coverage into “Life in the Red Room” and “Red Room Art and Furnishings” and so on. But this seems kind of awkward to me, especially since pieces get moved around from one administration to the next. The White House site is mainly concerned with the rooms as they are today, with smatterings of history to make it interesting, whereas I want to allow people to see how the White House has changed over the decades. Still, the old Cabinet table with locking drawers currently in the Treaty Room is perfectly worthy of a bit of attention on its own, let alone the Lincoln bed and Resolute desk.

As a corporate training consultant, I’m also considering how to turn the site into more of a structured educational experience, with teaching aids and quizzes or whatever, so teachers can use it directly in their history lessons.

Treaty Room and West Wing

Got a nice pic in the mail from visitor Barry of the Bush 2 Treaty Room. This really helps bring the second floor up to date. Also added a pic of President Nixon and darling daughter in the Rose Garden the day of his resignation.

I created a page for the corridor outside the Oval Office. I also added a few more pics sent by Pete: JFK’s bedroom, WW mess corridor, Blue Room 1995 pic, Avenue in the Rain painting.

Nixon’s last day

Got a note from a Nixon presidential materials technician that my (free!) CD-ROM of photos of Nixon’s last days is being shipped. Her note directed me to a UV Miller Center page where a selection of the photos is available. Wow! Some great images of the West Wing showing staff in their offices, including the President’s Secretary’s Office, the President’s Dining Room, the Press Secretary’s Office, and more. There were even some of Nixon’s last lunch being prepared in the second floor Family Kitchen.

Second floor mysteries

Having created a page for the Family Elevator already, I went looking today for more pics to illustrate it. I found some in the LOC’s HABS collection. But a close look at one pic revealed something I hadn’t noticed before. According to the elevator floor display, there is a second mezzanine level I didn’t know about. It can’t be very big (the first mezzanine isn’t) so it probably just includes the elevator lobby and a room over the Beauty Salon. There must also be a (probably unconnected) mez level over the Family Kitchen, since it clearly has a much lower ceiling than the Private Dining Room.

The Truman Library archives weren’t any help with the elevator, but I found a nice pic of the East Sitting Hall looking west that I somehow overlooked before.

Also, I finally made a change to the second floor layout that I’ve been mulling over. My original source for the second floor layout had doorways to the Central Hall for the East Bedroom and West Bedroom. But pictures of the hall suggested that there are bookcases that block this. Since I could see a door on the bedroom side in the East Bedroom pics, I figured maybe it was just disguised on the hall side, but a more careful examination of the layout made me realize that there must just be another little closet there instead. However, this seems like bad design architecturally. If it were my house, I probably would have combined the little closets into one nice walk-in closet and put the bathroom door on the bedroom wall.

Ancient relics

Made another pass thru the Library of Congress archives to clean up some source citations by adding links to the source files and found several more pre-1930 photos that I wanted to use, including some of the Red Room, Green Room, and Kitchen. One I found for the Living Room (when it was the state bedroom) was confusing. I already had a photo from 1893, but now I have two different photos from 1893. Anyone with some insight would have my gratitude. Do I have the dates wrong or are these before-and-after photos of the Harrison-Cleveland transition?

UPDATE: Visitor Dennis has suggested that the Harrison photos (you can see “Harrison” on a pillow) are probably earlier than 1893 and the new photo probably is post-Cleveland redecoration of 1893 (the LOC says 1893, so I’ll stick with that).

Upstairs at the White House

I finished JB West’s Upstairs at the White House over the weekend and I’m just amazed. It’s such a well-written account, personal and nostalgic but very balanced and easy to read. My discussions with other WH enthusiasts find that one thought Mrs. Kennedy was West’s favorite and that one thought Mrs. Eisenhower was his favorite, while I thought Mrs. Truman was his favorite. I suppose it was ghost-written, but that’s some pretty tricky writing.

Favorite moments:

  • The Trumans going from being the “three musketeers” to “the lovebirds” when Margaret moved out
  • Ike demanding that the White House police shoot any squirrels that come near his putting green, and the Secret Service explaining why this was a bad idea
  • Stripping out the new nursery before Jackie Kennedy returned after her infant’s death so she wouldn’t have to see it
  • The miscue that caused staff to nearly break in on a state dinner to move the furniture
  • LBJ wandering around the mansion, turning off lights
  • LBJ demanding a high-pressure shower system that made the plumbers marvel “I don’t see how the man can stand it”

The surprise was how tight the White House budget always was, even for the Kennedys. I knew how tight it was in the early years (Mrs. Lincoln getting grief about her shopping sprees, for example), but it was a surprise to find that, for example, the Navy was brought in to run the West Wing cafeteria mainly as a way of avoiding the extra cost on the WH books.

More miscellany

Between yesterday and today, I made a few more additions here and there:

  • Added the Barber Shop to the West Wing (just a pic; no page yet)
  • Created a page for the Putting Green (the link is there on the Grounds page, but there’s no color on it yet, so consider it an Easter egg for the time being)
  • Added the Johnsons moving in to the West Sitting Hall page
  • Added a color pic Jerry Ford with Liberty to the Swimming Pool page
  • Added an 1882 etching of the north face to the Residence page
  • Added Amy Carter and Ronald Reagan to the West Bedroom page
  • Added another FDR-era pic to the Yellow Oval Room
  • Added a pic of Betty Ford in the Master Bedroom that nicely matched the one of Lady Bird Johnson


Made a few miscellaneous additions, including:

  • Created a page for the north hall on the ground floor
  • Created a page for the family elevator
  • Added a pic of the Kennedy’s first Family Kitchen on the second floor
  • Added a new pic of the Visitors Foyer

Bits and pieces

Added Truman post-renovation color(!) pics to the Red Room, Blue Room, State Dining Room, and Lincoln Bedroom from the 1952 Report of the Commission for the Renovation of the Executive Mansion. I already had good color pics of the East Room and Green room from that time, and those were the only other color plates in the book. Added a few Johnson pics from the UT – Johnson Library site, including President’s Study. Added a Clinton-era pic of the Family Kitchen.

Added a page for the First Lady’s Offices in the East Wing, accessible by clicking anywhere on the second floor. I don’t have anything to say about the first lady’s offices, and I’m not entirely certain that all three pics I’ve included are actually taken in the East Wing offices, but something is better than nothing here, I think.

Added a few tidbits of historical anecdotes to some of the rooms (Living Room, Press Briefing Room, State Dining Room) to liven them up, per the suggestion of visitor James.

New front page

Got tired of the dull black and white photo of the swimming pool on the front page and replaced it with a cheery yellow pic of Betty Ford in the Solarium.

Also added the Kennedy Yellow Oval Room, LBJ taking a meeting in bed, JFK lying in state in the East Room, and a page for FDR’s third floor Diet Kitchen.

Visitor James suggested that I add more historical anecdotes, which sounds like a good idea. I’ll add some bits I’ve gleaned from JB West’s book and elsewhere.

Third floor gala reopening

Arrived home to find the 1952 Report of the Commission on the Renovation of the Executive Mansion waiting for me, as ordered thru Amazon’s used book function. This terrific book (thanks to John for the tip!) contains color photos from 1952 of the state floor rooms and the Lincoln Bedroom (which I’ll photograph and add) and an appendix with all four floors of the Residence laid out!

I spent the night redrawing the third floor plan based on that layout. It allowed me to identify the location of a few more pictures from the Truman library (such as the Cedar Room), as well as some great shots of W in the Workout Room (provided by Pete). I still need to do a bit more work cleaning up the 1992 HABS photos and creating a couple new pages, including one for the Diet Kitchen.

Second floor fill

After reading the terrific chapters on the Truman-era White House in JB West’s book, Upstairs at the White House, I did a little bit of cleanup on the second floor and went back into the Truman archives to fill in a few little holes here and there.

Also added a pic of JFK and one of Tom Ridge in the Mess Hall.

West Wing additions

Made some more additions to the West Wing, namely adding a page for the ground floor Mess Hall and hotspots for a couple of corridors and the lobby, as well as redoing the second floor layout based on Pete’s improved version, complete with labels for the more important offices.

Made a few other futzy text additions here and there, including the Family Theater, Map Room, Vermeil Room. But it’s time to go to bed; I just nodded off and typed about 3,000 letter “k”s.

East Wing and West Wing tweaks

Redid the West Wing ground floor with a revised layout from Pete that better illustrates the relationship between the Situation Room and the Swimming Pool cabana above it (and connected to it by a staircase). I also added a page for the Sit Room.

Also, I filled in some of the mystery space in the East Wing with the help of the (sketchy) layout in the appendix of Designing Camelot. While I was doing that, I came across new pictures of the Family Theater showing that it was redecorated in 2004, which I wasn’t aware of.

Second floor revisited

I’ve uploaded a new version of the family residence second floor based on a close look at a Truman-era floor plan sent by visitor John. This made me believe that the Kitchen‘s spiral staircase does not go up into the second floor, altho the elevator definitely does. Instead a small bathroom first installed by TR and later rebuilt by Truman to be more practical is probably still there, just made smaller.

I also made some minor additions elsewhere, including the Oval Office, Red Room, Blue Room, Press Corps Offices, Basement, Bowling Alley, and Residence pages.