Several new additions of the mid-1800s, mostly sent by Christopher S.

Now that I have so many great images from that era, I’m breaking out a new page or two in the history to provide more detail.

It occurs to me that the Bush renovations may warrant a page of their own. The list of rooms they have renovated is substantial: the Family Theater, Press Briefing Room, pool cabana, Sit Room…. And they’ve redecorated several family rooms and West Wing rooms.


16 thoughts on “Etchings

  1. Facinating engravings of the Pierce Blue and Green Rooms – notice the Bellange chairs (the very ones used in today’s Blue Room), and one of the Bellange curule (X-legged) footstools in the Blue Room. Can’t tell if that’s one of the Bellange sofas or not (camouflaged under cushions, etc?). The suite of Bellange furniture was used in this room until Harriet Land relpaced it during Buchanan’s term. I’m told that at least one of the Bellange X-legged footstools still exists, in the collection of a collector in the Washington area, but they won’t give it up.

    Apparently some of the Bellange furniture migrated to the Green Room – it’s listed in some old inventories as being in there, according to a friend of mine – and it certainly looks like that’s the case in this old engraving of the Pierce Green Room!

    And also note the gilded pier table in the Green Room engraving, which is also shown on page 85 of the VIII’th. (never used a roman numeral abbreviation before…)edition (1968) of the White House Guidebook. In the guidebook, it’s identified as being a Monroe piece, but I’ve since heard that it was actually bought during the Pierce administration.

  2. Regarding the late 19th century Green Room photo, Seale says that this redecoration was done for Caroline Harrison by E.S. Yergason in 1891. (See Seale, The President’s House, pgs 594-596. The work was made necessary because the previous finishes were trashed during the installation of electric lighting. The East Room, Entrance Hall, Cross Hall and Blue Room were redecorated at the same time. The Red Room and State Dining Room had painted finishes, not wallpaper, so they just needed to be repainted. But Frances Cleveland redecorated the Red Room just a few years later — I think in 1895.


  3. Dang! I always get fired right after I get a parking space and an office with a window!

    Chris that’s interesting about rooms being altered for wiring and redecorated after electricity was installed. 18th and 19th century buildings and houses all over the French Quarter have all sorts of bizarre big bundles of wiring coming down walls and turning corners, then disappearing into plastered walls. Sounds dreadful, but it actually adds to the charm of some places Fortunately my house (mid 19th century) was re-wired when the people who rennovated it re-plastered.

    In some houses here, you can see where the old painted 19th century panels have been gouged into and plastered over. And in some pics of the White House being dismantled, you can see stuff like that done to old walls underneath more recently hung damask, or whatever.

    It’s really facinating to “read” old buildings like that.

    And OH what could have been learned about the original White House – and the post-fire W.H. – if the Truman Renovation had been done 40 or 50 years later!

  4. Yes, Derek, after the house had fallen down. It would be easier to sort the shards into little piles then.

  5. The skills and expertise needed to stabilize the structure AND preserve the fabric of the White House existed in 1948 and could have been used if Truman had made it a priority. He didn’t, and the few efforts that were made fell by the wayside in the rush to completion. The paneling in the State Dining Room was the only old fabric to be returned to the building, and if you carefully compare pre and post-Truman photos of the room, you’ll see that a great deal of the paneling was redesigned and replaced. Everything was watered down. All the quirks and historical accidents that make old buildings so interesting were smoothed away, and we were left with a homogenized, pasteurized White House. Now, after 50 years, the building is beginning to get some character again simply because it’s been lived and worked in, and heavily used by 11 presidents, their families and entourages. But it will take another 100 years or so before it gets really interesting.

  6. Right – the paneling in the State Dining Room – especially at the chimney breast (oh lord, here he goes again, about that Kennedy mantel – and how it’s really an adaptation and not a reproduction of the Mc Kim mantel). Winslow’s mantel – and firebox opening – is much smaller than Mc Kim’s and the panels above the mantel got longer and there are panels at the sides of today’s mantel that weren’t there in the original room.

    Same for the East Room – which really has no pretense of having the original paneling. Winslow took the opportunity of the renovation to make the central window on the east (long) side of the room a good bit narrower (then cleverly hid what he had done with curtains), so George and Martha Washington would have more lateral room to breathe. If you look really carefully at pics of the pre-Truman renovation East Room, you can see that those two portraits were really squeezed in between the pilasters – and now they have more room between them. I guess when you’ve drawn as many paneled rooms as I have, you sort of notice that kind of stuff. I’m an “architechnogeek”, what can I say…

  7. Just wanted you to have a little info on the etching/engraving/whatever it is, of mine or the North Front that Derek just posted on the “residence page” (also on the “what’s new” page It’s real; It’s “period” – and I found it in a consignment shop here in New Orleans. $75.00, beautifully framed in an antique frame, but fairly recently “conservation” framed, because it was properly done with acid-free matt board and attached with linen tape. Now you know as much about it as I do. I’ve never seen it anywhere else in any publication. The tag on it at the consignment shop said “Old German Print of the White House, 1880” – but there is a small legend underneath the print that reads “North Front of the White House” – in English. Derek pointed out that the statue of Jefferson that was on the front lawn during part of the 19th century is missing here, and that may be a clue to the date. Obviously after the Jefferson statue was removed and before the 1902 Rennovation. Also, there is no East Wing and that also provides a clue.

    Anybody have any information on this particular image? I think I’ll send it up to the W. H. Curator’s office and see what they say.

    And yes, my name *is* John Anderton, just like Tom Cruise’es character in “Minority Report”, except that I’m real.

  8. I fully agree with you about the Kennedy mantelpiece in the State Dining Room. It is an adaptation, not a reproduction, of the McKim mantelpiece. Not only is it smaller; it is polished marble, whereas the original was, I would guess, limestone. Polished marble can’t take the sharp edges that unpolished limestone can, so the carvings are not as sharp as the original. Mind you, I think JBK did the right things in having the Truman mantle replaced, and it is well done. But it’s not a reproduction.

    In my post of last night I may have been a bit too “absolute” in my judgement. I think JBK did a great deal to bring character back to the White House through historic furnishing etc. Even though I am not as fond of the Nixon/Clement Conger work a few years later, I still think they were on the right track. Still, it doesn’t “feel” like an old house any more. It feels like a new house with old things in it.

    Your view of the north facade is really beautiful, John. I think it was probably done in the Grant or Hayes administration. Seale says that the conservatory was enlarged in 1880 by Hayes with the replacement of the glass passage between the west stairhall and the conservatory proper with a much larger “room.” (Sorry, I don’t have the exact reference handy.) This was when the french doors were cut in the west wall of the dining room. This view was done before that happened.

  9. Uhmm….and who was it who first said that the State Dining Room JBK mantel was an adaptation of the TR/McKim and not a reproduction?

  10. From your remark, I would guess it was you Dennis. Apparantly that conversation happened before I was on this blog. No offense intended.

    BTW, all the WHHA’s materials say it’s a reproduction. I think “Designing Camelot” does too.

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