TR Oval

Just added a great image of the Yellow Oval Room in 1909, sent by Stephen Martin. However, this makes the circa 1910 date of another image a little suspect. Did Taft put moulding on the walls and then someone remove it by 1930?

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9 thoughts on “TR Oval

  1. I think that the Roosevelt picture shows that room as they had it before the McKim, Mead & White renovations. The Taft image shows the wall molding and mantle added by the firm along with the Tafts own belongings. This wall treatment seems to have been used by the McKim firm in other rooms on Second Floor and was probably removed by a later First Family when it came time for them to decorate.

  2. I think that the Roosevelt picture shows that room as they had it before the McKim, Mead & White renovations. The Taft image shows the wall molding and mantle added by the firm along with the Tafts own belongings. This wall treatment seems to have been used by the McKim firm in other rooms on Second Floor and was probably removed by a later First Family when it came time for them to decorate.

  3. What a wonderful photo! But I agree with you Derek. I think this photo post-dates the Taft photo of c1910. Besides having no moldings on the walls, the light fixtures appear to match those in the c1930 photo, and some of the furniture appears to match as well. Admittedly, this is not proof positive that the photo post-dates Taft. Furniture and fixtures are always being moved around in the White House. But it is suggestive.

    BTW, I don’t think the photo pre-dates the Teddy Roosevelt renovation of 1902. The Roosevelts don’t appear to have made any significant changes before 1902. Besides the full-blown Victorian decorations, the built-in book cases installed by the Fillmores were not removed until McKim came along, and they are not visible in this photo.
    Chris

  4. Well, this *is* an interesting puzzle, isn’t it? It’s certainly an amazing – and facinating – photo… very early in the 20th century, from the looks of the lampshades… Could it possibly be a transitional scheme for the Roosevelts? This photo shows the room pretty much as Hoban rebuilt it after the 1814 fire – the essential architectural elements that appear and re-appear under all the Victorian “fluff and stuffing” pictures of the 19th.century…

    Do we know when the shell-topped niches/bookcases were introduced into the room? I seem to recall reading that Lou Hoover did that, but I could be wrong.

    It doesn’t make sense that the chair rail and wainscot that McKim used in the 1902 renovation would have been in place in 1910 – and then *un* installed – in the 1920’s for example – and then *re* installed in time to show up in the Hoover room of 1930.

    The only thing that makes any sense at all to me is that this is a photo of the room *very* early in the Teddy Roosevelt tenure – I honestly believe that the 1902 renovation introduced the wainscot/upper wall mounding scheme, because there is a picture of one of the Roosevelt bedrooms with the wainscot/upperwall moulding treatment in that issue of WHITE HOUSE HISTORY that features the Teddy Roosevelt White House. That is, unless for some reason we don’t know about, McKim didn’t finish out the Oval Room until the Tafts moved in in 1909.

    I think what we’ve got here is a photo of the Oval Room *after* the Roosevelts cleaned it up – and *before* McKim got busy on it!

  5. You know John, I think you’re right. I take back what I said in my previous post. This is pre-McKim, or maybe McKim not quite finished. I didn’t notice the lack of wainscoting.
    Chris

  6. It seems to me that this is McKim unfinished. Obviously the bookcases are gone and there is no wainscoting. There is also no rug on the floor. The rug is there in the Taft photo.

    Remembering that the Roosevelt rebuilding cost more than planned and that costs had to be cut, it is very possible that the room was finished later than 1903 as money became available.

    Looking at the same era Treaty Room, there is no wainscoting until much later.

  7. Checking out the Treaty Room photos, it looks like there was no wainscoting until after the Truman renovation/rebuild of 1948-52. Obviously the Oval Room room had it much earlier than that. It shows up in the Taft Oval Room, and I think the dating of that photo is pretty secure. It matches descriptions of the Taft furnishing of the Oval Room, and Betty Monkman dates the photo to the Taft administration. As she was White House Curator and had access to all the documentation, I think her dating can be relied on. In my experience, she has always gotten it right.

    I agree with Dennis that the wainscoting and moldings in the Oval Room are part of the McKim renovation but were finished later for budgetary reasons and also maybe for timing. The Roosevelts wanted to move back into the White House as quickly as possible, and were probably willing to put up with some temporary or make-shift arrangements in the family quarters to make that possible. Their West Sitting Hall, for example, looks extremely provisional. I can’t see that they considered that arrangement anything more than extremely temporary.
    Chris

    PS: I am publishing this anonymously because for some reason Blogger isn’t recognizing my password. In case anyone is wondering, this is the same Chris as above.

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