New front page – Johnson 1 East Room

I’ve changed the front page to one of Andrew Johnson’s East Room.

Also, I’ve added two new pics of the north side from 19th century postcards in my collection.

18 thoughts on “New front page – Johnson 1 East Room

  1. Nice page change. I was tired of looking at a very grumpy Eisenhower!
    I love the East Room of the late 19th century. I know that JBK would hate to hear this, but I liked the Victorian look. I think those chandeliers are incredible and I can’t imagine the way the East Room looked with all the rich bright colors shimmering in the gas light….

  2. I like the two late 19th century photos of the north facade. I find it kind of amusing, though, that the people who colored the c1890 shot showed red brick chimneys. I don’t think the White House ever had red brick visible on the outside.

    As for the East Room, this photo is interesting because it shows the East Room in “summer dress.” The draperies are taken down and the carpet is covered with a “crash.” Those chandeliers are from the Jackson administration and were originally designed as oil fixtures. They were converted to gas in the Polk administration, if I remember correctly, but I’ve never seen photos of them with shades over the burners, so they must have burned with naked flames, which is very unusual. I like the Grant gasoliers that replaced them better, but I’ve never seen anything that looks remotely like the Jackson chandeliers anywhere. As far as I know, they were unique. It’s too bad they are gone.


    PS: Google seems to have forgotten who I am!

  3. The Johnson East Room is in summer dress, with the slipcovers and no drapes. But is that “crash” on the floor or the actual carpet? I thought crash was more like a white muslin. Looking at the chandeliers closely you can see the gas fixtures emerging out of all of the glass prisms.

  4. If the carpet is not technically a “crash,” I think it is a covering over the “real” carpet. If you look at the photo of the Johnson East Room c1866 on the White House Museum website, with the room fully dressed, the carpet is much more florid in its design and looks like a Brussels or a Wilton. It’s probable that the good carpet was uncovered only for big receptions, state dinners, etc., and that a much more durable covering was used the rest of the time, especially after repairing all the wear and tear of the Civil War years. I can’t tell from the photo what kind of fabric is used in the summer photo, but it looks flat, like an ingrain carpet. It doesn’t look like it has any pile at all. Also, the design isn’t nearly as sophisticated as the that shown in the other photograph, which is why I think it’s a protective covering of some sort.

  5. Repeating an old question ’cause I’m still lookin’ for an answer:

    Did reconstruction of the White House under Truman result in the floor west of the Grand Staircase landing being raised and the floor east of that landing being lowered so as to require only a slight rise in the ramp from the landing to the East Sitting Hall? A comparison of pre-and post-reconstruction photos of western rooms shows less distance from window sills to floor. Pre- and post-reconstruction photos of the east fan window show greater distance to the floor following renovation.
    Furthermore: Why the need for a ramp at all? The western end of the ramp is lower than the the floor level of all the rooms at that end. If there was space above the East Room ceiling to accommodate a ramp that is lower than its adjacent rooms’ floor levels, why was there not sufficient space to allow for the entire east end of the residence floor to be lower and, thus, level with the flooring that extends to the western rooms?
    Come on, folks; you just know this is the most important question for western civilization at this time!

  6. Truman apparently hated the steps up to the rooms over the East Room, so the floor of the rooms over the East Room was lowered in the Truman renovation as much as possible without lowering the height of the East Room. A ramp with a slight rise was still necessary. If you go to the HABS website and look at the drawings, the cross sections in particular, you can see how the floor and ceiling levels relate to each other. Following is the link. Type in White House, Washington, DC in the search box.

    Personally, I would have lowered the floor level of the rooms over the East Room as much as possible and then raised the floor level of the rest of the second floor to match. I really can’t stand that ramp!


  7. My apologies! I just checked the HABS website and they haven’t published the sections (probably because of security concerns). William Seale published some of the sections in “The White House: The History of an American Idea.” They show the relationship between the first floor ceiling height and second floor levels.



  8. Thanks, Anonymous, for trying. Meanwhile, I’ve got a new thought on the subject:

    Perhaps the lower end of the ramp is not directly over the main entrance to the East Room but over the eastern end of the Cross Hall. If the Cross Hall ceiling is lower than that of the East Room, there’s clearance for the ramp. Perhaps under the ramp itself there is less clearance between it and the East Room ceiling than is desirable but they granted an easement for the ramp, so to speak, while preserving desired clearances for most of the East Room ceiling.

    What we can be certain of is that the western walls of the two bedrooms are pretty much in line with the western wall of the East Room. The three windows at either end of the East Room correspond to the fenestration for the suites above. Gotta look again at the pictures of the residence floor landing.

  9. This is Chris, although Google insists that I am anonymous. When I have a chance, I will scan the drawings from Seale’s book and post it at White House Fanatics — probably not before the end of the day. I haven’t looked at the drawings for a while, but as I remember the ramp’s slope is masked from the East Room by the projection of the cornice combined with the “thickness” of the wall between the East Room and the rest of the house. (The wall’s thickness is really an illusion since the Truman rebuild. It’s actually hollow space now filled with wiring, duct work, etc.) It sounds complicated, but when you see the drawing I think it will make sense.

    In the 1817 rebuild of the White House, and presumably in its original construction, there was a great deal of space between the East Room ceiling and the floor at the eastern end of the second floor. This is because very large, wood timbers were used to support the second floor over the vast span of the East Room ceiling, so the space between the ceiling and the floor above had to be large enough to accommodate the largest dimensioned timbers. Actually these timbers were probably larger than they needed to be. In the days before sophisticated engineering analysis many buildings, particularly monumental buildings, tended to be “over-engineered” because the builders allowed for a very large margin of error to ensure structural stability. In the Truman rebuild all the structural elements were steel, which is much stronger in tension than wood, so the dimensions of the largest elements could be much smaller, allowing the floor to be lowered quite a bit — but not quite enough to bring it level with the rest of the second floor.

    Chris (who has a huge ego and refuses to be “anonymous”)

  10. I love the old chandeliers in the East Room picture. I wish they were still around. The bigger and gaudier the better, in my opinion. I’m not crazy about the rest of the room, but those chandeliers make up for it.
    Chris – Google still likes me. 🙂

  11. Chris, thanks for the explanation. Yes, I note that there’s plenty of space between several of the adjoining rooms on both floors. The space between the informal sitting room and the master bedroom is a glaring example with space wide enough to accommodate cabinets or bookshelves, as we see from at least one photo on this site.

    Do you agree with me that the western half of the second floor was raised in the Truman redo? I’m still wondering, if this is true, how they made adjustments for the balcony that had already been installed prior to the re-do. Currently there is no step down from the Yellow Oval Room to the balcony. Could it be that the floor of the balcony itself was built up along with the threshhold of the doorway?

  12. I know the chandeliers in the photo are not Grant’s, but I remember reading that Truman wanted “Grant’s mighty gasoliers” back from the Capitol during the Truman Renovation for the East Room, but to no avail.

    I think they would look magnificent in the East Room!

  13. This is Chris again. I looked at photos of the second floor Duane, and I don’t think the floor level of the western sections of the second floor was raised in the Truman reconstruction. As you say, that would have been pretty hard to manage with the Truman balcony, etc. However, the proportions of a lot of the rooms were changed. The main corridor, for example, is a bit narrower after Truman than it was before. Also, I think the ceiling of the second floor may have been lowered by about a foot in the Coolidge renovation, when the third floor was added, and this changed the proportions of the rooms. This is especially visible in the bedrooms and the second floor oval room.

    I posted that section I was talking about on White House fanatics. Unfortunately the scale of the drawing as reproduced in Seale is rather small and when I tried to enlarge the drawing it became unreadable. As it turns out, the entry to the ramp IS somewhat to the west of the East Room entry below, so you were right!


  14. Well, if we’re talking about changing the East Room chandeliers, how about something from the late eighteenth century, along the lines of the ones in the period rooms of the State Department. A bit more appropriate to the original spirit of the House I think!

  15. The grant gasoliers were the best of the “steamboat gothic” east room, in my opinion. One of those was used in the second floor treaty room after Jackie Kennedy’s redecoration. I think it a shame that it was removed. I have seen one of them in the capital building, and its beautiful.

  16. I’ve never been a huge fan of the current East Room Chandeliers. Just my 2 cents.

  17. Chris, have a good look at a couple pre- and post-rebuild photos of rooms on the west side of the residence floor. I think you will notice a distinct difference in heights of window sills from the floor.

    Perspective changes, true, with angles and distances in camera work, so I copied and pasted photos to a page in Word and then adjusted one of the pictures to give me the same window frame size as in the other and then compared sill-to-floor distances. There are differences.

    If I am correct, the new Oval Room floor would have been higher, resulting in a need to refashion the doorway to the balcony. The floor of the balcony itself could have been built up to make it pretty much level with the interior floor. The change in the door itself would only have effected the area below the glass. I can’t be sure, but the difference pre- and post-renovation might have amounted to one foot or less.

    Does this seem possible?

  18. NdKoTT Writes: Personally I can’t stand the goddy look of that era, but I love the Chandeliers they are so huge, imagine the heat they put off. been reading your guys amusing argurments and have drawn several cross sections of the area in question, and made a unique discovery, the cross hall ceiling is about 18′ high, the East room is 20′?? give or take…plus take into consideration the Steel Ibeams used in the reconstuction, about 2ft wide…and other factors have to come into play when they redesigned/rebuilt with steel the renovation pictures!!

    Thats my 2 cents!!! NdkoTT says

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