13 thoughts on “C-SPAN’s White House

  1. I have a question concerning furnishings in the White House. How much of a President’s own personal furniture is required for the rooms on the second floor? For instance, does the President have to furnish the master bedroom, living room, West Sitting Hall with his own furniture, or does the White House have these rooms already furnished and then leaves it up to the new President on whether to use his own furniture or not.

  2. Time was, each president had to bring a lot of his own furnishings, including dishes. Even servants and carriages were personal and not public; it was like buying a house–you don’t expect to find a bed in the bedroom. Over time, the WH has accumulated a good collection of heirloom furnishings, historic art, and general goods and staff. I think most first families bring their most personal and cherished furnishings (Kennedy’s rocking chairs, for example), but the rooms are largely fully furnished.

  3. Do you know if the floor plans for the proposed Cleveland and B. Harrison are available? I’ve seen Fred Owen’s exterior drawings many times but have never been able to find what he proposed for the state and second floors.

    Love the website! Absolutely fascinating!

  4. Will we get a peek into the closets (both water and otherwise)and that mysteryplace between the family kitchen and the north wall of the West Sitting Hall? How’s about that stairway next to the Queens’ Bedroom? And those rooms carved out where there would ordinarily be corners off the oval rooms. Don’t need to see the East Room; been there, done that.

  5. This may be a crazy question, but can each first family make changes in decor in the Second Floor of the Residence as they want, or is there a committee or authority that they must pass their decorating ideas by before carrying them through. For instance, I read on the website that the Clintons removed the Reagan Chinese wallpaper in the Master Bedroom and replaced it. Did they have to get some type of approval before doing that?

  6. I understand that the First Family can decorate and use the private rooms west of the Grand Staircase landing as they choose, all of the third floor, included. The Lincoln and Queens’ suites and all of the lower floors, I understand, are under the control of one or another commission.

  7. Given the space between any two windows in the White House, I wonder why the fireplaces added to the east wall of the East Room in 1814 could not have been placed between the windows and permit the windows to function as originally intended. Or was the interest at the time one of maintaining symmetry with the fireplaces located on the west wall of the room?

    Was “balance” also the reason for repositioning the fireplace in the State Dining Room so that it was necessary to block the first of the two windows south of the doorway to the west terrace?

    Why were the interiors of terrace doors at both ends of the house reduced in width and the fan windows above them blocked?

  8. The fireplaces were added to the east wall of the East Room when the White House was rebuilt after the fire of 1814. The windows were blocked for two reasons: 1. the chimneys in which the fireplaces were set had to be wide enough to support the weight of the chimney above and to accomodate the flues of the basement, first floor and second floor fireplaces. 2. the fireplaces were added in the first place because the East Room was too cold, so the windows were blocked to retain heat.

    The fanlight of the Palladian window in the East Room was blocked by Hoban when the White House was rebuilt after the 1814 fire. This was done mainly to accomodate the interior frieze of “Grecian Honeysuckle.” Architectural fashion had changed since the original design and construction of the White House in the 1790s, and more neo-Classical ornamentation was now preferred. Hoban had to keep the orginal exterior architecture in the rebuild because he had to match the original masonry that had survived the fire. On the interior the architecture was more stylish and up-to-date.

    When McKim Mead and White remodeled the East Room in 1902, they completely changed the architecture of the space, basing the room on one found in a late 18th century French chateau. Louis XVI architecture in France did not use fanlights, so the fanlight remained covered from the interior. The window was narrowed in the Truman reconstruction of 1948-52 to allow more space for the portraits of George and Martha Washington on either side.

    The window in the west wall of the State Dining Room was blocked by McKim, Mead and White in the 1902 remodeling. This was done mainly to accomodate their new fireplace and chimney and for reasons of interior symmetry. The fanlight of the Palladian window was blocked and the window was narrowed to match the window on the other side of the fireplace.

  9. Thanks, br. chris, for your detailed explanation.

    To borrow and spin a bit from Frost: “Something there is that doesn’t love a (windowed) wall” (or walled window).

    I would think that modern technology regarding fireplace construction renders such heavy and bulky brickwork no longer necessary. Maybe I can get the next First Lady to scratch this itch for me.

  10. I was working last night and had C-Span on, and I nearly lept for joy that the week of December 14 is all White House week. I was really in high gear because some of it is in HD! Then I remember, we don’t get the HD C-Span Channel here in East Armpit, Texas. I hope they sell the DVD after!

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