West Wing structure

Visitor I Carp sent a photo that appeared on page 18 of the New York Times the other day showing the new structure on the west side of the West Wing that, I believe, is a cover concealing work on the above-ground part of new underground parking and security facilities. I don’t think we’ve had any official announcement on this; but this is almost certainly going to be torn down eventually to reveal the “real” building constructed inside it.

Thanks, I Carp!

The president’s victory garden

The New York Times reports that the Obamas are digging up a patch of the far south lawn (within view by the public) to plan a victory garden of sorts. The White House kitchen staff has long harvested plants for spicing and flavoring the first family’s meals, but this will be a full-fledged vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s during WW2.

Bonus: In that same article, we also finally got a great new photo of the Kitchen Pantry. Woo hoo!

Thanks to Nick for the link!

White House vegetable garden

Staff meals

I got a question from a chef writing a paper on “meals served to kitchen works in previous administrations from approximately 1800-present.” From the materials I’ve read, there is very little indication of what the staff ate. My guess is that it’s rarely recorded, altho some hint may be obtained from some of the WH cookbooks that have been published. The only anecdote I can think of is that the staff used to pour the remainders of the alcoholic drinks after a party into a basin and add fruit juice to make a nice punch they would share.

New Lincoln photo

LincolnVisitor Seth passed along an interesting article on a newly-discovered photograph of Abraham Lincoln standing in front of the WH, found in the personal album of US Grant. It’s probably the last photo taken of him alive, but just as important it shows us exactly how Lincoln looked from 200 feet away and slightly blurry.

It also suggests that Lincoln was a bit of a braggart, having erected a red post on the north lawn labeled with his 6′ 4″ height. I’m glad this didn’t become a tradition or we would have them scattered all over the grounds by now (and you know Taft would have added a hoop to his to indicate girth).

WHM site speed-up

After having been told twice that there was not really anything to be done to speed up the WHM site, I called Go-Daddy again today to try to get improved performance before trying another provider. Now that I could direct the tech to the mirror site for comparison, he looked into a real solution and has moved the main site to a different, newer, less-crowded server, noticeably improving performance.

I may still change providers, since I’ve found one that allows shared hosting among multiple domains (which is convenient, since I have several domains to host). Note that nothing would change on the visitor side (that is, it would be the same domain name), it would just be served from a different server owned by a different provider.

Visitorship is back down to around 20,000 per day—which is still 50% higher than pre-election figures. With better performance, visitorship should go up a bit.

Also, thanks to these folks for helping to support the site financially….

  • Glendon
  • Sandra
  • Jacob
  • Frances
  • Richard
  • Geraldine
  • Gary


The Daily Show With Jon Stewart sent John Oliver to the White House press area for a good tour of the offices. [This just aired; the video is not yet available on the Comedy Central site.]

Jordan sent links to the White House Historical Association’s YouTube video channel and the old White House videos of the Cabinet Room and Oval Office. Great stuff.

Also, thanks to Colton for the link to some videos from Smithsonian’s White House Revealed.

UPDATE: The Daily Show video clip is available now on their site.

Luci Johnson

Found some good pictures in the Life collection of Luci Johnson’s wedding day*, including a portrait sitting in the Vermeil China Room at the time, with the JBK decor.

Bonus: CBS interview with Luci reminiscing, done at the time of Jenna Bush’s wedding.

I’ve also added a number of West Wing photos.

* Crowning as Queen of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, VA in 1964. Photos of her 1966 wedding are available, tho (and nearly indistinguishable to me).

President’s Dining Room

This photo I found in the Getty Images collection answers a lot of questions about the President’s Private Dining Room. With the doors open, you can see a steward in what must be the little butler’s pantry. The pantry inside the dining room is in place in 1970, where it looks to be home to a movable TV cart (perhaps LBJ used the room as a dining room—Nixon seems to have inherited a round table in that 1970 photo).

It’s clear also from the new photo that there is no door on the north wall of the corridor to the Oval Office, so that whole space must be the president’s lavatory, and must have been so since the Reagan era. However, there used to be doors on that wall in the Nixon era and as early as 1962 but not in 1961 so that must have been to an earlier little pantry and a smaller lavatory changed by Kennedy late ’61/early ’62

I also just realized that the president’s lavatory used to be the narrow room later expanded to be the President’s Private Study. It’s clearly marked that way on the 1934 Time – Life floor plan. Now the President’s Private Study has changed too, for some reason. In the later Kennedy era, the door was was next to the Oval Office. But at some point, by the Johnson era it was moved to be next to the dining room and still is.

UPDATE: Reader Gary points out that the 1961 photo is flopped. Damn these photo editors! Don’t they know to put the shiny side up?

New photo clutch

I’ve added a number of photos in the last couple of days, mostly from the 1960s and 70s and mostly in the West Wing. In the process, I came across this one of Jim Varney from 1986, which I won’t add to the Press Briefing Room page because it doesn’t really illustrate anything other than that the Reagan administration had a pretty bizarre sense of humor—know wut I mean, Vern?