Old-timey mansion

I’ve added another big trove of photos from the Library of Congress, this time focused on the Executive Mansion in the Taft and Wilson eras. And we’re not talking the state floor; we’re talking bedrooms and nooks and crannies, including the old Butler’s Pantry and the old old Flower Shop.

The Harris & Ewing photos are exceptionally high quality and have been digitized at extremely high resolution—just a spectacular treasure. You can just about read William Howard Taft’s accounts papers. And among his desk-side books was Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, a favorite of mine since I was a teenager.

21 thoughts on “Old-timey mansion

  1. These are simply amazing; Love West Hall … I wonder what color paint that is?
    Love the Washington painting in private study…. Just cool.

  2. This is a wonderful set of photos I haven’t seen before! Thank you Derek!

    BTW, in response to Steve, I believe Seale states in “The President’s House” that the wall color in the upstairs central hall was a dark green during this period. Wilson had it replaced with a kind of burlap-textured wall covering, I think in a tan color.

  3. Thank U Derek, as always an excellent job! Hey, I’ve left many comments on different things, espesially about the whole ESPN is channel___ Mr. President. This is the only time I have seen a different Steve post something…I will go by Steve C now on

  4. These photos are amazing. In my 35 years of studies, have never come across them before. Many thanks.

    One tiny bit of clarification: the first two photos shown under Private Dining Room (second floor) are actually of two different views but taken at the same time. The caption reads “Room used as Taft Sitting Room” and the next is “Used as Taft Bedroom.” In fact, it was, I believe, daughter Nellie’s bedroom, just taken from two different angles.

    As always, thanks for this fine sight and your terrific efforts.

  5. I have to add that the photo of the Resolute desk in Taft’s study (the Treaty Room) is the first good full frontal view I’ve seen of the desk before FDR added the central panel. I’ve always had a hard time visualizing it without the panel.

  6. I really like the photos of the Resolute Desk,but also something to point out, I’m sure we all saw it, but besides the Resolute Desk being historic, the Treaty Table in the photo! Look at the early photos of the room where we see the Treaty Table and then look at the photos that were taken a few years later…you can see some changes made in the room, such as the deer head on the wall and more picture frames put up. Not to mention the amount of stuff placed on the Treaty Table.

  7. Yes, Steve! I noticed that too. I love the early/late Taft study photos.

    Nixjunque, thanks. When I found the angle on the beds, I changed the caption on the page’s version of the sitting area photo, but not on the What’s New version. The original caption said it was indeed Mrs. Taft’s bedroom. I’ve changed them all now.

  8. So great Derek. I still remember you expressing great frustration with the complete lack of hi res photos from gov’t sources, and how even the interface to retrieve photos has been laughable. Great to see new quality sources getting updated like this . . . even the flickr White House feed allowing for hi res downloads has been like opening Christmas presents.

  9. A very minor correction: You caption a photograph of the Treaty Room as “The Taft Private Study, circa 1908.” Taft didn’t become president until 1909. If the photo is from the Taft administration, which I suspect it is, it can’t predate 1909.

  10. Another minor correction: The interior photo of the west wing labeled “The main corridor circa 1908, looking west” was part of the west wing expansion made in 1909 by President Taft. The corridor didn’t exist in Theodore Roosevelt’s original executive office building.

  11. Thank, Br. Chris! The Harris & Ewing photos are pretty much all undated, so I’m always scraping for information from the photos (love those calendars!). I don’t know why I kept spacing on the Taft transition date.

  12. I’m still confused – was the Private Dining Room Nellie Taft’s bedroom or Mrs. Taft’s bedroom? I think it was Nellie’s but the caption as of today (5/12) doesn’t say that.

  13. The first lady slept in the northwest suite while the president slept in the southwest suite. As far as I know, the first lady was called Nellie but her daughter (also named Helen) was not. Helen went to college, but I suspect she used the eastern north bedroom when in the White House, since Charlie used the west one.

  14. Wow! I now have a completely different view of the Taft living quarters – book descriptions are great, but photographic evidence is the best. Thanks for finding and posting this great material.

  15. I’m sorry, I meant Helen Taft, the daughter. I thought Helen slept in the NW suite. According to Seale in the first edition (1986) of The President’s House, President and Mrs. Taft had the SW suite, Charlie had what is today the Living Room, between the Master Bedroom and Yellow Oval Room. Seale goes into great detail about Mrs. Taft’s love of the SW suite. (Pages 745-746)

    As far as I know, the last President to use the NW suite was McKinley.

  16. Oh of course! I had let myself get confused by the caption on the original photo. Yes, the Tafts shared the SW suite and the daughter had the NW. Serves me right for not going back to Seale.

  17. Mrs. Jaffray, their housekeeper, lived in what is now the west bedroom and the beauty shop. Having a White House staff member living so close to the president seems really strange today.

  18. RE: WH Museum: The prepares for a press conference in 2009

    WH Staff:

    Look at the WH Museum link, go to the red room, 1st floor.

    See pic of president Obama, look at the description, you left out the word, “president” in the sentence, “The prepares for a press conference in 2009”

    thank you

    ken bush

    [Comment edited. No politics, please. —ed.]

  19. In the photo of President and Mrs. Wilson in the Treaty Room, they are facing southeast, not northeast. He is sitting on the “other” side of the desk and facing the windows. If one looks at the photo, the fireplace is on the east wall, where it belongs.

  20. The directions on the photos refer to the camera’s view rather than the subjects’. I’ve modified the caption to be a little clearer in this case.

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