Treasure troves

Google has recently released their Museum View of the White House as part of their Google Art Project. It’s pretty cool and, altho it’s not exactly an all-access pass, the nature of wheeling a set of cameras thru the building shows some interesting views that we don’t normally ever see.

They’ve also documented a fair number of art works in the White House, ranging from paintings to furniture to swords. They even categorize them by location, which is interesting, altho it seems hard to maintain, since art and furniture get moved around quite a bit.

Also the Gerald Ford Library has posted a big collection of images in, as one would guess about such matters, the least convenient format available to humans. They are PDFs that contain lists of links with no thumbnails to high-resolution* scans of crude contact prints of rolls of slide film, organized by day, complete with grease pencil circles obscuring the best shots.

* High enough resolution that they take forever to load but not enough to be useful to me, since each frame ends up being only about 280 pixels across. *sigh*


Thanks to Mike B and Jason B!

TR’s Blue Room chandelier

I got a request for information about a certain chandelier. The WH is not good about explaining where furnishings have gone, but if anyone happens to know, I’d be grateful.

I’m trying to find more information (any information, really) about the original French Renaissance chandelier than hung in the White House’s Blue Room circa 1902. It was removed during the Truman renovation, and I’ve no idea what became of it. More to the point, however, I’d simply like to know more about it (the maker, the dimensions, and so on.) It was a beautiful monstrosity, way out of proportion to the space–which, I think, became the reason given for its replacement.

There are only a few places in the mansion it could be, and it doesn’t seem to be in any of them. Big chandeliers being rather out of style, it’s likely been retired. It seems unlikely that has been moved to another government building. So, in all likelihood, it’s in any one of a dozen government warehouses, collecting dust.

[The/Fifth] Avenue in the Rain

Have you seen me?

Have you seen me?

I got a question about the location of Hassam’s The [or Fifth] Avenue in the Rain painting during the second Bush administration. I recall looking for it at one time and not finding it, but does anyone recall seeing it hanging anywhere in one of the White House videos, perhaps?

It hangs now in the Oval Office, next to the desk, as shown in the new photo I’ve posted.

Resolute desk

I’ve added several photos of the Resolute desk with high resolution versions after getting a request for detailed images.

Rod notes that JFK was apparently the only president to use the desk “wrong way around” with the plaque facing outward. It is, of course, a partner desk, so it is designed (without the kneehole modesty panel) to be used by two people at the same time, so it has drawers on both sides, concealed by doors. JFK must have had the modesty panel refitted so he could turn the desk around and the plaque could be read by visitors. The modesty panel was requested by FDR and added by Truman (after FDR’s death).

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.

Pottery Barn Decor

Us magazine is reporting that Michelle Obama and Michael Smith will decorate the family quarters with items from Pottery Barn. Now, maybe I’m stupid, but how much pottery can the first family need?

The article also mentions that the first kids will have to do “chores like pouring milk on their own cereal.” I don’t think pouring milk qualifies as a chore if it doesn’t first involve milking a cow.

Michael S Smith named as decorator

Visitor Halcyon notes in the comments on another post that Michael S Smith has been named as the Obama’s decorator. Keep your fingers crossed that he passes confirmation by the Senate.* Halcyon says:

To me, this is good news.
Smith announced today his first project is having a very old burled Maple four poster converted from a full to a king size bed. (this last part not in the article, but a buzz from a Rhode Island Designer I know)

* I may have that wrong.

UPDATE: The Bed. AP via PinkPillbox.

White House contractors

I got a request looking for information on businesses that do contract work for the White House. I know pretty much all the regular maintenance is done by in-house staff and the Parks Department, tho. The one thing that came to mind is the making of the Oval Office rugs and some of the furniture. Rode Brothers laid a new Oval Office floor a few years ago, for one. I believe Scott Group made the rug for the Clinton Oval Office, but I don’t know they have an ongoing relationship with the WH.

Anybody know more about this?

Resolute desk

Visitor Ryan is interested in plans for the Resolute desk…

hi, i am looking to start carving and building my own exact replica of the hms resolute desk, i was wondering if you know of the exact measurements of the desk overall size and if any other measurements of it , drawings, and what not. and i fully agree with you on the full replica of the white house and a museum . maybe in 7 years from now when i run for congress i can help you obtain that goal, or if luck is on my side maybe when i am president in 2028.

Does anyone know of any such plans?

North Portico lamp

Visitor Merlin writes:

Do you have any information about the large light fixture that hangs in the North Portico, including the name of the manufacturer? It appears in a 1906 photo on your website but is not visible in a 1902 photo, so it must date from sometime in that interval.

State Dining Room furniture copies

Visitor Ben writes:

I am trying to find chairs for my
dining room similar to the gold upholstered 1902
chairs in the State Dining Room. Kittinger has a
similar chair, but it doesn’t have the same simplified
lines as the chairs in the White House collection.
Have you ever run across the manufacturer of the
chairs in any of your research? I imagine
reproductions have been made since 1902…just
wondering if you have any leads.

West Wing Lobby clock

Visitor Jim writes:

Recently my wife was privileged to a White House tour. She was particularly interested in a “federal” (?) style clock on the wall in the West Wing Lobby, first floor (see attached pic. from your site). Can you tell us anything about the clock’s mfg., age, history, etc??

Anybody got any help for Jim?

Art question

Océano Pablo Navarro from Spain writes:

I found the enclosed picture of the Reagans with Prince Charles and Lady Diana in the Yellow Oval Room [actually the West Sitting Hall] and though I’ve searched all the web, I couldn’t know who is the painter of the impressionist beach scene hanging on the wall.
Could you please give me this information?

Update: He got a reply back from Hillary Crehan of the WHHA that…

The painting in the image is entitled: At the Seaside by Edward Potthast. This painting was borrowed from a private collection and is shown hanging in the West Sitting Hall.

Bear chair

I stumbled across a page with some information about the fantastic grizzly bear chair that Andrew Johnson had in the his library (the Yellow Oval Room).

Made from two grizzly bears captured by Seth [Kinman]. The four legs and claws were those of a huge grizzly and the back and sides ornamented with immense claws. The seat was soft and exceedingly comfortable, but the great feature of the chair was that, by touching a cord, the head of the monster grizzly bear with jaws extended, would dart out in front from under the seat, snapping and gnashing its teeth as natural as life. This chair Seth presented to [President] Johnson, September 8, 1865.

Yes, the head would dart out from underneath… natural as life….