New West Wing construction being completed

The Washington Post reports that construction going on for years around the West Wing is being completed now, with the fences and such coming down and the equipment silenced. The official line is only that the utilities have been upgraded: sewers, storm drains, steam pipes, and so on, and not that any additional office space, parking, or bomb shelter has been created. If that’s true, it seems like a missed opportunity.

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.

The Lincoln White House

This diagram of the Lincoln second floor appears in Seale’s two-volume WH book. It shows the old west stair as a dual initial rise and a central rise to the second floor. But we know from photographs of the grand stair that by the 1890s it was a single initial rise at the right, a left turn, then a single rise to the second floor.

However, I don’t recall ever reading about that stair being renovated from dual to single. The question is, are we sure the dual rise stair was ever built? And when was it renovated to the single stair we see in the photos?

Redecoration speculation

Fox News has an article on moving into the White House. It’s a follow-up to their piece about White House food.

The AP has something on first lady transition tours.

Very grumpy article from The Scotsman on how darn much presidents and prime ministers spend redecorating to make things “homely”. (British pound conversion: double it and add thirty.*)

The Californian has an article with some juicy cost details I haven’t seen before in the right sidebar.

* I may have that wrong.

1902 floor plans

Patrick sent me some really fantastic images of White House floor plans from the 1902 Report of the Architects created by McKim, Mead, and White. They nicely fill in some holes and are so detailed that the original versions (click the hi-def links in the caption credits) could be used to build your very own vintage White House mansion, complete with giant steam boiler. Decorate to taste.

Got it!

I got a copy (two, actually) of AD at O’Hare while traveling today. The photos are beautiful, altho I wish we’d seen one or two of the private rooms (even the Family Kitchen!). The Green Room looks great and the Lincoln Bedroom is marvelous, but the Queens’ Bedroom is as frumpy as ever. You’d think that first families would be more adventurous with the lesser known guest room. The Vermeil Room is somehow still boring, despite the goldware. It’s nice to see the Palm Room, tho.

Also, I must say, the Porsche advertising insert was very persuasive. It fairly convinced me that I want a Porsche. But what is with that ad on page 35? Are they selling Isabella Rosselini? As much as I admire her beauty and talent, I won’t be a part of the illicit film star trade.

Architectural Digest

I still haven’t had a chance to pick up the new Architectural Digest with pics of the Bush redecoration. I’ve looked for it locally, but couldn’t find it. I didn’t want to go all the way to Barnes & Noble or Borders because I knew I’d be passing thru O’Hare airport Monday and it would certainly be there. Cue the severe weather flight delays…. and I had to rush to catch my connection.

This week I’m in Sacramento. Surely these people are civilized. The weather certainly is.

White House budget

Several days ago, visitor John M wrote:

In the Kennedy’s time the appropriation for an incoming First Family’s redecoration was $50,000. What is it now and what are they entitled to change without a governing groups approval? Does this amount include changes in the Oval Office?

I tried doing some research and didn’t get very far. I know the WH budget is about $8 million these days, but I think that’s the operating budget and may not include redecoration and repairs.


Made it to DC and went down to the White House before sunset and shot some pics (see What’s New). For some reason, there were terns flocking all over on the south side. Maybe the chefs ruined a big fish dinner and tossed the evidence out on the tennis court. White-soled shoes only, birds!

I also went around on the south side and shot the new structure there. It looks temporary to me, but certainly very solid. Perhaps it’s meant to cover some extensive below-grade expansion about to begin. I also noticed some earth-moving equipment hidden in the trees on the east side, but I think there has been some work going on there for a while.

UPDATE: Went out again after dark and got some great photos of the memorials with a tripod and bracketed exposures. I shot the Lincoln, Washington, WW2, and Jefferson memorials and plan to get the White House and other memorials tomorrow night.

McKim’s drawings

The Library of Congress is pile of cheeky monkeys, teasing us with McKim’s White House drawings but not making them available online. I’m not sure if that link will even work. There’s no proper perma-link listed. If not, I searched for “temporary executive offices”.

UPDATE: Changed the link. Maybe that will work better. You can also go to the search page and search for “temporary executive offices”.

Creme de la CREM

Delved back into the Report of the Commission on the Renovation of the Executive Mansion from 1952 and added floor plans from there. I’m not sure why I hadn’t done this before, because I photographed some of the plans months ago so I could draw the modern second and third floor plans.

As a part of this, I saw a diagram I hadn’t noticed before. It shows a cross-section of the East Sitting Hall looking west, and shows clearly how the hidden staircase to the third floor is structured.

More from the Truman Library

Looking over the Truman renovation report again, I noticed that the west side of the third floor, aside from being labeled “pent house,” is described in the New Furnishings section as “Servants’ Rooms #315-#322.”

That led me to search the Truman Library collection again and add a few more pictures, including a new separate page for Bathroom 315 and the Master Bathroom.

Press Briefing Room

Briefing room is due to be unveiled today. Pete points out that around 8:00 AM “people may want to try to tune in to CNN or something like that to see George and Laura host the unveiling ceremony.” I’ll post updates during the day as better pics become available. I expect Time‘s WH Photo of the Day to have a good one early.

WH release
WH fact sheet

ABC/AP story, with gut-wrenching “President Bush is a real cut-up” lede.
Examiner/AP story, same writer, leaving the excrutiating turns of phrase to the president.

FLASH: Hou Chron’s Julie Mason rocks the inside scoop–pool pics!

Press Briefing Room

Still awaiting decent pictures of the new Press Briefing Room and Press Offices…. Here is another article, with images that will make any photographer wince. Why pay professionals handsome salaries if you’re only going to display their pictures 274 pixels across?

The article says they haven’t enlarged it at all and have even kept the pool—the pool that’s been covered and unused for fully half its existence.

UPDATE: Added pics to the Press Briefing Room and Press Offices pages, including a mind-blowing photo of the brand-new Nixon briefing/tea party room from a great article passed along by both Robert and Pete.