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.

King George

Interesting “what if?” article on the lineage of George Washington and who would be monarch if he had taken a crown. The nut graph (given UK-style descent):

Queen Estella would have reigned from 1918 to her death in 1931, but because her only child had predeceased her, the succession would have swung to her oldest uncle’s branch. He was also deceased, but had two living children from separate marriages. The son, though younger and from the second marriage, would have been given preference, so that would give America a King Lee from 1931 to 1969. Lee also only had one daughter. Like her father, Queen Odelle would have enjoyed a lengthy rule—1969 to 2000. And with her majesty’s passing, we would now be under the dominion of Queen Brynda.

Woody’s Lair

I’d seen this 1920 photo of the Wilsons previously, but hadn’t been able to place it. The mantel looks most like the president’s study in today’s Treaty Room, but the desk would need to be facing the window, which is backwards from what is shown in a slightly earlier picture. It’s not flopped, or their wedding rings would be on wrong and the window light would be at his back. Perhaps the photographer coaxed them into moving the desk to the other side of the room to take best advantage of the light.

Any other guesses?

Open post: Secret staircase

In the previous post comments, visitor Chris wrote:

Hey, on an unrelated note, I have recently come into some information regarding a hidden staircase passage on the first floor.

Would you guys like to know where it is? I wasnt sure if that kind of thing is allowed here.

Yes! Assuming it is used by regular staff and not strictly by the Secret Service or something, I’m definitely interested. I’m aware of a basement mezzanine, eastward tunnel under the East Wing, and (I’ve suspected, at least) another small hidden staircase on the West side, but I don’t have enough information about these to document them.

Winslow’s second floor solution

Duane writes:

A comparison of 1948 photos and post-Renovation photos indicates a difference in the distance between window sills and floor level in rooms on the western side of the residence floor. This suggests that the Renovation itself involved elevating the floor level west of the staircase landing, including the landing, perhaps to allow for a shallower pitch to the ramp from the landing to the level of the East Sitting Hall and adjacent suites. Such a change in the floor level, however, would have required a change in the floor of the balcony as well in order to keep it at the same level as the Yellow Oval Room. Attempts to contact likely sources of information on this matter have not been successful. Does anyone have information regarding this matter?

UPDATE: John sent a very informative pic of the door to the balcony.

Barber Shop mystery

Returning once again to the Truman Library archives (the gift that keeps on giving), I came across this image of the “barber shop,” labeled “room BM-10.” At first I thought it was the second floor Beauty Salon, but then I compared it with the West Wing Barber Shop picture, and that’s a better fit, tho not perfect (I’ve put it there for now). I haven’t come across any room numbering scheme that shows “BM-10,” so it could be in the WW ground floor or maybe the basement, for which I have no official floor plans (altho the WH has used different room number schemes at different times). Any ideas?

Kennedy bedrooms

The Ike’s Lair discussion prompted John in NOLA to pass along two photos from the Kennedy archives that show Junior’s mantel and Jackie’s mantel (see What’s New) but don’t help solve the mystery. (But they’re nice, John; really they are.) Conspiracy theorists now suggest that Ike had a room in his library made to look a lot like the White House a family residence room but not exactly like one.

Tyler chairs and Boudin’s ground floor

Visitor John M asks three questions I can’t answer….

When Mrs. Kennedy gave her famous tour in 1962 she spent considerable time in the newly restored Red Room. She mentioned two chairs by the desk between the windows as grateful acquisitions perhaps from the Tyler administration. What ever happened to those chairs?

Also, Boudin had approved changes from Mrs. Kennedy for the Vermeil and China rooms in 1963. Were any of these changes implemented during the Johnson administration? If so were the rooms photographed?

Finally, why did they choose to place William McKinley’s portrait in the East Room? As for the other portraits I understand Washington and his wife as he laid the cornerstone and they were the original first couple. I understand TR because he was responsible for the interior architecture via McKim, Mead, and White. In my opinion they should balance out the male/female portraits and remove McKinley and replace it with Shikler’s portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy who helped create the White House Historical Society and establish the permanent collection of historic antiques.

I don’t think the WH comments on why certain portraits are placed where they are. I’m sure –for all administrations–it’s a combination of curatorial historical expertise and vicious partisanship. 😉

General Eisenhower, in the West Bedroom, with the Candlestick

I think we have a winner in the “Where’s Ike?” contest. Visitor Kevin G provides this fine bit of detective work demonstrating that the photo of Ike must have been taken in the small West Bedroom upstairs.

Here is the photo about Eisenhower. These are just my conclusions, but I looked at the wainscoting panels and the only ones I find of the same length are in the West Bedroom

See what you think. I was wondering if the mantels could have been changed in the Kennedy restoration. Also note the electrical plug in the West Bedroom photo. I believe outlets would have been added.

Update: Well… perhaps not. Unless Ike temporarily changed the mantel himself, the fireplace is wrong. The original, uncaptioned photo comes from a page on Ike’s post-White-House years, so it’s possible that the photo was not taken in the WH and yet… he had the motive, the opportunity, and the desire….

Grab bag and a puzzle

Dropped a few new photos in of various areas, including an intriguing one of the Roosevelt Room. The new one shows the ceiling very well with what appears to be a skylight. My (well, Pete’s) floor plan of the second floor does not show a skylight well, so I wonder if it’s really just a flourescent fixture, but Pete pointed out that there is a roof pylon in the right place that presumably is a skylight.

Press Briefing Room

Wingnut points out that a Politico article on Helen Thomas mentions that the Press Briefing Room won’t be ready until May or June, meaning that the room will have been out of commission for 10 or 11 months. We saw in Barney’s holiday video that the room was no where near done in December, so that seems accurate, but the long timeline is a stumper. Aside from the possibility that the administration has an ulterior political motive for keeping the press out of the WH, what could be the delay? Charles McKim restored the whole mansion in the same time frame.

My guess: they’re building in additional facilities of some sort underground.

Comfort, being relative to what arrangement one is accustomed to

Recent comments and an e-mail from Dale L about how comfortable first families might be in the big rooms of the second floor got me wondering. Most presidents have lived in mansions before the WH. Who do you think was the last president not to have any full-time household servants before coming to the WH? Truman, maybe? Clinton and Carter weren’t especially rich, but as governors they must have had cooks and housekeepers. There probably have been very few in total…. Lincoln probably being another. Coolidge, maybe?

Also: Thanks to Logan P for the scans of the Reagan era Residence from Architectural Digest, Dec 81. I’ll be adding those very soon.

White House as practical residence

The “Polkarama!” post produced a lively exchange about the livability of the White House. I personally think that any house that is over 200 years old pretty much inevitably becomes a museum. I think that most first families come from backgrounds in which they are used to very large houses with formal sitting rooms with uncomfortable furniture and more casual living rooms with more comfortable furniture. Some even split the difference and put their feet up on 150-year-old historic tables.

I wonder tho, if the WH is coming to a point where it’s impractical to really live there, especially for a younger couple with small children (never mind a pony). I wouldn’t be surprised if its 250th anniversary (in 2050) marked the moment that it gets turned into a permanent museum, with the president working out the the EEOB and living in a new mansion built on some former parkland or replacing some government building (there’s a Postal Service training facility around DC that gets rented to corporations that would be a pretty good site, I think). I’m not advocating it, just speculating.

I do think the WH needs more business-casual rooms. “Map Room”? Bah! Maybe it’s the jet lag talking, but I’d like to see a “Churchill Room” furnished in English club furniture and stinking of cigars and brandy.