I watched this History Channel special this week (I taped it awhile ago…just got to watching it). This was very interesting because it included a tour of some of the private rooms, like the family dining room on the 2nd floor and the President’s personal office. While it didn’t show the entire residence (we didn’t get to see their bedrooms), the Lincoln Bedroom was on the list. We also got to go into the White House kitchens and hear from the people who run the White House on a daily basis – no matter who the First Family is – like the Chief Usher and the White House Curator. Preparations for the Bushes’ sixth state dinner were incorporated to show what goes into each one of these lavish affairs.
While I’ve taken a tour of the White House, I can’t say that I feel like I’ve ever seen it, so this was a great chance to see some of the rooms. Some fun facts from the show:
- The house was completely gutted during the Truman renovation. Two underground floors were added at that time.
- The only painting from the original White House is the one of George Washington that Dolley Madison saved before the house was burned by the British.
- Laura Bush added reading lamps in the Queen’s Bedroom at her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush’s, request. (Have to keep the mother-in-law happy!)
- President Bush uses the “Treaty Table” as his desk in his private office. This desk was originally a Cabinet desk under Grant and the seven drawers were for each Cabinet member.
- The Resolute desk in the Oval Office (made famous by that picture of John, Jr. peeking out the door of the desk) was made from the timbers of the HMS Resolute, a British vessel the US returned to Britian. Queen Victoria had a desk made out of the timbers for President Hayes in 1880. The desk was modified for FDR’s wheelchair and then for Reagan’s height according to Mrs. Bush (I made that note as the White House Museum site only records the FDR modification).
- Presidents have added exercise facilities to suit their own needs, like FDR had the first swimming pool installed. Nixon chose to install a bowling alley!
- Winston Church is reported to have seen Lincoln’s ghost while taking a bath at the White House!
- There are oval rooms throughout the White House, including the family dining room. This is where the First Family usually eats.
- The Truman Balcony has been used by the Bushes as a place to host parties, including George’s birthday each year.
Today the White House is a historic masterpiece that pays homage to its history. But when the Kennedy’s moved in that was far from the case and Mrs. Kennedy undertook to restore the White House and since then First Ladies and the White House curators have worked to continue the process as you can see by the historic ambiance of the White House.
This peek into the White House is definitely worth the time to watch! Enjoy this seldom offered look into the private rooms of the White House. Hopefully, we’ll get another peek in to see what changes the Obamas may make!