and Dolley Madison moved into the house in 1810, they
assigned architect Benjamin H. Latrobe to decorate the
state rooms, but an impending war with Great Britain
halted interior design plans before the East Room could
be addressed. In August 1814, invading British troops
set the house ablaze, destroying the interiors and leaving
only a burned-out shell.
1815, architect James Hoban returned to rebuild the
Presidents House. The East Room remained unfinished
when James Monroe moved back into the house in 1817.
The walls were bare plaster and windows were unadorned,
the mantles were simple painted wood, and the floor
was raw boards. An ornamental anthemion frieze, highlighted
with gold leaf on a black flocked background, was the
rooms only ornamentation for 11 years. Yet, in
1824, President Monroe entertained the Marquis de Lafayette
in this unfinished room.
president in 1829, Andrew Jackson arrived at White House
as a hero of the American people. During his first term,
Jackson papered the East Room walls lemon yellow and
added splendid gold stars. Predominantly blue Brussels
carpeting covered the floor. Spittoons, centered on
a protective square of oilcloth, lined the east and
west walls. He installed the East Rooms first
great glass chandeliers, eventually replacing the candles
with small lard-oil lamps. Twenty-four Empire style
chairs purchased by James Monroe in 1817 were repaired
so the throngs of visitors would not be kept "standing
upon their legs as they do before kings and emperors."
entertaining placed heavy demands on the house and necessitated
regular refurbishing of the staterooms. By 1841, the
Monroe chairs were in such poor condition that a journalist
complained they would "disgrace a house of shame."
That same year, the White House was draped in mourning
black for William Henry Harrison. Funeral services were
held in the East Room for the first president to die
in office. In 1848, James K. Polk piped gas into the
chandeliers in the East Room. It was by the glow of
these lights that the second president to die in office,
Zachary Taylor, lay in state in 1850. The gaslights
still glowed in this largest of the staterooms ten years
later when President Lincoln came to the White House.
Guests at receptions hosted by the Lincolns waltzed
here during the years of the Civil War. Beneath the
dancing feet, heavy support logs in the basement shored
up a sagging floor.
early days of the Civil War, Union soldiers from Kansas
used the room as a bivouac. Young Tad Lincoln gave his
father some much-needed amusement when he rode a chair
pulled by two goats into the East Room during a social
visit. After his assassination in April 1865, Lincoln
was the third president to be mourned in the East Room.
Ulysses S. Grant renovated the East Room in 1873-74
for the wedding of his daughter, Ellen. Immense mirrors
topped new wooden mantles, two ceiling beams were added
continuing Hobans anthemia, and Andrew Jacksons
chandeliers were replaced by ornate new gas chandeliers
that featured clusters of globe lights. Louis Tiffany
embellished the room even further for Chester Arthur
in 1882, adding a delicate ceiling wallpaper that resembled
Pompeiian mosaics. Theodore Roosevelt gave a state dinner
in the East Room for Prussia's Prince Henry in 1901.
A photographer recalled it was like eating "in a Christmas
architect Charles McKim obliterated the rooms
exuberant Victorian décor in a White House renovation
for Theodore Roosevelt. Highly carved French-inspired
neoclassical paneling, painted a brilliant cream white,
replaced what critics had called a "Steamboat Gothic"
interior design. The rooms bright finishes were
brought to life by three new massive Bohemian glass
chandeliers that remain in the room today. Almost immediately,
President Roosevelt held a Japanese jujitsu exhibition
in his new stately East Room. His children roller-skated
on the fine oak floor. Eldest daughter Alice remembered
hiding inside ottomans crowned by potted palms. In 1906,
the East Room became the setting for Alice Roosevelt's
famous wedding to Nicholas Longworth.
the White House staged its first formal East Room concert
during Chester Arthurs administration, the space
emerged as one of the worlds great musical stages
after Steinway and Sons presented a grand piano to the
White House in 1903. World renowned pianists came to
the perform at the mansionFeruccio Busoni, Ignacy
Paderewski, Josef Hofmann, Olga Samanoff, Sergei Rachmaninoff,
and a host of others. This piano was replaced in 1938
by another Steinway concert grand, which remains in
the East Room today.