State Dining Room incorporates the space that President
Thomas Jefferson used as a private office. Tall and
generously proportioned, the room had fireplaces on
the east and west and was flooded with daylight through
tall south and west windows. When President and Mrs.
Madison took residence in 1809, the room became an art
gallery and dining area. They displayed Gilbert Stuart's
portrait of George Washington, now in the East Room,
on its walls. Mrs. Madison rescued the painting before
the British arrived to burn the house in 1814.
As the nation
grew, so did the invitation list to official functions
at the White House.
as 1856 a reporter wrote that the State Dining Room
was too small for the number of congressmen, diplomats
and other distinguished guests. The Cross Hall was used
for large dinners even though drafts from the front
door made it chilly. Seating for dinners was a matter
of studied concern. Guests and their partners marched
in unison with music to the table. Places were arranged
by a seating chart reflecting diplomatic rank. The president
always was served first, and no one could rise to leave
the table before him.
Rutherford B. Hayes and Lucy Hayes abstained from alcohol
and often served soft drinks instead of liquor at White
House dinners and receptions. By the close of the Hayes
administration in 1881, teas had become a central part
of White House entertaining and Lucy Hayes had acquired
the nickname "Lemonade Lucy."
Chester Arthur commissioned designer Louis Tiffany to
redecorate the State Dining Room in 1882. By far the
greatest cost was Tiffanys artistic painting.
The walls were painted in many shades and textures of
yellow and highlighted in silver.
1902 renovation, President Theodore Roosevelt greatly
enlarged the State Dining Room. He mounted a large moosehead
above the fireplace, and placed other game trophies
on the natural oak panels. In 1909, Roosevelt ordered
the carvings on the main stone mantle to be changed
from lions to North American bison heads. The current
woodwork, eagle side pedestal tables, chairs, and lighting
fixtures remain from the 1902 renovation.
In the final
year of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt
ordered John Adamss famous blessing carved on
the stone fireplace of the State Dining Room where it
can be seen today. On November 2, 1800, Adams wrote
to his wife:
Truman renovation, the rich oak-paneled walls were painted
a light celadon green to hide damage marks and a new
black marble mantle was installed.
In 1962, the Kennedys had a replica of the 1902 mantle,
complete with bison heads and the Adams' quote, installed
in the State Dining Room and painted the walls ivory
white. Today, the State Dining Room serves as a banquet
hall and ceremonial chamber for all manner of official
events. It is the center of White House hospitality.
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