Thursday, March 16, 2017


JFK+50:  Volume 7, No. 2250


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) JFK+50 will be taking the next few blog posts to discuss the rooms we will be touring in our self-guided tour of the White House next week.

Today we will take a look at the EAST ROOM*.  Originally designated as the Public Audience Chamber, the East Room came to be known as the Banquet Room.  The largest room in the executive mansion, the East Room has been used for award ceremonies, concerts, dances, funerals, press conferences and weddings.

The East Room remained unfinished until 1826.  Abigail Adams, the first First Lady to live in the White House, hung her laundry out to dry here.  In 1818, President James Monroe bought 24 chairs for the East Room from William King, a Georgetown cabinet maker.

After the Civil War, the Grants redecorated the East Room in what was described as "steamboat palace" decor.   Today the elegant room retains the late 18th century classic style which was established in the 1902 restoration.

There are some very historical objects in this room.  First is the Landsdowne portrait of George Washington, the work of Gilbert Stuart in 1794, that was saved from capture by Dolley Madison.  There is also a portrait of Martha Washington by Eliphalet Andrews hanging nearby.  There are two of President Monroe's candelabras on the mantle in the room.

The East Room is furnished with a Steinway grand piano with gilted American Eagle supports given to the White House in 1938.   Jacqueline Kennedy made only one change to the East Room and that was the installation of new draperies.  It was here that the famed Spanish cellist Pablo Casals entertained President and Mrs. Kennedy.

Sadly, the East Room has seen the lying in repose of seven Presidents:  William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, Warren G. Harding, FDR & JFK.  Of the 8 POTUS who have died in office, only James A. Garfield did not lie in repose in this room.

*The East Room is 80 by 37 feet.  TR's daughter Alice was married here while some of his other children used the room as a roller skate ring.  Recently the room has been used for presidential press conferences with the President entering from the Cross Hall & the podium situated just inside the entrance.


"East Room," The White House Museum,

"The White House, An Historic Guide," White House Historical Association, Washington, D.C., 1962.

The East Room
May 8, 1963
Photo by Robert Knudsen
JFK Library & Museum Image

Honor Guard Places JFK's Casket in East Room
November 23, 1963
Office of Naval Aide to the President
Photo by Robert Knudsen