A TOUR OF THE BLUE ROOM
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) We learned this morning that we are confirmed for a self-guided tour of the White House later this month. JFK+50 will be taking the next few blog posts to discuss the rooms we will be touring.
We will start with the BLUE ROOM*. Why? Well, it was John F. Kennedy's favorite color and it was the room that James Hoban intended to be "the building's most elegant architectural feature."**
In the early days of the President's House, the Blue Room provided the main access to the mansion. Unfortunately, when the British burned the house in 1814, all the Classical Revival furniture in the room was destroyed.
During renovations, President James Monroe and his family took private accommodations elsewhere and when the Blue Room was refurnished it included a sofa, pier table, and an array of arm and side chairs. This furniture was made by Pierre-Antoine Bellange, a French cabinetmaker.
The marble top center table, which is in the Blue Room today, has been in the White House since 1817. A portrait of President John Tyler by George P.A. Healy (1859) hangs above the Monroe sofa.
On the fireplace mantel sits the Minerva clock, ordered especially for the Blue Room by President Monroe. The view out the "window"*** of the room is one of the most beautiful in the city. You can see the South Lawn, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.
Mrs. John F. Kennedy's White House renovations, overseen by an advisory committee on Fine Arts, were directed by Stephane Boudin, an advocate of French interior design.
Another restoration of the Blue Room was completed in 1995. Sapphire blue fabric curtains were installed, derived from a French source. The walls were covered with light gold paper.
Perhaps the most important history of the Blue Room occurred on June 2, 1886 when President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom. The blue color, however, was first introduced to the room in 1837 during the administration of Martin Van Buren.
*The Blue Room is about 40 x 30 feet in size. Elliptical in shape, it is the main reception room of the White House.
**When Edward Lehman visited the WH to show the Kennedys his painting of the Blue Room which they were planning to convert to prints to give as a Christmas gift to the White House staff, JFK told Lehman that the Blue Room was his favorite.
***The window is actually a door which opens onto the South Portico, but the "window" can be raised like any other.
"Blue Room," The White House Museum, www.whitehousemuseum.org/
"Blue Room Art and Furnishings," The White House, www.georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/
"The White House, An Historic Guide," White House Historical Association, Washington, D.C., 1962.