On the State floor of the White House is the largest of the State rooms, the East Room, which was designed by President George Washington and the Irish architect of the White House, James Hoban, to be used as the "Public Audience Room".
Over the years the East Room has become the all purpose room at the White House and, in some instances, not used in the way Washington and Hoban may have envisioned. For First Lady Abigail Adams it was a place to hang laundry. During the Civil War it bivouacked Union soldiers. It has been the setting for weddings, children's parties, funerals, and press conferences. In 1938 a Steinway grand piano designed by Eric Gugler with gilt American Eagle supports was a gift to the White House and since then the East Room has been the setting for many dance and musical performances. The oldest object in the room is the portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. This is the same portrait
that First Lady Dolley Madison fled the White House with as the British advanced down Pennsylvania Avenue intent on burning the White House in August 1814. First Lady Martha Washington's portrait also hangs in the East Room.
Whether you are a kid or an adult some people never want to stop playing with Legos(c). So, if you fall into that category or know someone who does the White House Historical Association is offering an opportunity to construct a three-dimensional model of the White House. The 500- piece set costs $50.00 and includes instructions plus facts and history about the most recognizable building in America. Click here for details and information about ordering. Oh, there is one age restriction: not recommended for children under age 3.
Tonight at the White House President Obama will present singer songwriter Carole King with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Ms. King will be the first woman recipient of the prize which is sponsored by the Library of Congress. King will be among the performers at the event along with Billy Joel, Trisha Underwood, Jesse McCartney, Gloria Estefan, and James Taylor. Artists and celebrities are paid nothing when they perform at the White House. An introduction by either the President or the First Lady is enough of an honorarium.
Today is the birthday of First Lady Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States. Dolley was described by many as a one of the great beauties of her era. She was endowed with a beautiful complexion which was not always an easy thing to have in colonial times for many women due to poor diet, disease or a life lived mostly outdoors. Dolley's mother was apparently thinking ahead because when Dolley was a little girl her mother devised a face cover, sort of like a ski mask, to keep Dolley's skin from drying out from the sun.
Over the weekend President Obama got in a round of golf despite the dismal skies in Washington. By some accounts President Obama has played at least 100 rounds of golf. One U.S. President who helped to popularize the game of golf in the 1950s and came in for his share of criticism from Congress and the press was Dwight Eisenhower. By some accounts President Dwight Eisenhower's time on the golf course added up to 150 days. Author Don Van Natta, Jr., in his book "First Off the Tee" claimed that President John F. Kennedy was the best golfer but tried not to draw attention to his play since his predecessor had been criticized so much. According to Van Natta President Taft complained about having to interrupt his golf game to deal with government business, and both Bush presidents played speed golf where it was "more important to get around fast rather than best". As for President Obama's golf game he has a 16 handicap. Tiger Woods had this to say about President Obama's game after playing a private round with Obama in February: "He hit the ball well and he's got an amazing touch. He can certainly chip and putt."
Today is the birthday of Harriet Lane who became First Lady of the United States when her uncle, James Buchanan, a bachelor, was elected President of the United States in 1857.
Harriet was all of 24 years old when she assumed the duties and responsibilities of the role of First Lady. She quickly captivated everyone with her blond hair, violet eyes, and low cut gowns although many, at the time, thought she was too young for the job.
(Photo at right: Harriet's inaugural gown.)
Ironically Harriet was the first to which the title "First Lady" was applied. Prior to her tenure in the White House, presidents' wives were given various titles such as Presidentess, Mrs. President and, in Martha Washington's case. "Lady Washington". Various publications at the time referred to Harriet as "first lady of the land" and the title stuck. Because of the press coverage she received Harriet became well know throughout the country and women named their baby girls after her. Harriet Lane acquitted herself well as first lady and went on to make a name for herself beyond the White House. She and her husband founded the Harriet Lane House for Invalid Children after the death of their two sons. The hospital was one of the first of its kind to find cures for childhood illnesses and was the beginning of the children's wing at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. She also lobbied for the creation of a national art gallery.
The White House putting green is located in a somewhat secluded spot on the South Lawn of the White House. The putting green came into existence when the American Public Golf Association came to President Eisenhower's rescue after he became frustrated with the crowds of tourists and motorists who would peer through the White House fence as he practiced his golf shots. All the attention prompted President Eisenhower to remark: "You know I get to the point, with everybody staring at me, when I want to go back indoors and pull down the curtains." (Lindop, White House Sportsmen). Eisenhower started playing golf several years before he was elected president and helped to popularize the sport in the 1950s.
On this date in 1789 Congress officially adopted the title of "President" for the chief executive of the United States. A man who eventually would become president himself, John Adams, thought the title of president was too plain and complained: "What will the common people of foreign countries say: George Washington, President of the United States. They will despise him to all eternity."