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.
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.
Soulful music will resonant from the White House tomorrow night as the "In Performance at the White House" series celebrates Memphis soul. Among the performers are: Justin Timberlake, Alabama Shakes, Al Green, Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper, WIlliam Belll, Stever Cropper, Joshua Ledet, Mavis Staples, Charlie Musselwhite and Sam Moore. The evening's festivities mark the tenth "In Performance at the White House" conceerts since President Obama took office. The concert will be broadcast April 16 on PBS.
Today, March 29, is the anniversary of the birth of First Lady Lou Hoover,
who was born in Waterloo, Iowa in 1874. When she reached the White House in 1929 she saw it as her mission to whip the White House household staff into shape. She devised a sign language to be used to signal her directions for the staff such as when dinner should be served and the table cleared. She also had strict guidelines for the staff. All the butlers had to be the same height and the silverware could not clank when being removed from the table. Mrs. Hoover devised a bell system warning the staff when the President or First Lady was approaching which meant the staff had to disappear. According to Lillian Parks' recollection of her 30 years service in the White House (Parks, Lillian. My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House. New York: Fleet Publishing, 1961) staff dived into closets until the coast was clear.
President Madison and First Lady Dolley Madison decided they wanted a smaller dining room apart of the State Dining Room to be used only for family meals so they set aside a space 26 feet by 25 feet on the first floor of the White House. Although the Obamas use it for smaller formal dinners (as pictured here) some presidential families preferred other dining spots. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created another dining room upstairs, and President and Mrs. Eisenhower dined on TV trays in the family private quarters as did the Reagans. The portrait over the fireplace is of First Lady Frances Cleveland. (Photo: White House official photograph by Pete Souza)
The White House is hosting a social media get together on Tuesday, February 12, and you may be one of the lucky ones to participate, but only if you sign up today, February 6, before 6 p.m. E.T. Those receiving an invitation will watch live from the White House as President Obama delivers his State of the Union address to the nation and then participate in a panel discussion with Administration officials about topics presented in the President's address. Registration for the social is open to active users on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+.
This week's cover for My Year with the First Ladies Facebook page is a view of the south side of the White House, featuring the Truman Balcony with a view of the lawn and the Washington Monument.
Before 1948, there was no balcony until President Harry Truman pushed for its construction. Opponents of the idea argued that a balcony would ruin the look of the building and was not in keeping with the Federal style of archietecture. In the end, President Truman prevailed and the "President's Porch" has become one of the favorite places in the White House for presidential families as a place to relax out of the public eye and enjoy the best view the White House has to offer. President Obama has said the balcony is his favorite spot in the White House.
This week's cover for My Year with the First Ladies Facebook page shows President Obama with First Dog Bo jogging along the East Colonnade of the White House. The East Colonnade was originally built by President Thomas Jefferson. but later demolished and reconstructed during the renovation of the White House during President Theodore Roosevelt's administration. The East Colonnade, unlike the West Colonnade which is open air and borders the Rose Garden, is glass-enclosed and connects the East Wing to the White House Residence. (Photo: official White House photographer Pete Souza)
This evening President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host the annual Congressional Picnic on the South Lawn of the White House. Earlier in the day, President Obama will host a luncheon for Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed.