Monday, May 28, 2012

White House: The President's Dining Room



Recent separate discussions on both the Sister Parish White House furnishing for the Kennedys and the use of scenic wallpapers brought The Devoted Classicist to think about the second floor Family Dining Room, sometimes referred to as the President's Dining Room, at the Executive Mansion.  Before the Kennedy residency, the space had been used as a Bedroom or a Family Room;  previously, the First Families went downstairs for their meals, and a room designated as the Family Dining Room occupies a handsome space with a vaulted ceiling just below this room.

The President's Dining Room is the space labelled 'Dining Room'
in this Second Floor Plan depicting the 1962 use of rooms.
Image from The White House Organization.
Mrs. Parish planned the second floor of the White House to be the home for the Kennedy family on much the same terms as she had done for clients for decades whether for grand Manhattan apartments or country estates.  Previous occupants had envisioned the second floor as homey, family quarters, but it was Parish-Hadley (as it was to become as Albert Hadley joined the firm at this time) -- with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy also advised by another great decorator of the day, Stephane Boudin of Maison Jansen, and a committee of wealthy benefactors to foot the bill -- who made it both comfortable and stylish.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy with son John, Jr., and daughter Caroline.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.

The neo-classical chimneypiece, according to author and White House authority
 Patrick Phillips-Schrock is from the 1952 work of Lorenzo Winslow and
not from the McKim Mead and White renovation, is shown
in this photo dated December, 1961.  The concealed door can partially be seen
on the left, open to the adjacent space used for the children's meals.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.

This view from February, 1962, shows a work-in-progress.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.

Mrs. Parish's off-white damask seat upholstery is shown here
along with a Waterford chandelier in a circa 1962 photo
by National Geographic Society.
Source: White House Historical Association.

The room was presented as a showcase Federal period furniture made in Maryland, no doubt acquired with the recommendation of Henry Francis DuPont, another influential advisor to Mrs. Kennedy.  (Mr. DuPont, the wealthy collector and perhaps the country's most revered antiquarian of the day, was the founder of the Winterthur Museum of Decorative Arts and the chairman of the newly formed Fine Arts Committee for the White House with Jacqueline Kennedy as honorary chairperson.  DuPont was major force in introducing quality antiques to furnish the State Rooms on the main floor, replacing the largely department-store-quality furniture with fine examples that were gifted or bought with donations).  The chimneypiece on the east wall was replaced by a circa 1815 mantel by Robert Wedford of Philadelphia.  Silver purchased by Andrew Jackson was displayed on a sideboard adorned with an American eagle portrayed by a satinwood inlay.  Silk curtains in two shades of blue were hung inside the openings so as not to obscure the window trim with an assymetric form based on a historic document design.  The main feature of the room, however, was a spectacular scenic wallpaper, circa 1853, depicting the American Revolutionary War that had come from a house in Baltimore.  The first image shows the more finished scheme, rather than an antique rug, a contemporary carpet with a subtle flamestitch pattern was used, and the damask chair seats were changed to tooled white leather (perhaps both being influences by Boudin) adding to the effect that it was a stylish private residence instead of a museum despite the high quality of furnishings.
Image from PARISH-HADLEY:  SIXTY YEARS OF AMERICAN DESIGN.

President William Henry Harrison, in office for only 32 days, broke from tradition and used this room as his bedroom;  he died of pneumonia here in 1841 and most of the predecessors returned to using the bedroom across the hall.  Along with the adjacent corner room, the suite was used by the Prince of Wales in 1860 during his Buchanan administration visit and became known for a time thereafter as the "Prince of Wales Room".  In 1861, Mary Lincoln installed the furniture from the Philadelphia firm of William Carryl now associated with "The Lincoln Bedroom";  their beloved eleven year old son Willie died in the elaborate bed just months after the decoration of the room was complete and President Lincoln was embalmed in the room three years later according to AMERICA'S FIRST FAMILIES by Carl Sferraza Anthony.
Photo:  Library of Congress.
This 1898 view of the room shows how it appeared when used as a bedroom during the McKinley Presidency, photographed for the first time. First Lady Ida McKinley had it painted pink and spent most of her time during her White House occupancy.  The painting above the two brass beds pushed together is of their daughter who had died two decades earlier.
Photo:  Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing.
Some of the Victorian decoration was removed for Alice Roosevelt's use as a bedroom as seen in this 1902 photo.  During a meal with the Nixons about 70 years later, Alice Roosevelt Longworth remembered that she had her appendix removed in the room. Sister Ethel's bedroom is glimpsed through the open door.
Photo:  Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing.

Photo:  Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing.
A daughter of President Taft also used the space as a bedroom as seen in these circa 1911 photographs.  The idea of stylish comfort is beginning to show in the decoration of the room.
Photo:  Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
As seen in this 1948 view of the room prior to the reconstruction of the White House, the Trumans daughter Margaret used it as her Sitting Room.  The piano leg's breaking through the floor was one of the factors that contributed to the decision to completely gut the mansion and rebuild it within the shell.
Photo:  Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
The reconstruction deleted the chimney breast as shown in the 1952 photograph taken as the work was not yet completed. Also the doorway that had been adjacent to the fireplace was removed as that was the First Lady's Study on the other side of the wall.
Photo from the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
The reconstruction provided an elliptical end at the entrance to the room that served as a device to visually center the fireplace in the room.  A concealed door on the left leads to a closet.  The corresponding space on the right is also used as storage, but accessed through the hall to the corner room used by Margaret Truman as her bedroom.  The West Sitting Hall, used as a Living Room for the First Family, is seen through the doorway.
President Johnson at the head of the table with his advisors.
White House photo.
President Johnson, right, with his advisors.
White House photo.
Despite the enormous differences between the Kennedys and the Johnsons, there were no widespread changes of the White House decor, as shown in these photos of President Johnson meeting with his advisors in 1967.  In fact, the work that had already been ordered by Jacqueline Kennedy proceeded and was installed during the Johnson Administration.  (The exception was the Oval Office which had furnishings that were installed during the trip to Dallas;  President Johnson kept the curtains by Stephane Boudin but brought in the same desk he had used since his days in the Senate, added a console that held three televisions so he could see all the major networks at the same time, and eventually changed the red carpet to gray).
Photo:  National Archives and Records Administration.
Although it appears that only the rug has changed in circa 1970 photo of the Nixon family dining in the room, the curtains were replaced around 1968, duplicating the previous design.
Photo:  The White House Museum Organization.
At some time later in the early 1970s, the influence of Clement Conger, the new White House Curator, can be seen in the change of carpet, a recreation of a historic document design. Along with Edward Vason Jones and design consultant Sarah Jackson Doyle, who had worked with the Nixons since 1965 (according to The Richard Nixon Foundation), First Lady Pat Nixon refurbished both private family rooms on the second floor as well as public rooms on the main floor.
Photo:  The Richard Nixon Foundation.
This circa 1973 view, again of the Nixon family dining, shows the carpet but few changes otherwise from the Kennedy scheme.
Photo:  National Archives and Records Administration.
When Gerald Ford became President in 1974 after the resignation of Richard Nixon, he became the only person to hold that office who was never elected President or Vice-President by the Electoral Colllege.  Although President Ford may be best remembered for granting Nixon a Presidential Pardon for his role in the Watergate Scandal, this writer associates him with the one who removed the scenic wallpaper;  he just could not bear it and had the walls painted yellow.  Ironically he is shown here raising a glass to the First Lady;  after a long-running battle with alcoholism, she was the founder and first chair of the board of directors of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction.
Photo:  Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.
In Bicentennial Year of 1976, the Fords are shown with guests Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the yellow painted room.  That thermostat between the Queen and the President was always there, apparently, but not so prominent with the design of the wallpaper.  The reproduction carpet is replaced with an Oriental rug.
First Lady Rosalynn Carter is at the head of the table with the President's mother, Lillian,
opposite.  Daughter Amy is in the plaid shirt on the right.
White House photo.
By the time of this circa 1978 photo, the Carters had reinstalled the scenic wallpaper.  Rosalynn Carter's decorator was Carleton Varney, known for his bold use of color.

Photo from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.
In this photo dating from 1981, the room is set up for a dinner honoring Charles, Prince of Wales.  The second mirror, duplicating the one over the mantle, is too high on the wall, a position especially noticeable with the sideboard removed.  An empire pier table is placed between the windows, now with damask curtains covering the trim, presumably designed by the Reagan's decorator Ted Graber.
Photo from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.
The room as it usually appeared during the Reagan years is seen in this 1986 photo.  The rug and chair seat upholstery seems to be the same from when the Fords decorated the room.
Photo by the Historic American Building Survey.
The  1992 photograph by the Historic American Building Survey shows the room as it appeared during the occupancy of Barbara and George Herbert Walker Bush, sometimes referred to as Bush 41 as he was the 41st President.  The Bush's decorator was Mark Hampton who apparently made little if any changes to this room.
Photo from The White House Museum Organization.
When the photos of the redecoration of Hillary and Bill Clinton's White House by Little Rock, Arkansas, decorator Kaki Hockersmith became public, they were a sensation.  But not generally in a positive way.  The consensus was that the design lacked an understanding of the scale and history of the White House and how the residence was used.  This time, the scenic wallpaper was not removed, but covered by a pale green fabric. This photo dates from about 1997.
White House Photo of  President George W. Bush with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice,
by Eric Draper.
Laura and George W. Bush, Bush 43, employed Fort Worth, Texas, decorator Kenneth Blasingame to essentially erase all the Clinton decor.  In contrast to the previous schemes, Laura Bush's decor was not controversial, but not particularly newsworthy either.  In this room, it seems the shield-back Hepplewhite dining chairs remain, but the chintz upholstery was changed to a more period-correct horsehair with decorative swag nail-head trim.  Also, the reproduction carpet pattern from the Nixon administration returned.  A golden yellow damask is now covering the walls.

White House photo by Peter Souza.
With the exception of photos of the Obama Oval Office, few photos have been released to reveal the interior design schemes of Santa Monica, California, decorator Michael S.Smith. Although Smith is involved in a number of commercial fabric and furniture lines, he clearly had not yet decorated this room as shown in this 2009 photo of Michelle Obama with Nancy Reagan.  The placement of the mid-19th century giltwood mirror above the mantle also dates from the Laura Bush-Kenneth Blasingame decoration.

More information about the White House can be found at the official White House website and the White House Historical Association.  Non-official sites such as The White House Museum Organization and the Facebook Group, White House Fanatics, are also sources of information.  The ground-breaking book DESIGNING CAMELOT: THE KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE RESTORATION by James Archer Abbott is the ultimate reference for the subject.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Albert Hadley's Home Office Furnishings

When the late Albert Hadley closed his office as of November 1, 2010, and "officially retired" from his career as an interior design legend, he set up a home office in his Manhattan apartment.  He continued with just a few, select, last projects there until he joined his sister in Nashville last December.  Items from the apartment and his house in Southport, Connecticut, along with a cache of his famous sketches, were the subject of three sales recently on the on-line shopping venue One Kings Lane.  With the thought that readers of The Devoted Classicist would appreciate seeing some of these pieces up close, a selection follows.  Mr. Hadley followed Billy Baldwin's philosophy (paraphrased as "It's not what you have, but how you use it") for his personal decoration, not always using the most precious objects but rather some simple, inexpensive pieces (though premium priced on OKL) to achieve his fresh decor.
Mr. Hadley's desk in the East 63rd Street office during my tenure at Parish-Hadley was a large table of his own design with legs of scrolling straps of distressed gilt iron and a top painted to resemble squares of parchment.  But it is no surprise that he would end with this simple 1970s table with an H-stretcher and legs of white painted steel designed by Mark Scharillo.  Mr. Hadley often used wool felt intended to cover billiard tables as a table cloth for writing tables and that appears to be the case here, as a more usuable surface than the black lacquered top.
This standing lamp from the 1950s was a gift from his mentor Van Day Truex and among his favorite possessions.  Useful as well as stylish, it sometimes made an appearance in his often-changing Parish-Hadley office and was a favorite of mine as well.
To compliment the standing lamp, a set of six German ebonized sidechairs from the 1930s had their seats upholstered each in a different color of silk.  Variations on this model, a simplified verson of the classic klismos chair, were often chosen by Mr. Hadley for projects throughout his career.
I cannot related anything about the story behind his acquiring the bronze falcon by Geoffrey Dashwood on his desk, but I am sure he appreciated the Art Deco architectural form of it.

In contrast, he no doubt also appreciated the contemporary baroque decoration of the small vase used as a pencil holder.
Despite his great appreciation of the antique, Mr. Hadley was a great patron of young contemporary artists.  This abstract painting by Mark Scharillo from the 1980s had previously hung in Mister's Southport weekend home between a pair of windows.  When the artist later saw the installation, it was said that he had joked it was painted for that location.
Wood sunburst mirrors were an accent that often appeared in Parish-Hadely interiors and this contemporary version by Mark Scharillo held a place of honor in the apartment.
Perhaps only aspect of the collection that The Devoted Classicist failed to fully appreciate was Mr. Hadley's patronage of large photographs by Dennis Krukowski.  The photos from 1983 documented the urban artist Richard Hambleton's grafitti-like paintings on exterior walls of buildings in lower Manhattan.  This and another also in the sale had hung prominently but in the more private areas of the Parish-Hadley offices on East 63rd Street during my tenure.

"Personality" chairs were another favorite of Mr. Hadley that appeared in almost every project in some form or another.  This unique, sculptural Regency period hall chair was purchased from antiques dealer Barry Sainsbury in London.
This rendering is another favorite of The Devoted Classicist, a 1946 depiction of an interior by the legendary decorator Dorothy Draper by John Marsman.  In the East 63rd Street offices of Parish-Hadley during the 1980s, it had been part of the decor in the office of Mr. Hadley's talented assistant, the late Tice Alexander.
In this Elle Decor cover, the rendering is shown installed in the Guest/Sitting Room of the apartment mounted on the bulletin board.  Leaning below is a gouache on canvas profile portrait of another legendary decorator, Elsie de Wolfe, dated 1926.

The sadness of the dispersal is balanced by the joy that must have come to the buyers.  Surely all these furnishings have found much-appreciated new homes.

The photos of the furnishings are from the offering by the members-only site, One Kings Lane.  The photo of Mr. Hadley's home office previously appeared in a tribute written by Thomas Jayne.

Friday, May 4, 2012

More on Baltimore

"View of Baltimore from Howard's Park" by George Beck, c. 1796
The Maryland Historical Society.

Continuing on my tour of some of Baltimore's highlights, the second part of the previous post of The Devoted Classicist, it was a treat to finally meet David Wiesand of Mclain Wiesand, surely one of Baltimore's most creative and talented classicist artisans.
The Baltimore showroom of Mclain Wiesand.
Photo from the firm's website.

David is phasing out his inventory of antiques and decorative accessories, but take a look at his website to see the catalogue of new home furnishings, represented in To-The-Trade Showrooms around the country.
A vintage view of the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion, now the Engineer's Club.
Photo from the Maryland Historical Society.
A tour of the Engineer's Club, located in the historic Garrett-Jacobs Mansion on Mount Vernon Place, was a real eyeful.  Robert Garrett was the older brother of T. Harrison Garrett of Evergreen House; dead at age 49, his wealthy widow, the former Mary Frick, married her late husband's personal physician Dr. Henry Barton Jacobs.  The original house which had been expanded and remodeled by Stanford White, was expanded again by John Russell Pope who also made some alterations to the original house, eventually growing to occupy four lots.  It is all well-preserved by the club.  Although not normally open to the public, a viewing of the rooms of the main floor is permitted as schedule allows.
Peabody Institute, Baltimore.
Photograph by William Henry Jackson, Prints and Photographs Collection.

The real surprise of the day was the George Peabody Library, formerly the Library of the Peabody Institute of the City of Baltimore, which opened in 1878, designed by Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind.  I was familiar with the area because my associate Hector Alexander Samada had completed an interior design project on the top floor of a Romanesque Revival townhouse just on the other side of the Washington Monument.  But I had never been inside the library, a research facility open to the public, now part of Johns Hopkins University.
The Stack Room of the George Peabody Library.
Photo from Johns Hopkins University.
The Stack Room would rank high on the list of the most fabulous spaces open to public in the whole country.  The over 300,000 volumes, most dating from the 18th to early 20th century, cover just about every subject for research except music, a reflection of the scholarly interests of the 19th century.  This interior, along with the fashionable urban neighborhood that surrounds it, is a not-to-be-missed atttraction to visitors of Baltimore.
Evergreen House as it appeared circa 1930.
Photo from Johns Hopkins University, jhu.edu
Evergreen House Museum & Library is full of books as well, with several rooms devoted to valuable volumes.  In addition to notable architecture there are interesting furnishings and fine art throughout the mansion, too.  Although I knew about the historic house because of its influence on the legendary decorator Billy Baldwin, I had never visited it before being invited to come speak, as related in a previous blog post here.
Evergreen's ballroom-sized library addition of 1928 by Lawrence Hall Fowler
included a dumbwaiter to lower the rare coin collection into the vault.
Photo from Johns Hopkins University, jhu.edu
There are many features to interest visitors, not the least being the notable bathrooms of various styles and periods, several of which are on view during the tour.  And the kitchen is currently undergoing restoration.
A view of the Lobby area adjacent to the Theatre at Evergreen House,
with painted decoration by Leon Bakst.
Photo from Johns Hopkins University.
My talk was given in the Leon Bakst-decorated theatre which was formerly a gymnasium.  The small stage can display one of three fantastic scenic backdrops that Bakst painted, and the adjacent space, used as the theatre lobby, is covered with his designs;  the decoration is original but the white background has been refreshed.  I was happy to meet Meg Fairfax Fielding of Pigtown*Design and a number of other Devoted Readers who had come from Washington, DC, Old Town Alexandria, VA, and even one from West New York, NJ.  Also, it was a pleasure to meet the JHU architect Travers Nelson, Program Manager, Design & Construction. 
The cover of the catalog from the exhibit at Evergreen Museum & Library.
Image by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog.

Tours of Evergreen begin and end in the former Billiard Room in the added wing.  Believed to have been designed by Stanford White, it bears many similarities to the Parlor Stairhall from the Metcalfe House, Buffalo, designed by McKim, Mead and White now installed in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  The space is now used as the Gift Shop and contains many interesting items for sale including the books by the authors from their speaker series and publications that accompanied special Evergreen exhibitions.  Those wishing to order publications such as BALTIMORE'S BILLY BALDWIN by James Archer Abbott may do so through the link or by calling the museum.
A view of the rear of Evergreen House before the 1928 library additon on the left.
The greenhouse with its onion dome turret is no longer extant.
The theatre wing can be seen on the right, extending out towards the garden.
Photo from the Maryland Historical Society.
One of Evergreen's best attended annual events is the Alice's Wonderland Garden Party, this year to be held on Thursday, May 10, 2012.  In addition to being an evening of fun, it is a fund-raiser for the museum with additional revenue being raised with a silent auction.  There are many fine items that have been donated, not the least being a pair of Louis XVI style fauteuils with hand-painted velvet upholstery.
A pair of fauteuils stamped JANSEN to be auctioned to benefit Evergreen House
at the Alice's Wonderland Garden Party, May 10, 2012.
Photo from Evergreen Museum & Library.
In addition to the curator-director of Evergreen, Jim Abbott, I owe great thanks to Nancy Powers, Museum Services Coordinator, and Ben Renwick, Facilities and Operations Coordinator, for all their help in making my presentation a success.  It was a memorable experience, seeing the highlights of Baltimore and meeting some of its most interesting residents.
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