Earlier this week I had the opportunity to take a holiday tour of the East Wing of the White House. While I’ve lived in DC for nearly 2 years, I‘d never done a tour of the President’s home and wasn’t sure what to expect.
I was blown away by the opulence: crystal chandeliers, marble floors and columns, intricate woodwork and moldings and luscious textiles. And then on top of all of that, the Christmas decorations!
In all, the Wing houses 54 decorated trees. Each year, the First Lady picks a theme for overall décor and this year’s theme was “Joy to All.”
I had imagined that the tour would be a formal, docent lead walk through the various rooms and halls, but instead (after not one, not two, but four security checkpoints!) we were handed a pamphlet and left to our own devices to explore (in very clearly designated areas of course).
Let me show you around!
East Entrance Landing:
The entrance is dedicated to the men and women in the US Armed Forces. Here you can write notes to military personnel and their families thanking them for their service.
East Garden Room:
This is one of the most popular rooms in the Wing. Why? Because it’s home to a life-sized model of Bo, the First Dog! And let me tell you, he is a BIG dog. As in, he could provide pony rides at children’s birthday parties. I had no idea he was such a large animal.
Also on display in this room are holiday cards from this and previous administrations, plus my favorite tree of the tour – I dub thee Bubble Tree.
The Library is one of most informal rooms on the State Floor, which seems appropriate given that is used to be a servant’s locker room and then a gentleman’s waiting room until the mid-1930’s.
There’s a table set for dinner with the official White House china selected by First Lady Bess Truman in 1951, but it’s unclear if this room would have actually been used for dinners or not.
Also known as the “Gold Room,” this old school ladies parlor contains collections of silver, though they aren’t on display. For me, the highlight of this room was the portrait of Jackie Kennedy on the back wall.
I was surprised to find out that the East Room is the largest room in the White House. Surprised because, well, it didn’t seem to be all that big. Formal social events and dinners take place here, but the space seemed much smaller than most reception halls for a standard wedding.
Probably my favorite room, the Green Room pays homage to President Teddy Roosevelt, an ardent conservationist. While in office, he refused to cut down trees to decorate the White House.
Fun fact: In this room, President James Madison signed the first declaration of war by the US, sending us into the War of 1812. Two years later the White House was burned down by the Brits – opps.
Here stands the official White House Christmas Tree, dedicated to members of the military and their families. When there’s not an 18-foot spruce in the middle of it, it’s an official reception room and is used for small dinner parties.
With heavy drapes and every inch dripping with red and gold decorations, it’s easy to see why this room is used as a receiving room for guests.
State Dining Room:
As the official room for State dinners and diplomatic receptions, again, I was surprised at how small the space seemed. How many people could you possible cram into the hall for dinner? That said, the room is gorgeous and airy and my second favorite room in the Wing.
Partially because it’s home to the famed 300 pound gingerbread replica of the White House!
Usually used to escort guests from one end of the Wing to the other, this Christmas it displays the First Lady Trees that are decorated with ornaments representing holiday themes of past First Ladies.
Whenever the President wants to be a boss and make a grand, formal entrance, this is the go-to staircase!
The “President’s Front Door,” is the entertainment room at Christmas time. Live music, the Presidential Seal and decorations on nearly everything leave a lasting impression before you spill out the front door onto the north driveway of the White House.
And then the tour is over. I was honestly surprised that we were allowed to take as much time as we wanted; no one was urging us along or pushing us to the next room.
Even out front, no one sheparded us to the exit gate. It was a much more relaxed experience than I had expected.
*For more Photo Friday goodness, head to Delicious Baby A huge thanks to Kristin A. for hooking up the tickets – this was such a treat!