Sometime in the 60’s, my dad got to tour the White House. He even owned one of the early editions of The White House Guide Book, first written by First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Dad loved history and the Presidents, and he is the one who got me interested in it, too. As I sat snuggled beside him as a young girl, he would read to me from a big red book about the Presidents. I used to dream about visiting this historic home one day. When Mom and Dad took me to D.C. as a teenager, we missed out on seeing the White House – remember, that was before the Internet! But on March 7, 2017, the first day of White House tours in the Trump Administration, I got the opportunity I had dreamed about.
Terry enjoys history also, so we began visiting Presidential homes and museums shortly after we were married. Our first tour was of Monticello when I was expecting Lauren, almost eighteen years ago. Since then, we have toured five others. But the White House – that’s the crown jewel of Presidential homes! Every President since John Adams (the second President) has lived in the White House.
I cannot begin this story without mentioning the difficulty in getting a tour of the White House. If I thought security was tight in Washington, D.C., in general, it has nothing on the White House. First of all, you must submit your tour request within three months of your visit through your U.S. representative or Senator. Each person in the tour must submit their Social Security numbers (even babies). If you pass this first step, then you wait patiently for your appointment. We got our appointment less than a week before our departure. The delay was partially attributed to the change in administrations. I mentioned in previous posts about how the Lord arranged this trip for us, and that definitely includes our White House tour. It was an exciting day to get this good news. We had already secured our tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Capitol, so it was a bonus that the White House tour didn’t interfere with those.
We were instructed to print out our confirmation number and have it with us. No purses or bags of any kind. No cameras with lenses longer than three inches. No selfie sticks. You must have your photo I.D. if you are over 18. I was thrilled that I could take my phone and take photos with it.
We arrived at the White House visitor’s center at 7:45, fifteen minutes before they opened the doors. It was not as cold on this day as it was the day before, and our wait time was shorter. We used the restrooms at the visitor’s center because no restroom is available for visitors at the White House. We then went across the street and stood in line as we waited to file in.
So while we waited, we took selfies!
We stood in this line for about fifteen more minutes, so close to the White House, yet still unable to see it. A nice gentleman came around with a White House brochure and offered to answer any questions we had. We stood near a statue of William T. Sherman on his horse, supposedly where he reviewed the troops after the Civil War ended.
My first glimpse!
We got to the first security station where we showed our I.D. and got our names ticked off of a sheet by a secret service agent. We then passed by another secret service agent. After that, we walked past a large German shepherd in a cage, with a fan blowing on us toward the dog. We then passed two more agents and finally, I stepped into the WHITE HOUSE!
Lots of photos of past Presidents lined the first hallway we entered. I could have stood there all day, but I thought we were on a time schedule to go through the tour. I found out later, that we were not on a strict schedule.
They already had photos of President Trump up!
My first photo in the White House!
I look back at these photos and still can’t believe I was there…
A bust of Lincoln in the first hallway.
This is the Vermeil Room. It was once a billiard room, but now contains a collection of European and American gilded silver (vermeil) objects from 1700-1950s. Most rooms were corded off and the halls were filled to overflowing with loud groups of children. I was blessed to be able to capture any clear images at all. Several of my photos have strangers in them, but that’s just how it is at the White House.
More of the Vermeil Room. Lady Bird Johnson’s portrait is in this room, along with Jackie Kennedy. I thought this room was delicate looking.
The China Room contains China from past administrations, but not all of it. Not every administration has their own pattern. There is so much China now that much of it is in storage. Any chipped or broken pieces used to be tossed into the Potomac. First Lady Edith Wilson began this display.
Grace Coolidge is the portrait straight ahead.
Here is the Pierce China pattern. He had a heartbreaking administration. His eleven-year-old son died in front of him and his wife in a train accident. His wife never really recovered from the shock and stayed in the White House during the first two years of his administration. He also interestingly took the oath of office on a law book rather than the Bible.
The Lincoln China has my favorite color (purple) in the pattern, but I do not think it’s very attractive. It looks a bit gaudy to me, which fits with what I have read about Mary Lincoln’s personality. Of course, this was another difficult administration both professionally and for the family. There is more Presidential China on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. I enjoyed that display more because it was more accessible.
This is the hall of First Ladies, here is Laura Bush’s portrait.
I snapped this photo of the hall only minutes before President Trump would come out. Before you ask, no we didn’t see him. We just missed him. I wasn’t too upset about it because I was slightly…ok, I was wildly intoxicated with the history of my surroundings.
I was extremely excited to enter this room! This is the East Room: Abigail Adams hung her laundry here, TR’s kids had horses in here, JFK lay in state here, musical performances are here to this day, Amy Carter roller skated here, and lastly, this is where the painting of Washington hangs – Yes! The one that Dolly Madison saved from the burning of the White House in 1814! This room is truly replete with history. I could have soaked it up all day.
Me and Terry with George Washington in the background.
It’s not every day you get to take a selfie in the East Room!
The Blue Room was re-furnished by James Monroe after the British burned it. This is where President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom. The couch in this room is curved exactly to fit the oval shape of this room.
Andrew Jackson in the Green Room.
The Green Room, used for dinners by Jefferson and as a parlor by Madison.
A quick photo of some of the kids in the Green Room.
The amazing Red Room! This is where Rutherford B. Hayes took the oath of office in 1877.
The marble mantel has been in this room since 1819!
It’s appropriate that Grant’s portrait is in this room since he was the predecessor to Hayes, who took the oath here.
The State Dining room was furnished by TR – Teddy Roosevelt.
Kind of dark, but this stately old mahogany table has ornate eagles supporting it in the front.
This mantel is carved with the words from John Adams in a letter to his wife, Abigail, about living in the White House. It says, “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but wise men ever rule under this roof.” The bison heads on the mantel show how much Teddy Roosevelt loved the wild west.
This is the family dining room, well, it used to be anyway, before the upstairs residence got their own dining area. Teddy Roosevelt and his family ate their meals here.
I wanted to get all the kids’ photos here, in front of the Great Seal, but it was so crowded with people waiting to get a photo, that I hurriedly took this one of just a few of them. And, I chopped off part of the Seal!
When Truman remodeled the house in 1952 due to its falling apart, he re-designed this stairway to make a better entrance for the President.
The grand entrance hall was our grand exit. It was a thrilling tour through “the people’s house”; a dream come true for me. I think my children will treasure this opportunity more and more as the years go by. As we made our way out, we stopped outside to snap a few more photos.
I asked a stranger to snap a group photo of us in front of Reagan’s portrait inside the White House, but it was so blurry, it was unusable. She only took one photo and it was the only one I had of all of us together. That was more disappointing than missing President Trump. So, we were back to taking photos in stages. I wish we could have taken our selfie stick inside!
We took these at Lafayette Park, across the street. This as close to the White House as you can get. If you step onto the street, a secret service agent or policeman will shout at you to “GET BACK ON THE SIDEWALK NOW!”. We heard them do it more than once.
After our tour, we made our way back to the visitor’s center to see the small museum there. I enjoyed touring it very much. It houses lots of furnishings from the White House along with stories about previous Presidents. A large screen film played with behind the scenes information as told by some first families, which I found captivating. It was not crowded and I could browse to my heart’s content.
Here is Washington’s chair in the Visitor’s Center museum. You do not need a reservation to tour this museum, and it’s free!
I enjoyed looking around the gift shop. I even found my own copy of the White House Tour Guide to bring home.
I will read it thinking of my dad, my partner in history.