While researching historical images for my last post, Botanical Conservatories, I came across a photograph of conservatories attached the the west side of the White House.
|The White House Conservatories c. 1858. Courtesy of Library of Congress|
Intrigued, I followed its source to the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division where I found several interior stereographs of the White House conservatory and greenhouses.
|Interior view of White House conservatory with plants and greenhouse glass roof c1873. Courtesy of the Library of Congress|
|Potted azaleas in the White House conservatory c1897. Courtesy of the Library of Congress|
|Unknown Woman Examining Plants along Path in a White House Greenhouse c1900. Courtesy of Library of Congress|
|First Lady Lucy Hayes and children c1879|
I found this delightful one of Lucy Hayes, wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes, sitting in the conservatory with their children on an archived website of The White House, President George W Bush.
My next search focus was discovering when the conservatories were replaced by the West Wing. For this search, I replaced the word, conservatory, with the phrase, west wing, and stumbled upon the fascinating White House Museum site with its page devoted to the West Wing.
And that's where I found this breathtaking White House illustration circa 1860 with the first greenhouse and people dressed in period clothing on a large expanse of green lawn. Even without the east and west wings the building's architectural details proves it to be the unmistakable mansion of America's First Family.
|Illustration of the south face, circa 1860, with the first greenhouse (1857-1867). Courtesy White House Museum|
According to the website, White House Historical Association, the first conservatory was added at the urging of James Buchanan's niece and hostess, Harriet Lane. Made of wood, it was built adjacent to the State Dining Room on the roof of the west terrace in 1857 and used primarily for plants and flowers. After it burned in 1867, its iron and wood replacement was built twice as large.
|Green houses, White House, Washington, D.C. c 1889. Courtesy of Library of Congress|
Over the next two decades, multiple greenhouses were added which enabled the growing of fresh produce for the kitchen, as well as beautiful plants and flowers to grace the White House rooms, all year round.
|Oranges growing in White House conservatories, Washington, D.C. c1902. Courtesy of Library of Congress|
When President Theodore Roosevelt and his large family moved into the residential quarters of an already crowded White House in 1901, something had to be done.
President Theodore Roosevelt and family, 1903. Courtesy of Wikipedia
The White House, Executive Offices and Treasury, east from the Navy Dep't., Washington, U.S.A. c1906. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
And here's a final one to show the changes after the 1929 fire and subsequent changes after Franklin Roosevelt overtook the third renovation of the new executive wing. Note that the term, West Wing, did not come into usage until this period in the 1930s.
The West Wing around 1938, showing the ground floor courtyard. (Library of Congress - Theodor Horydczak)
I hope you enjoyed this photo essay on the White House Conservatories and Greenhouses and I must send a huge thank you to the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division in Washington DC for making these images available to the public.
When you think of the White House, do you think of the politics, or the family who is in residence?
A conservatory is the favorite place of the heroine in my current release, Sweet Love Grows, a novella in The American Heiress Brides Collection.
In celebration of its release, I'm holding a #Giveaway of one print copy of The American Heiress Brides Collection to one person who leaves a comment on this post before 11:59 pm, Feb 12, 2017.
Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Her Christian faith is reflected in her stories of forgiveness and redemption as her characters struggle to find their way to that place in our heart we call home. Anita loves to correspond with her readers through any of the social media links found at
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