Thursday, May 3, 2018

Inside the White House: The Green Room

The Green Room is one of three state parlors in the White House, and it's been the scene of numerous historic events. James Madison signed a declaration of war against Britain in this room in 1812. Here, Edith Roosevelt received guests before her Friday evening concerts, Elinor Roosevelt met with Amelia Earhart, Barbara Bush entertained visiting first ladies; and Donald Trump has held private dinners. And here, the body of eleven-year old Willie Lincoln, President Lincoln's 11-year-old son, was embalmed and lay in repose. 
The Green Room, taken December, 1982 (Reagan Administration. Note the Christmas decorations). Public Domain.

While architect James Hoban intended this room to be the "Common Dining Room," the Green Room was first used as a "Lodging Room," according to the 1801 inventory. 

Within a few years, however, it fulfilled its intended purpose as a dining room. The second occupant of the White House, Thomas Jefferson, had a green canvas cloth laid over the floor to protect it from spills. The next occupants, the Madisons, probably removed the cloth, because Madison used the room as a place to play cards with his friends. It was then furnished in the French Empire style, and also served as a sitting room for Cabinet members (the Cabinet met in the East Room next door). 

The Monroes, first occupants of the White House after it was rebuilt following the fire of 1814, decorated the room in green, but this chamber didn't receive the name "Green Drawing Room" until the John Quincy Adams Administration. (Today, portraits of John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa, now hang in the Green Room.)

Details about the room's decor are scarce until the Grant Administration in the 1870's, although Andrew Jackson's earlier choice of green was called "odious" by female visitors. Mary Todd Lincoln had purple drapes hung in the room (purple was quite fashionable at the time as an accent color, and was featured on the Lincoln presidential china, as well.). The Grants redecorated and hung emerald and gold wallpaper on the walls, with matching fabric to cover the chairs. 
File:White House interior, Old Green Room.jpg
The Green Room between 1860-1880. Public Domain {{PD-US}}
By the turn of the twentieth century, however, redecoration and structural changes were deemed necessary at the White House. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt chose the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White for the task, and the firm chose to return the Green Room's decor to the French Empire style, using reproduction furniture.
The Green Room, 1904. Public Domain.
First Lady Grace Coolidge attempted to update the White House in 1924, and she appointed patrons of the arts who were knowledgeable in Early American furniture to help. Unfortunately, members of the committee disagreed about whether to preserve the decor in the Green Room or switch to a Colonial Revival style. When the negativity of the discussion became public knowledge, President Coolidge stepped in and shut down the renovation plans. A new committee was formed two years later, and the Green Room was decorated in a Colonial Revival style with green silk velvet wallpaper. 

Few changes were made over the next several decades, although when work was done on the White House during the Truman administration, green silk damask replaced the velvet wall coverings and window treatments.

Jacqueline Kennedy chose moss-colored silk when she sought a committee's help to refurbish the White House, and antique furnishings were acquired. The Green Room quickly became President John F. Kennedy's favorite room in the house, and after his death, his official portrait hung there for a time.
The Green Room, 1964. Public Domain.
The Green Room was refurbished again in 1971. The draperies of green, coral, and beige striped satin that still hang there today were designed after a pattern  from an early 19th century periodical.
Pat Nixon shows the changes made to the Green Room in 1971. Public Domain.
Styles and preferences have changed by administration, but one thing remains: The Green Room is an elegant chamber, rich in American history.
The Green Room during the Clinton Administration. Public Domain.


Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of over a dozen historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, genealogy, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama. You can visit her on her website,, and read a sample of her newest book, A Mother For His Family


  1. Thanks for this visit to the Green Room!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! So much has happened in this room!

      Have a great day, Connie.

  2. Thank you Suzanne for this visit to the White House Green room. I enjoyed the lovely pictures of the Green Room you favorite one is the one from December, 1982 My favorite color is green, so I really like this room ;-)
    Blessings, Tina

    1. I like that photo too, Tina. It's so interesting how several administrations have decorated it in their favorite shades of green. I wish I could have found a royalty-free image of the curtains, to show how pretty they are with the coral striping!

      Have a great day!

  3. Susanne, this was so interesting! I really enjoyed reading about the history of the Green Room, the decorating and seeing all the pictures! Thank you for sharing!!! ~Alison Boss

    1. Hi Alison! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the post! I love seeing photos of how the rooms int he White House have been changed and decorated from administration to administration. There are many photos online that I could not use because they aren't public domain.

  4. Susanne, thank you for sharing about the Green Room and the pictures. It was interesting and I would of enjoyed seeing the curtains with coral striping as I have green and coral in a couple of my rooms.

    1. Marilyn, I love green and coral! What a pretty color combination. I imagine those rooms of yours are very pretty!

      Thanks for coming by!

  5. Great post, Susanne. I'm enjoying this series about the changes to a room over time, especially when so many well-known people have used it.

    1. Hi Anita! I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying it. It is so interesting to me to learn how a room has been used, and by whom, over time. So many momentous moments! If these walls could talk!