Sunday, March 3, 2019

Inside the White House: The Map Room

The Map Room is on the ground floor of the White House, home of the American President in Washington D.C.. It received its name in World War II, when it was used by President Franklin Roosevelt as a situation room.
The Map Room, 1994. Public Domain.
In its earlier days, the room was a utilitarian space in the basement. During the Administration of Chester Arthur, however (1881-1885), a billiard table was installed in the unfinished room, and subsequent presidents enjoyed using the room as for billiards. (Billiards had been played at the White House since the days of John Quincy Adams, but there as yet was no designated room for the game.)

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Chester A. Arthur, a president who enjoyed billiards. Public Domain.

When Theodore Roosevelt moved in, however, he got rid of the billiard room. An active man, he did not find the game inspiring. During his Administration, in 1902, the entire White House was renovated, and new uses were found for the updated, finished rooms on the ground floor.

President Wilson brought back the billiard room, but the Hoovers fashioned the chamber into a quieter space. It was used as doctor's treatment room, as a place for household staff to meet, and as a waiting room for guests.

In World War II, however, President Franklin D. Roosevelt used it as a place to follow the course of the war. 
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Army Officer in the White House Map Room, WWII.
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FDR, 1933. Elias Goldensky (1868-1943). Public Domain.
The room was renovated during the Truman Administration (1949–1952), paneled in with wood from the original load-bearing timbers of the house. Sandstone removed from the house was crafted into a mantel, paced here. Above it hangs the last situation map prepared for President Roosevelt, on April 3, 1945. 

In the early 1960's, the room was used as an office for the newly-minted Curator of the White House, and donations were cataloged here. 
Curator's office. Note the wood paneling from the Truman renovation. Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston; public domain
Then in 1970, First Lady Pat Nixon worked with the Curator to redecorate the space, and it became a parlor, as it is today. 

First Lady Betty Ford with Members of the National Women’s Party Following the Presentation of the First Alice Paul Award to Mrs. Ford in the Map Room at the White House  First Lady Betty Ford with Members of the National Women’s Party Following the Presentation of the First Alice Paul Award to Mrs. Ford in the Map Room at the White House. Gerald R. Ford White House Photographs 09/08/1974 - 20/01/1977.

The room was redecorated in again in 1994 in the Clinton Administration, in the Chippendale style, as it remains today. 
President Clinton in the Map Room. Public Domain.

It is used for television interviews, small teas, and social gatherings. Here, President Obama was sworn into office for a second time by Chief Justice John Roberts, who'd accidentally flubbed the oath. 
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Chief Justice Roberts administers the Oath of Office a second time, January 21, 2009. Public Domain.
Visitors from Princess Diana to the Dali Lama have sat in the red upholstered chairs here. One can only image the stories these walls could tell.


Susanne Dietze is the award-winning author of fifteen romances. You can learn more about her on her website,


  1. Wonderful post! Despite living in Northern Virginia for many years, I never made it to the White House for a tour. Thanks for this virtual tour!

    1. Hi Linda! I hope you can visit the White House some time. The tours are short and limited to the public rooms, but it's still an amazing experience. I would love to have an in-depth tour someday!

      Thanks for coming by!

  2. Thanks for continuing our tour! That wooden paneling was beautiful!

    1. So glad you could be here today, Connie! It's been so fun exploring the White House!

      That wood paneling was amazing, wasn't it?

  3. I really enjoy your room tours, Susie. Thanks for doing the research.