When many people think of oval rooms in the White House in Washington D.C., they think of the Blue Room--and rightly so. It is a beautiful room on the state floor, site of the official White House Christmas Tree each December.
But the White House boasts two more oval rooms, one above and one below the Blue Room. The one downstairs holds great importance in matters of state: The Diplomatic Reception Room.
|The Diplomatic Reception Room. Public Domain.
This ground floor room is used as an entrance from the South Lawn, for the family and for visiting heads of state after an official State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn. Foreign ambassadors also present their credentials here.
Originally, the ground floor rooms of the White House were used by domestic staff for various tasks; this room was a place to polish silver and mend clothes. In 1837, however, the Van Buren administration installed the White House's first central heating system, and the furnace went here.
In the 1902 renovation by McKim, Mead, and White, the heating system was replaced, and the ground floor rooms were refinished. This oval chamber became a finished living space, but it was mostly used as a passageway until 1935, when Franklin Roosevelt turned it into a sitting room. He had the chimney opened so he could sit here for his famous "Fireside Chats."
|FDR during a "Fireside Chat" on Jan 11, 1944. https://goo.gl/images/Aua6vK
When Jacqueline Kennedy was first lady, the room received another makeover, one that gave the Diplomatic Reception its unique look: the Zuber et Cie wallpaper.
|An unidentified White House worker hangs panels of antique wallpaper in the Diplomatic Reception Room, September 8, 1961. Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Public Domain.
|August 28, 1963. Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Public Domain.
|Detail of the Zuber et Cie wallpaper. Public Domain.
|Floral arrangement and close up of the wallpaper. April 10, 1962. Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Public Domain.
|President Barack Obama is briefed by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the investigation of the 15 April 2013 bombings in Boston, in the Diplomatic Reception Room, April 18, 2013. Note the state's symbols on the rug's border. By Pete Souza. Public Domain.
|The new rug is more beige than yellow. https://goo.gl/images/pfjdis
Susanne Dietze is the award-winning author of over a dozen romances with Timeless Heart,. You can learn more about her at www.susannedietze.com.