There’s great news for curious lookie-loos: Public tours of the White House have resumed.
Officials announced that the free tours will initially be available from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, excluding federal holidays. Rules for visiting the presidential work-live manse remain the same. According to the White House:
Public tour requests are scheduled on a first come, first served basis and must be submitted through a Member of Congress and their Congressional Tour Coordinator. Constituents may reach your Member of Congress and Congressional Tour Coordinator through the U.S. House of Representative’s Switchboard at 202-225-3121, the U.S. Senate Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or online at www.congress.gov/members.
Would-be visitors will also have to get the timing just right. Requests must be submitted 21 days to three months in advance of the desired visit.
The People’s House has been periodically closed to the public through part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, those who are lucky enough to book a slot can get an IRL look into several rooms in the East Wing of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, including the Blue Room, Red Room and Green Room; the State Dining Room; the China Room; and a view of the White House Rose Garden.
The Secret Service can also be a part of the experience. In addition to keeping an eye on the valuables, it’s available to answer questions about the history and architecture of each room.
Here’s a bit of what visitors can expect to see:
The Blue Room wasn’t a thing until 1837, when President Martin Van Buren — the eighth president of the U.S. — introduced the color blue into the decorating scheme.
Before that, there had been a bit of a kerfuffle over how the large oval room, which later became the inspiration for the design of the Oval Office, should be decorated.
Apparently, President James Monroe wanted to deck out the room in a French Empire style and placed an order for a suite of French mahogany furniture through the American firm Russell and La Farge, with offices in Le Havre, France, according to White House records.
“However, the firm shipped gilded furniture instead, asserting that ‘mahogany is not generally admitted into the furniture of a Salon, even at private gentlemen’s houses.’ “
The Red Room was mostly yellow until 1845, when President James K. Polk and first lady Sarah Polk added red- and green-covered rocking chairs, ottomans, armchairs and lounges. That’s when it went from being called the Washington Parlor to the Red Room.
In March 1877, it became the scene of President-elect Rutherford B. Hayes’ historic swearing-in, which in some ways paralleled the Electoral College vote count of Jan. 6, 2021.
The White House Historical Association states on its website:
“Political tensions ran high after his bitterly contested election over Samuel J. Tilden, so Hayes secretly took the Oath of Office at the White House. Inauguration Day fell on a Sunday that year, and this swearing-in avoided a 24-hour delay in the transfer of power and any perceived danger of a coup.”
John Quincy Adams, the United States’ sixth president, came up with the idea of calling this room the Green Drawing Room sometime between 1825 and 1829, according to the White House.
“The inspiration for the name may have come from Thomas Jefferson’s use of the space as a dining room, when he covered the floor with a green-colored canvas for protection.”
During its most recent renovation, then-first lady Melania Trump added a portrait of former first lady Edith Roosevelt, wife of President Theodore Roosevelt.
The State Dining Room has been through some wild makeovers, growing from an intimate space to a cavernous hall that can seat up to 140 guests.
While today’s version, most recently revamped by then-first lady Michelle Obama, is calming and elegant, with ivory walls and a muted blue rug, earlier versions included intricate wall paintings and walls in “many shades and textures of yellow and highlighted in silver,” according to the White House Historical Association.
President Theodore Roosevelt expanded the dining room and added some personal touches that were very on-brand for the outdoorsman: He hung “a large moose head above the fireplace and placed other game trophies on the natural oak panels,” states the association’s website.
This room is entirely dedicated to holding and displaying china used by dozens of U.S. presidents. It was first called the Presidential Collection Room, but in 1917, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, President Woodrow Wilson’s second wife, decided to display the growing collection of White House china throughout the room.
The Associated Press reported that first lady Mamie Eisenhower “was instrumental in locating the personal china of Presidents Johnson, Taft, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover to complete the collection.”
Yes, it’s called the Rose Garden, but countless other blooms are to be found, depending on the season.
While the garden was established in 1913, it was President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy who in 1961 decided to breathe new life into the space.
The White House Historical Association states that the couple was inspired after a state visit to France, England and Austria: “The President had noted that the White House had no garden equal in quality or attractiveness to the gardens that he had seen and in which he had been entertained in Europe. There he had recognized the importance of gardens surrounding an official residence and their appeal to the sensibilities of all people.”