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Oval Office

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Oval Office

President Barack Obama edits his remarks in the Oval Office prior to making a televised statement detailing the May 1, 2011 mission which killed Osama bin Laden.
The Oval Office in 1981, during the administration of Ronald Reagan. President Reagan used the Resolute Desk, which President Jimmy Carter had returned to the White House. The rug from the Gerald R. Ford administration was replaced when the Reagans redecorated in 1988.

The Oval Office is the official office of the President of the United States. It is located in the West Wing of the White House Complex.

The room features three large south-facing windows behind the president's desk, and a fireplace at the north end. It has four doors: the east door opens to the Rose Garden; the west door leads to a private study and dining room; the northwest door opens onto the main corridor of the West Wing; and the northeast door opens to the office of the president's secretary.

Presidents generally decorate the office to suit their personal taste, choosing new furniture, new drapery, and designing their own oval-shaped carpet to take up most of the floor. Artwork is selected from the White House's own collection, or borrowed from museums for the president's term in office.


  • Cultural history 1
    • Oval Office Addresses 1.1
  • Antecedents 2
    • Washington's Bow Window 2.1
    • White House 2.2
    • West Wing 2.3
    • Taft Oval Office: 1909–33 2.4
  • Modern Oval Office: 1934–present 3
    • Decoration 3.1
      • Desks 3.1.1
      • Artwork 3.1.2
    • Redecoration 3.2
    • Alterations 3.3
    • Conservation 3.4
    • Dimensions 3.5
  • Taft Oval Office, 1909–1933 4
  • Modern Oval Office, 1934–present 5
  • Offices of other world leaders 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Cultural history

The Oval Office has become associated in Americans' minds with the presidency itself through memorable images, such as a young John F. Kennedy, Jr. peering through the front panel of his father's desk, President Richard Nixon speaking by telephone with the Apollo 11 astronauts during their moonwalk, and daughter Amy Carter bringing her Siamese cat Misty Malarky Ying Yang to brighten President Jimmy Carter's day.

Oval Office Addresses

An September 11, 2001.


  • Oval Office historical photo essay
  • Pictures of the Oval Office during different presidencies (1909–2005)
  • : "Inside the Real West Wing"Washington Post
  • Oval Office and Presidential desks
  • White House Museum online tour: the Oval Office
  • The Oval Office on
  • Google Sketchup 3D Model
  • 2010 Oval Office Makeover
  • An Office Fitted for a President — slideshow by The New York Times
  • Quality West Wing — includes an exact replica of the Oval Office, in Corona, California

External links

  • Portions of this article are based on public domain text from the White House.
  • The White House: An Historic Guide. White House Historical Association and the National Geographic Society: 2001. ISBN 0-912308-79-6.
  • Abbott James A., and Elaine M. Rice. Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration. Van Nostrand Reinhold: 1998. ISBN 0-442-02532-7.
  • Clinton, Hillary Rodham. An Invitation to the White House: At Home with History. Simon & Schuster: 2000. ISBN 0-684-85799-5.
  • Monkman, Betty C. The White House: The Historic Furnishing & First Families. Abbeville Press: 2000. ISBN 0-7892-0624-2.
  • Ryan, William and Desmond Guinness. The White House: An Architectural History. McGraw Hill Book Company: 1980. ISBN 0-07-054352-6.
  • Seale, William. The President's House. White House Historical Association and the National Geographic Society: 1986. ISBN 0-912308-28-1.
  • Seale, William, The White House: The History of an American Idea. White House Historical Association: 1992, 2001. ISBN 0-912308-85-0.
  • West, J.B. with Mary Lynn Kotz. Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan: 1973. SBN 698-10546-X.

Further reading

  1. ^ Why is the Oval Office oval? from White House Historical Association.
  2. ^ "Recollections of Judge John B. Wallace," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 2 (1878), p. 175.
  3. ^ David McCullough, John Adams (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), p. 490.
  4. ^ A Window with Its Place in History Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 2007.
  5. ^ Photos of the archaeology.
  6. ^ "There can be little doubt that in Washington's bow can be found the seed that was later to flower in the oval shape of the Blue Room." William Seale, The President's House, A History (Washington, D. C., 1986), 8.
  7. ^ William Seale, "James Hoban: Builder of the White House," in White House History no. 22 (Spring 2008), pp. 8–12.
  8. ^ Architect Daniel Burnham recommended that it be erected on the opposite side of Pennsylvania Avenue in Lafayette Park, to assure that it would remain a temporary building. Seale, The President's House, p. 664.
  9. ^ The greenhouses were disassembled and relocated.
  10. ^ William Allman, White House Curator, "Oval Office Tour, December 1, 2008," CSPAN documentary, 14:45.
  11. ^ Seale, The President's House, p. 895.
  12. ^ "The White House: Inside America's Most Famous Home" - CSPAN Documentary
  13. ^ Seale, The President's House, pp. 946-49.
  14. ^ Seale, The President's House, p. 948.
  15. ^ William Allman, White House Curator, "Oval Office Tour, December 1, 2008," CSPAN documentary, 00:45.[2]
  16. ^ Brandus, Paul (September 2015). Under This Roof The White House and the Presidency--21 Presidents, 21 Rooms, 21 Inside Stories. Globe Pequot Press / Lyons Press. p. 208.  
  17. ^ Waiting for the Hour from Virginia Memory.
  18. ^ "Clinton announces first image of a Black is on display at the White House".  
  19. ^ Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. DC-37, "White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC", 599 photos, 3 color transparencies, 41 measured drawings, 8 data pages, 35 photo caption pages
  20. ^ Monkman, p. 198.
  21. ^ Seale, The President's House, p. 812.
  22. ^ After the fire, the president used "the great mahogany desk presented to Hoover by furniture makers in Grand Rapids." Seale, The President's House, p. 918.
  23. ^ by Luis CadenaGeorge Washington from White House Historical Association.
  24. ^ by Tito SalasSimón Bolívar from Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.
  25. ^ (1813)USS United States vs. HMS Macedonian from Sotheby's Auction, May 22, 2008.
  26. ^ Kennedy Oval Office from White House Museum. Scroll to bottom for photo.
  27. ^ President Johnson used the same desk he had used as a U.S. Senator and Vice-President.
  28. ^ FDR by Elizabeth Shoumatoff from White House Historical Association.
  29. ^ Bust of Lyndon B. Johnson from U.S. Senate Vice-Presidential Bust Collection.
  30. ^ from Wikimedia Commons.
  31. ^ Seymour tall-case clock from White House Historical Association.
  32. ^ "Oval Office has new face for Reagan," from Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, September 5, 1981.
  33. ^ Oval Office Flooring from HuffPostLive.
  34. ^ "Easy come, easy go," from Chicago Tribune.
  35. ^ A Charge to Keep from Wikimedia Commons. Lent by the Bush Family.
  36. ^ "Mrs. Bush's Remarks for 100th Anniversary of the West Wing Symposium". - White House Historical Association. - November 13, 2002. - | Light from the Sky: A Tom Lea Retrospective, 1907–2001. - Mid-America Arts Alliance. - (Adobe Acrobat *.PDF document). - Retrieved: July 5, 2008 Lent by the El Paso Museum.
  37. ^ Lent by the San Antonio Museum of Art."Julian Onderdonk" from Questroyal Fine Art, LLC.
  38. ^ Lent by the Witte Museum.
  39. ^ Lent by the Witte Museum.
  40. ^ "Bush weaves Rug story into many an occasion," from The Washington Post, March 7, 2006.


Offices of other world leaders

President Image Designer Furnishings Artwork Notes
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Eric Gugler
Marble mantel (from prior Oval Office)
2 sconces (from prior Oval Office)

Hoover desk
Green drapery
Green rug
Arched-back desk chair
Arched-back armchairs (against the wall)
"Lawson" sofa (against the wall)
6 cane-back armchairs
George Washington by Rembrandt Peale

Prints of the Hudson Valley

Ship models
George Washington by Rembrandt Peale
Harry S. Truman
Theodore Roosevelt desk
Gray drapery
Blue-gray rug with the Presidential Seal
Television set
George Washington by Rembrandt Peale
George Washington by Luis Cadena (gift of Ecuador)[23]
Simón Bolívar by Tito Salas (gift of Venezuela)[24]
José de San Martín, copy after Jean Baptiste Madou (gift of Argentina)
USS Constitution by Gordon Grant
Missouri State Seal plaque

Fired On by Frederic Remington
Equestrian Statue of Andrew Jackson by Charles Keck

Photograph of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Frank O. Salisbury

Jet-airplane models
Oval Office replica at Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Theodore Roosevelt desk
Truman drapery
Truman rug
Landscape paintings

Gutzon Borglum
Seated Lincoln by Gutzon Borglum.
John F. Kennedy
Stéphane Boudin
Resolute desk
White drapery
Red rug
Rocking chair
2 white sofas (not against the wall)
Round coffee table, with phone attached

Replaced sconces with brass lanterns
USS United States vs. HMS Macedonian by Thomas Birch[25]
Paintings of naval battles

Photographs of sailboats

Ship models

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy restored the Resolute desk. Redecoration of the
Oval Office was nearing completion at the time of JFK's assassination.[26]
Lyndon B. Johnson
Johnson desk[27]
Truman rug
Kennedy drapery
Cabinet for Teletype
Banquette with 3 televisions
Kennedy rocking chair
Kennedy sofas
Round coffee table, with phone in drawer
Federal-style tall-case clock

Replaced brass lanterns with brass sconces
Covered floor with wood-grained linoleum
George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
Andrew Jackson by Thomas Sully
Thomas Jefferson by Gilbert Stuart
Franklin D. Roosevelt by Elizabeth Shoumatoff[28]

The Bronco Buster by Frederic Remington
Bust of Lyndon B. Johnson (1966) by Jimilu Mason[29]
Franklin D. Roosevelt by Elizabeth Shoumatoff (on mantel).
Richard Nixon
Wilson desk
Yellow drapery
Royal blue rug
1st. George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
2nd. George Washington by Rembrandt Peale
3rd. George Washington by Charles Willson Peale
The President's House, copy after William Henry Bartlett

Bust of Abraham Lincoln by Leo Cherne
Bird figurines by Edward Marshall Boehm

Earthrise (photograph of the earth from the moon's orbit)
Earthrise, December 24, 1968.

President Nixon used an office in the Old Executive Office Building as his primary
workspace. First Lady Pat Nixon designed the Oval Office's royal blue rug.
Gerald Ford
Wilson desk
Red drapery
Yellow floral rug
2 yellow Queen Anne-style armchairs
2 yellow wing chairs
2 striped sofas
Seymour tall-case clock

Removed the brass sconces
George Washington by Charles Willson Peale
The President's House, copy after William Henry Bartlett
Eastport and Passamaquoddy Bay by Victor de Grailly
The City of Washington from Beyond the Navy Yard by by Frederic Remington The Bronco Buster
Adolph Alexander Weinman by Standing Lincoln

by Charles Willson PealeBenjamin Franklin
President Ford placed the Seymour tall-case clock in the Oval Office.[31]
Jimmy Carter
1977 Resolute desk
Ford drapery
Ford rug

Placed the Ford sofas back-to-back
George Washington by Charles Willson Peale.
The President's House, copy after William Henry Bartlett
Eastport and Passamaquoddy Bay by Victor de Grailly
The City of Washington from Beyond the Navy Yard by George Cooke

Bust of Benjamin Franklin by Jean-Antoine Houdon
Bust of George Washington by Hiram Powers
Bust of Thomas Jefferson by Jean-Antoine Houdon
The Bronco Buster by Frederic Remington
Bust of Harry S. Truman by Charles Keck

Ship model
Oval Office replica at Jimmy Carter Library and Museum.
Ronald Reagan
Ted Graber
Resolute desk
Ford drapery

Replaced the wood floor[33]
George Washington by Charles Willson Peale.
The President's House, copy after William Henry Bartlett
Eastport and Passamaquoddy Bay by Victor de Grailly
The City of Washington from Beyond the Navy Yard by George Cooke
Andrew Jackson by Thomas Sully

The Bronco Buster by Frederic Remington
Rattlesnake by Frederic Remington
Oval Office replica at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
First Lady Nancy Reagan designed the rug.[34]
George H. W. Bush
Mark Hampton C&O desk
Pale blue drapery
Pale blue rug
George Washington by Rembrandt Peale
The President's House, copy after William Henry Bartlett
Rutland Falls, Vermont by Frederic Edwin Church
The Three Tetons by Thomas Moran
Andrew Jackson by Thomas Sully

Ship model
George Bush Presidential Library.
Bill Clinton
Kaki Hockersmith Resolute desk
Yellow drapery
Navy blue rug
George Washington by Rembrandt Peale
The Avenue in the Rain by Childe Hassam
Statue of Liberty by Norman Rockwell
The City of Washington from Beyond the Navy Yard by George Cooke
Waiting for the Hour by William Tolman Carlton
Andrew Jackson by Thomas Sully

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin
The Bronco Buster by Frederic Remington
Appeal to the Great Spirit by Cyrus Dallin
Bust of Abraham Lincoln by Robert Berks
Bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt by Jo Davidson
Oval Office replica at William J. Clinton Presidential Library.
George W. Bush
Ken Blasingame
Resolute desk
Gold drapery
"Sunbeam" rug

Replaced the wood floor
George Washington by Rembrandt Peale.
A Charge to Keep by W. H. D. Koerner[35]
Rio Grande by Tom Lea[36]
Near San Antonio by Julian Onderdonk[37]
Chili Queens at the Alamo by Julian Onderdonk[38]
Cactus Flower by Julian Onderdonk[39]
Abraham Lincoln by George Henry Story

The Bronco Buster by Frederic Remington
Rattlesnake by Frederic Remington
Bust of Dwight D. Eisenhower by Nison Tregor
Bust of Abraham Lincoln by Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Bust of Winston Churchill (lent by British Prime Minister Tony Blair)
First Lady Laura Bush designed the "Sunbeam" rug.[40]
Barack Obama
Michael S. Smith
Resolute desk
Red drapery
Taupe rug with quotes in border
Striped wallpaper
George Washington by Rembrandt Peale
The Avenue in the Rain by Childe Hassam
Statue of Liberty by Norman Rockwell
The Three Tetons by Thomas Moran
Abraham Lincoln by George Henry Story

The Bronco Buster by Frederic Remington
Bust of Abraham Lincoln by Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Charles Alston

Copy of the Emancipation Proclamation

The rug's border incorporates quotes from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt,
Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Modern Oval Office, 1934–present

President Image Designer Furnishings Artwork Notes
William Howard Taft
Nathan C. Wyeth
Marble Neoclassical mantel
Bookcases with glass doors
Lighting fixtures by E. F. Caldwell & Co.[20]
Walls covered in green burlap

Theodore Roosevelt desk
Green drapery
Green rug
2 leather "Davenport" sofas
Leather armchairs
Side chairs covered in leather
President Roosevelt's Executive Office, 1904.
President Taft used the desk and furniture from President Roosevelt's office.
Woodrow Wilson
President Wilson rarely used the Oval Office, preferring to work in the
Treaty Room.[21]
Warren G. Harding
President Harding died in office on August 2, 1923. This photo, taken on the
day of his funeral, shows a mourning crepe tied to his desk chair.
Calvin Coolidge
President Coolidge's first official photograph, taken August 15, 1923.
Herbert Hoover
Before fire:
Theodore Roosevelt desk

After fire:
Hoover desk[22]
Art Moderne-style sconces
6 cane-back armchairs
Upholstered furniture
President Hoover rebuilt the West Wing after the December 24, 1929 fire.
He installed air-conditioning, and replaced the Oval Office's Colonial-Revival
lighting fixtures with Art Moderne ones. He replaced the leather sofas and
chairs with upholstered furniture, and added the 6 cane-back armchairs
that are still used in the modern Oval Office.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Hoover desk Note the Art Moderne sconces in this 1933 photo.

President Roosevelt moved the marble mantel, 2 of the sconces, the rug,
drapery, desk, and furniture to the modern Oval Office.

Taft Oval Office, 1909–1933

The ratio of the major axis to the minor axis is approximately 21:17 or 1.24.

Dimensions US SI
Major axis (north-south) 35′10″ 10.9 m
Minor axis (east-west) 29′ 8.8 m
Height 18′6″ 5.6 m
Line of rise (the point at which the ceiling starts to arch) 16′7″ 5.0 m
Approximate Oval Circumference 102′5″ 31.2 m
Approximate Area 816.2 sq ft 75.8 sq m


In the late 1980s a comprehensive assessment of the entire house, including the Oval Office, was made as part of the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).[19] Detailed photographs and measured drawings were made documenting the interior and exterior and showing even slight imperfections. A checklist of materials and methods was generated for future conservation and restoration.


Though some presidents have chosen to do day-to-day work in a smaller study just west of the Oval Office, most use the actual Oval Office for work and meetings. Traffic from the large numbers of staff, visitors, and pets over time takes its toll. There have been four sets of flooring in the Oval Office. The original floor was made of George W. Bush, in exactly the same pattern as the Reagan floor.

Since the present Oval Office's construction in 1934 during the administration of President sconces have come and gone.


The redecoration of the Oval Office is usually coordinated by the First Lady's office in the East Wing, working with an interior designer and the White House Curator.

A tradition evolved in the latter part of the twentieth century of each new administration redecorating the office to the President's liking. A new administration usually selects an oval carpet, new drapery, the paintings on the walls, and some furniture. Most incoming presidents continue using the rug of their predecessor until their new one is installed. The retired carpet very often is then moved to the presidential library of the president for whom it was made.

President Obama meeting with a Secret Service agent and his family in the Oval Office in 2014


President Harry S. Truman displayed works related to his home state of Prime Minister Tony Blair lent him a bust of Winston Churchill, who had guided Great Britain through World War II. President Barack Obama honors Abraham Lincoln with the portrait by Story, a bust by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. Below the proclamation is a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Charles Alston,[18] and in the nearby bookcase is a program from the August 28, 1963 March on Washington, at which Dr. King gave his "I Have a Dream Speech."

Statuettes, busts, heads, and figurines are frequently displayed in the Oval Office. Abraham Lincoln has been the most common subject, in works by sculptors Frederic Remington have been frequent choices: Harry S. Truman displayed Fired On; Lyndon Johnson displayed The Bronco Buster, as did Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Presidents Reagan and Bush added its companion piece, Rattlesnake.

Most presidents have hung a portrait of George Washington – usually the William Henry Bartlett – have adorned the walls in multiple administrations. The Avenue in the Rain by Childe Hassam and Statue of Liberty by Norman Rockwell flanked the Resolute Desk in Bill Clinton's office, and do the same in Barack Obama's.

Art may be selected from the White House collection, or may be borrowed from museums or individuals for the length of an administration.

Oval Office floor, replaced during the administration of quarter sawn oak and walnut.
President Obama in 2012, with (left to right) Abraham Lincoln by Rembrandt Peale, and Bust of Abraham Lincoln by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.


When not in use in the Oval Office, a desk is often placed in the adjacent Oval Office Study, in the White House, or is used by the vice-president.

The next most-popular is the Barack Obama have also used it as their Oval Office desk.

Six desks have been used in the Oval Office by U.S. Presidents. The Theodore Roosevelt desk was used there by seven presidents – most recently by Dwight Eisenhower – and by Theodore Roosevelt in his non-oval office.


The carpet of the Oval Office bears the Seal of the President. President Harry S. Truman's oval carpet was the first to incorporate the presidential seal. In Truman's carpet, the seal was represented monochromatically through varying depths of the cut pile. His carpet was used in the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. In recent years most administrations have created their own rug, working with an interior designer and the Curator of the White House. As part of her overall restoration of the White House, Jacqueline Kennedy had a redecoration of the Oval Office begun on November 21, 1963, when she accompanied President John F. Kennedy on a trip to Texas. The next day, November 22, a new carpet was installed just as the Kennedys were making their way through Dallas and the President was assassinated.[16]

The basic Oval Office furnishings have been a desk in front of the three windows at the south end, a pair of chairs in front of the fireplace at the north end, a pair of sofas, and assorted tables and chairs. The Neoclassical mantel was made for the Taft Oval Office in 1909, and salvaged after the 1929 West Wing fire.[15] A tradition of displaying potted Swedish ivy (Plectranthus verticillatus) atop the mantel goes back to the administration of John F. Kennedy, and the current plants were rooted from the original plant. The tall-case clock, commonly called a grandfather clock, was built in Boston by John Seymour, c. 1795–1805, entered the White House Collection in the 1970s, and has adorned every Oval Office since Gerald Ford's.


The modern Oval Office was built at the West Wing's southeast corner, offering FDR, who was physically disabled and used a Presidential Seal. Rather than a chandelier or ceiling fixture, the room is illuminated by light bulbs hidden within the cornice that "wash" the ceiling in light.[14] In small ways, hints of Art Moderne can be seen, in the sconces flanking the windows and the representation of the eagle in the ceiling medallion. FDR and Gugler worked closely together, often over breakfast, with Gugler sketching the president's ideas. One notion resulting from these sketches that has become fixed in the layout of the room's furniture, is that of two high back chairs in front of the fireplace. The public sees this most often with the president seated on the left, and a visiting head of state on the right. This allowed FDR to be seated, with his guests at the same level, de-emphasizing his inability to stand. Construction of the modern Oval Office was completed in 1934.

Dissatisfied with the size and layout of the West Wing, President Franklin D. Roosevelt engaged New York architect Eric Gugler to redesign it in 1933. To create additional space without increasing the apparent size of the building, Gugler excavated a full basement, added a set of subterranean offices under the adjacent lawn, and built an unobtrusive "penthouse" story. The directive to wring the most office space out of the existing building was responsible for its narrow corridors and cramped staff offices. Gugler's most visible addition was the expansion of the building eastward for a new Cabinet Room and Oval Office.[13]

Plaster ceiling medallion installed in 1934 includes elements of the Seal of the President of the United States.
The newly built FDR Oval Office in 1934.
Location of the Oval Office in the West Wing.

Modern Oval Office: 1934–present

On December 24, 1929, during President Herbert Hoover's administration, a fire severely damaged the West Wing. Hoover used this as an opportunity to create more space, excavating a partial basement for additional offices. He restored the Oval Office, upgrading the quality of trim and installing air-conditioning. He also replaced the furniture, which had undergone no major changes in twenty years.

[12] President

Taft Oval Office, completed 1909. Nearly identical in size to the modern office, it was damaged by fire in 1929 and demolished in 1933.

Taft Oval Office: 1909–33

The West Wing (Executive Office Building) was the idea of President Theodore Roosevelt, brought about by his wife's opinion that the second floor of the White House, then shared between bedrooms and offices, should be just a domestic space. The one-story Executive Office Building was intended to be a temporary structure, for use until a permanent building was erected either on that site or elsewhere.[8] Building it to the west of the White House allowed the removal of a vast, dilapidated set of pre-Civil War greenhouses that had been constructed by President James Buchanan.[9] Roosevelt moved the offices of the executive branch to the newly constructed wing in 1902. His workspace was a two-room suite of Executive Office and Cabinet Room, located just west of the present Cabinet Room. The furniture, including the president's desk, was designed by architect Charles Follen McKim and executed by A. H. Davenport and Company, of Boston.[10]

West Wing

During the 19th century, a number of presidents used the White House's second-floor Yellow Oval Room as a private office or library.

In November 1800, John Adams became the first President to occupy the White House. He and his successor, President Thomas Jefferson, used Hoban's oval rooms in the same ceremonial manner that Washington had used the Bow Window, standing before the three windows at the south end to receive guests.[7]

The "elliptic salon" at the center of the White House was the outstanding feature of Hoban's original plan. An oval interior space was a Baroque concept that was adapted by Neoclassicism. Oval rooms became popular in eighteenth century neoclassical architecture.

Architect James Hoban visited President Washington in Philadelphia in June 1792 and would have seen the Bow Window.[6] The following month, he was named winner of the design competition for The White House.

The Yellow Oval Room as President Grover Cleveland's library and study, 1886. Note his use of the Resolute Desk.

White House

Curved foundations of Washington's Bow Window were uncovered during a 2007 archaeological excavation of the President's House site.[4][5]

President John Adams occupied the Philadelphia mansion beginning in 1797, and used the Bow Window in the same manner as his predecessor for the first three years of his presidency.[3]

The apsidal end of a room was a traditional site of honor, for a host, a potentate, or the magistrate in a basilica.

"Washington received his guests, standing between the windows in his back drawing-room. The company, entering a front room and passing through an unfolding door, made their salutations to the President, and turning off, stood on one side."[2]

In 1790, Washington built a large, two-story, semi-circular addition to the rear of the President's House in Philadelphia, creating a ceremonial space in which the public would meet the President.[1] Standing before the three windows of this Bow Window, he formally received guests for his Tuesday afternoon levees, delegations from Congress and foreign dignitaries, and the general public at open houses on New Year's Day, the Fourth of July, and his birthday.

White House. He spent most of his presidency in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which served as the temporary national capital for 10 years, 1790–1800, while Washington, D.C. was under construction.

Washington's Bow Window
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