Monday, June 15, 2009

They really live here?

At the White House, that is. I can't imagine packing up and moving into the White House. Since I'll never be POTUS, it's ok that I can't imagine that, but it's still just odd to me that this remarkably historical place also serves as a residence. Anyway, one of the perks of working in the D.C. office as a tour rather than a permanent person is that you can occasionally take a little chunk of time away from your work day to do things like...oh, I don't know...go tour the White House. Provided someone (ah-hem, me) has the patience to coordinate a visit for said tours through a local (I still claim Texas as local...thank you, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison) Congressional representative. Seriously, it's quite a process, the requesting eons ahead of time and gathering of social security numbers and harassing the poor aide who's in charge of coordinating everything and can't give you the final yes or no answer until about 36 hours before this event should commence.

Last Thursday morning about fifteen of us gathered in the lobby at work and then walked over to the White House to check out the home of the First Family and all of the inner goings-on. I was secretly hoping that Michelle would pop out and offer us some coffee...or that we might see adorable little Bo frolicking about on the lawn. Well, let me just put that to rest and say that we didn't not see/greet/come anywhere near any two-legged or four-legged member of the Obama family. Stinkers. However, we did get to feel kinda important for about a second as we lined up alphabetically by last name and made our way past the security/Army/defender of the free world guy who checked our names off the pre-approved list and allowed us to proceed on to the metal detector.

Now, we'd read beforehand that the tour is self-guided, and they really mean it. You're handed a combo map/pamphlet and told to escort yourself through several rooms on the ground and state floors of the East Wing. There are security officers in each room who are there to answer any questions you may have (along with serving an actual security purpose, I'm sure) as well as a few explanatory signs posted along the way, but we made do with our handy pamphlet. There were a few other groups who seemed to have some fairly knowledgeable people leading them around, but we never could determine exactly where those people came from. Of course, no cameras allowed anywhere near this tour, but I do have a few tidbits for you, made out of words rather than images, of a few of the rooms we got to see:

  • East Room - the largest room in the White House, it is used for receptions, ceremonies, press conferences, and other events. Nellie Grant, Alice Roosevelt, and Lynda Bird Johnson held their weddings here, and the bodies of seven Presidents have lain in state in this room. When we were there it was set up for a jazz concert later that evening. They only hold tours in the morning, and then they whisk away the ropes and poles and mats, put all the rugs back in place, and go on with their days.
  • Blue Room - often used by the President to receive guests, and it is furnished to represent the period of James Monroe. The White House Christmas tree is placed in this room.
  • Red Room - frequently used for small receptions and often a favorite room of the First Ladies. John Adams used it as a breakfast room, and Rutherford B. Hayes took the oath of office there in 1877.
  • Other rooms we could take a peek in and/or walk through - library, Vermeil Room, China Room, Green Room, State Dining Room, and the entrance and cross halls.

We saw quite a few portraits along the way, including 1797 portrait of George Washington that has hung in the White House since 1800. Dolly Madison saved it when the British burned the White House in 1814 in retaliation for the destruction of some public buildings in Canada by American troops. And a couple more history bits for you...every President except George Washington has conducted the government of the nation here, and the Trumans had to move out from 1948-1952 when the severely weakened structure was rebuilt.

All in all, we zipped through in about 30 minutes. We probably could have gotten a bit more out of the experience with a stop at the White House Visitor Center, but I'll probably go hit up in some random winter month when it's less clogged with tour groups.

I got to go see the President's house! From the inside!


Trinity said...

Shame you didn't get to see Obama. That would have been much cooler.

Erin said...

Definitely would have made it cooler. I need to figure out how to spot this man around town in the next year and a half.

Diana said...

Oh, Trinity and I need to get the gears going on that so we can take a tour when we come visit! Maybe I can get your expert advice on where/how to start the process?!?

Belinda said...

So cool that you got to go inside the White House!!! You are making the best of your time in DC :)