Art for the President's House--
"I will never forget that I live in a house owned by all the
An Historical Perspective
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt -
The white building that stands at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the
nation's capital city is familiar to most of us, yet few people are
frequent callers there. When Franklin Roosevelt said that this house is
owned by all the American people, he had something else in mind.
Whatever our political views,family backgrounds, or special interests, we
all live there in a sense through shared history and citizenship.
To walk over the manicured grounds toward the White House entrance
is to feel the significance of our nation's history. Those who do
cross the threshold of the President's House renew a kinship with what
must be understood as a widely extended family. Like a
grand European house of three or four hundred years ago, the White House
encloses both public and private rooms that serve multiple functions.
Through the same hallways pass the casual vacationer, the hurried
diplomatic adviser, and the current presidential family. Their common
ground is the house itself and the history it represents.
First occupied in 1800, the
White House has served as the official residence of all the
Presidents of the United States except
George Washington, who chose the site.
First Ladies alike have directed expansions, renovations, and
redecorations. Many played important roles in shaping the appearance of
the house and in forming the collection of fine and decorative arts.
The aggregate of decisions determined the direction and content of the
Executive Mansion as it exists today. While the White House fine arts
collection is now a permanent one and the State Rooms
presently enjoy museum status, this was not always the case.
The art and decoration in the house changed noticeably from administration
Not surprisingly, the families of the
Presidents remained attached to the White House after leaving it.
Some made gifts to the collection.
The great-great grandson of
Quincy Adams presented Gilbert Stuart portraits of his ancestors, John
Quincy Adams and Louisa Adams (shown at left). The works may have hung
in the White House during the John
Quincy Adams Administration.
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