At Home with The Gores

The Vice President
Photo by Tipper Gore

The Vice President's Residence at the Naval Observatory

The large, white-painted, brick Victorian house on the southeast corner of 34th Street and Massachusetts Avenue in the District of Columbia is over a century old. A typical nineteenth-century country home in the Queen Anne style, it was built for the Superintendent of the United States Naval Observatory in 1893 on lands that had originally been owned by Margaret and Cornelius Barber, wealthy Georgetown landowners. In 1929, it became home to the U.S. Navy's Chief of Naval Operations, and was named "Admiral's House." In 1974, the house was designated as the first official residence of the Vice President of the United States. Since that time, Vice Presidents Mondale, Bush, Quayle and Gore have resided there with their families.

Born and raised in Arlington, Virginia in the home her grandfather built, Tipper Gore and Vice President Al Gore, along with their children Karenna, Kristin, Sarah and Albert III, opted to remain in their home until June 1993, when renovations to the house at the Naval Observatory were completed.

House Beautiful Photograph

Updates to the Victorian-style mansion included new smoke detectors, copper water pipes which replaced dangerous lead pipes, gas heat, a new porch, and an energy-efficient air conditioning system to cool the 12-foot-ceiling rooms during the hot Washington summers. In addition, a guest room on the second floor was converted to a family room with kitchen area, so that the children had a place to go when the downstairs was being used for official entertaining.

House Beautiful Photograph

The Gore's own graceful, traditional stamp of decoration was introduced to the house, with the help of Albert Hadley (a Nashville native) and the decorating firm of Parish-Hadley.

To commemorate the house on its 100th birthday, the Gores filled it with a stunning collection of American Impressionist art, as well as photography from America's Gilded Age to complement Tipper Gore's wonderful collection of family photographs.

Bringing her own artistic talent to bear, Mrs. Gore selected works by painters Mary Cassatt, William Merritt, and Frederick Charles Frieseke, Monet's next door neighbor, and photographers Matthew Brady and C. M. Bell. This rotating exhibit is seen today against living room walls of butter yellow, teal blue lacquer in the library to match the original fireplace tiles, and beige walls with crimson taffeta draperies in the dining room. Gore family pieces appear throughout the house, as do Mrs. Gore's photographs.

House Beautiful Photograph

In 1996, the Wyeth family's third generation American artist, Jamie Wyeth, painted the house in a star-filled twilight snow scene. In the foreground is the family's black Labrador retriever, Shiloh, and, to commemorate his grandfather's work on the National Cathedral, the cathedral spires are seen in the background. This painting now hangs in the foyer of the house, on loan from the owner. For several years, the foyer was also home to the family drum set (both Tipper and Albert III play), a reminder to guests that the Residence was home to an active family. The new basketball court next to the pool was another addition, and used frequently by Vice President Gore and all of the children.

House Beautiful Photograph

Recognizing the need for a full inventory of all the official household items which had been donated to the house over the years, Tipper Gore initiated an organizing effort that led to a computerized inventory. Many pieces which had not been seen since the early 1980's were found in storage, properly inventoried, and put back in use. These included pieces that Mrs. Mondale had commissioned for the house, such as a Sam Maloof rocker (which the designer was delighted to see during a visit to the Gores), pottery, earthenware, and glassware by John Glick, Fally Possony, and Richard Q. Ritter.

New pieces were added to the collection through donations to The Vice President's Residence Foundation, such as a 1910 Serapi carpet for the dining room, a magnificent Hepplewhite sideboard, a demi-lune Hepplewhite console with eagle inlays (both of these pieces were received during the Quayles tenure), and 18 reproduction Hepplewhite dining room chairs to use with the Rockefeller dining table.

Holiday Ornament Collection

Mrs. Gore also started another tradition for the house: a collection of new and antique Christmas ornaments and decorations. The National Society of Tole and Decorative Painters donated more than 800 ornaments for the trees in the house, including tin and wooden American flags and Uncle Sams. Christmas ornament designer Christopher Radko donated hundreds of mouth blown ornaments, including glass sugarplums, grapeclusters, strawberries, and garlands of glass, all in the Victorian style of the house. These ornaments are now part of the permanent collection that the Gores have created for future residents.

House Beautiful Photograph

Vice President Gore's long-standing interest in environmental preservation prompted a unique landscaping project for the property surrounding the house. With the help of the Foundation, a tract of land was targeted for "reforestation," an effort that restores native and indigenous species which are environmentally self-sustaining to the forest patches that border the house and public areas. To bring the grounds back to what they must have looked like around the turn of the century when the house was built, tulip poplars, red maples, hickory, persimmon, walnut, dogwood, redbud and American holly, along with a great variety of small shrubs and tiny native wildflowers were introduced to areas once diffuse with non-native species, such as English Ivy, which can choke out less hardy plants.

Elsewhere around the house, perennial, vegetable, cut flower beds and a summer garden are maintained. Plans are under discussion now to plant the same kind of fruit trees around the grounds that original owner Margaret Barber would have been familiar with when she owned the property. The project has garnered great interest from visiting dignitaries, including Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto and His Holiness, The Greek Patriarch.

Gore Holiday Card

Entertaining at the house often features outdoor vistas. Tented affairs held at the Residence included the wedding of Karenna Gore to Andrew Schiff during the summer of 1997 and the annual, much coveted, Halloween costume party held for the press corps.

The property and neighboring Rock Creek Park with its many running and walking paths are often graced by the Gores and their children as they jog, bike and hike the surrounding area.

Portions of the preceeding were excerpted from the book "The House on Observatory Hill" by Gail S. Cleere. Photographs courtesy of House Beautiful, copyright c November 1997. The Hearst Corporation. All Rights Reserved, Oberto Gili, photographer.

Tipper Gore

Speeches by Tipper Gore


Picture This - A Visual Diary

At Home with The Gores

Other Resources

Email Mrs. Gore

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E