Unless they are fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of him in a corridor or coming or going in a helicopter from the South lawn, casual visitors to the White House are unlikely to see its famous occupant. There was a time when any citizen who cared to make the effort could visit the White House and shake hands with the President. But times have changed greatly and security is stricter.
It is the symbolic role of the White House, as much as natural curiosity to see where the President lives, which brings thousands of people to wait outside the building every morning from Tuesday to Saturday, to see the famous rooms. Unless they are lucky enough to get tickets for the special early-morning VIP tours, they do not, in fact, see a great deal.
The White House has 132 rooms, 54 of which are reserved exclusively for the private use of the First Family on the second and third floors. The visitors who line up in East Executive Avenue get to see just five plus the entrance hall and corridors. But these five rooms on the first floor are the grand State Rooms of the White House and, apart from Lincoln's Bedroom and the President's oval study on the second floor, are the most historic in the building.
The East Room is the White House's ballroom and grand reception room. Its simple classical lines are offset by white walls, rich window drapes and a brilliantly polished inlaid-wood floor. The magnificient Steinway grand piano in the Empire Style was designed by Eric Gugler in 1938 for President Franklin D.Roosevelt. Three huge cut-glass chandeliers illuminate the scene, which may well be a concert, a play, or a presidential press conference. Several weddings have taken place here, including that of Lyndon Johnson's daughter, Lynda. President Nixon's daughter, Tricia, was married outside, in the Rose garden.
The Green Room, Blue Room and Red Room make up a rich suite of rooms overlooking the South Lawn, each one leading to the other. The Green Room is a State sitting room, restored and furnished with Federal Style furniture and pieces brought in after the destructive 1814 fire.
The Blue Room is one of the famous oval rooms James Hoban included on the South front as innovations to his basically simple 18th century gentleman's mansion. Its furniture is French Empire Style. The other oval room is the President's study on the floor above. The Blue Room has increasingly become a main entrance and reception room as more and more of the President's important guests arrive by helicopter on the South Lawn, from which they walk up the steps to the South Portico and so into the Blue Room.
The Red Room has been elegantly decorated with fuchsia-coloured silk on the walls and American Empire Style furniture. From there, the visitor passes into the State Dining Room, brilliantly decorated in white and gold and dominated by a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in thoughtful pose. The room can seat well over a hundred guests, and many heads of state and other important people have dined here.
Unless they are fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of him in a corridor or coming or going in a helicopter from the South Lawn, casual visitors to the White House are unlikely to see its famous occupant. There was a time when any citizen who cared to make the effort could visit the White House and shake hands with the President. But times have changed greatly and security is stricter. Even so, the words written by John Adams to his wife in the first letter he wrote from the White House, on November 2, 1800, are still apposite: "I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof".
President Obama in the Red Room, American Empire Style furniture.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9c/Barack_Obama_readings_notes_in_the_Red_Room.jpg
White House Green Room with Federal Style furniture. Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/44/Green_1.jpg
White House Green Room with Federal Style furniture.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/GreenWJC.jpg
White House Blue Room, French Empire Style furniture.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/White-house-floor1-blue-room.jpg
President Obama in the Blue Room with the Business Council Leadership on February 13, 2009.
The Cross Hall, connecting the State Dining Room and the East Room on the State Floor.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/White-house-floor1-cross-Hall.jpg
Marine One helicopter prepares for landing on the South Lawn.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/WhSouthLawn.JPEG
President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, redecorated in August 2010.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/df/Barack_Obama_in_the_Oval_Office_in_september_2010.jpg
White House Lincoln's Bedroom.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/LincolnBedroom05.jpg
East Room with the Steinway grand piano designed by Eric Gugler in 1938 for President franklin D.Roosevelt.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b2/WHClintonEastroom.jpg
State Dining Room with Lincoln's Portrait.
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/White-house-floor1-state-dining-room.jpg