Friday, December 04, 2009

The Official “Black Hat Meets White House” Tour

Once again, the White House had their annual Holiday Open House. This year, yours truly was picked out of a lottery along with other Federal employees with duty stations in Washington, DC, to get the grand tour. And in a rare gesture of solicitude, they allowed for the taking of photographs, which are our pleasure to bring to you, our loving public (and you both know who you are). This year, they decided to call it the "Holiday Open House" for reasons beyond me. After all, the word "holiday" is actually an Anglo-Saxon corruption of the term "holyday" of distinctly Christian origin. More on that later, but for now, lighten up, suckas!!!

Beginning at the Ground Floor, we see the Vermeil Room.

Here is kept the collection of silver-gilt or vermeil tableware (hence the name), a 1956 bequest by Margaret Thompson Biddle. Portraits of past First Ladies also hang in the room. Originally a staff work room used for storage, and later for the tasks of polishing silver, it is now used for social occasions. We didn't see any silverware lying around, only this tree. Sometimes you gotta work with what's available.

Next to the Vermeil Room is the China Room.

This is where they keep the many place settings used at state dinners and various social functions. At the most recent formal affair, at least three of the sets were used, including -- we cannot help but note this with some irony -- the Eisenhower set.

Heading up the stairway to the First, or State Floor, we come to the largest room in the White House, known as the East Room.

Originally known as the "Public Audience Hall," this room is used for entertaining, press conferences, ceremonies, and occasionally for large dinners. You won't see any pictures of yours truly during this tour, unfortunately. Two people tried to use my phone camera, and they had a hard time of it. Oh well, let's move on ...

Next door is an intimate gathering space known as the Green Room.

This is one of three parlor rooms used for small receptions and teas, and for serving cocktails before the First Couple descends the Grand Staircase and leads their guests into the adjoining hall. Oh, and it's always painted green.

The Blue Room is located just inside the South Portico.

This room is used for receptions, receiving lines, and occasionally for more intimate dinners. Originally the south entrance hall, it is unique among the state rooms for its oval shape. It also hosts one of the largest of twenty-seven Christmas trees that decorate the interior of White House. (Someone apprised me before leaving the office today, of the lack of red decoration on this tree. Personally, I find it rather elegant. I sure couldn't pull this off at my place.)

The Entrance Hall is where John Travolta had his memorable dance with the late Princess Diana.

It has also been the setting for many historic moments, as this room is used for official welcomes. This is why the Presidential podium is here, as seen in so many news broadcasts (although we regret that the teleprompter was not available for this occasion).

This room is also known as the Grand Foyer.

It is here where guests for occasions like this, are treated to such entertainment as The Air Force String Quartet, which is a component of The United States Air Force Band. I believe it was during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt that the White House ceased to be formally known as "The Executive Mansion." Perhaps this is just as well, as by world standards, it might be considered, in the words of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to President John Kennedy, "a modest palace."

Be that as it may, it is our palace, with the current residents only borrowing it for a short while. And so, with our exit out the North Portico, we conclude this White House Holiday Holyday Open House. If you'd like to know more about this historic building, please visit the websites of either The White House Historical Association, or The White House Museum. With the latter, be sure to check out the three-dimensional models.

Just another day at the office. (sigh!)

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