A butler traverses the Cross Hall toward the East Room in 2006 (Time - Brooks Kraft)
The Cross Hall
The space is a little less than 18 feet by 80 feet. It allows access to the elevator vestibule, Entrance Hall, East Room, Blue Room, Green Room, Red Room, and State Dining Room. The Cross Hall, with marble walls and floors added during the Truman renovation, is lighted by two Adam-style cut-glass chandeliers made in London about 1775. The bronze light standards date from the Roosevelt renovation of 1902 as does the design of the decorative plaster ceiling.
A gallery of recent presidential portraits adorns the walls of the Entrance and Cross Halls. A collections of upholstered chairs and settees provides seating for those waiting in hall and for use in the various rooms when additional seating is needed. Other presidential portraits hang at the east end of the Cross Hall: Lyndon Johnson by Elizabeth Shoumatoff, Gerald Ford by Everett Raymond Kinstler, and Jimmy Carter by Herbert E Abrams. A portrait of President Franklin Roosevelt painted by Frank O Salisbury hangs at the west end of the hall.
The tradition of hanging presidential portraits in this hall dates to President Ulysses Grant. The Buchanan administration first began the tradition of keeping paintings of presidents for the White House collection. The Grants added to this collection, and hung portraits of presidents from Washington to Lincoln in the Cross Hall behind a glass screen.
At that time, visitors could come to the White House on weekdays, enter through the north doors, and walk down the Cross Hall past the paintings to the East Room. With a note from a congressman, visitors could view the other "State Floor" rooms, such as the Red Room, where they could see the large Grant family portrait.
In 1881, incoming President Chester Arthur placed a photographic portrait of a beautiful woman in the Cross Hall and instructed staff to keep fresh roses on the table next to it. This caused a bit of a stir until they discovered that the woman was the president's late wife Nell, who had died nearly two years earlier.
A broad staircase at the west end of the Cross Hall was removed in 1902 to increase the size of the State Dining Room. This was the second main staircase in the house. The 1817 design had two side stairs that led up to a landing and a central stair that went the rest of the way to the second floor. President Grant made the change in 1873 to provide a sitting room at the top of the stairs. The original main staircase (before the 1814 fire) was of the same design as the 1817 stair.
George W Bush strolls down the Cross Hall with the prime minister of Japan in 2006 (White House)
George W Bush with the prime minister of Great Britain in 2006 (White House)
George W Bush strolls down the Cross Hall with Russian President Vladimir Putin, circa 2003 (White House)