Living Room

George and Laura Bush assemble a puzzle on one of Webers puzzle boards
with Laura Bushs mother, Jenna Louise Hawkins Welch in 2007

The President's Den

Used by several presidents as a separate bedroom, this second floor room has since become more used as a casual family room or private study by recent presidents. Ronald Reagan used it as both a casual living space and a study during his administration.

The room was a bedroom for Mary Todd Lincoln, Mary Johnson Stover and her three children, May and Jessie McElroy (Arthur nieces), Russell and Mamie Harrison and their children, Quentin and Archie Roosevelt, Woodrow and Edith Wilson, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower (on occasion), John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon.

In 1963, TM Evans donated to the White House the famous Childe Hassam painting Avenue in the Rain (1917) and the Kennedys hung it in this room, the president's bedroom; later it hung in the West Wing President's Dining Room for many years.

 

The Living Room Bath in 1952
(Truman Library)

The room is a mini-suite, with its own walk-in closet and bathroom.

Adapted from America's First Families: Chapter 3, A Home Within a Symbol:

This had always been the "extra room" of the southwest suite, and some couples used it as a separate bedroom. The Hayeses designated it the "State Bedroom"; Garfield's doctors conferred and rested here, and after its initial use as two of her sons' bedroom, Edith Roosevelt took it over for her office and sitting room. Ellen Wilson, a supporter of Appalachian crafts, brought some of them here, calling it the "Blue Mountain Room." Under Harding it was dubbed the "West Parlor," and he slept here when his wife was ill.

Because of Franklin Roosevelt's confinement to a wheelchair, and the difficulties he had in dressing, he took this room as his own, sleeping in a narrow white metal frame bed. Thus, beginning with FDR this room was designated the President's Bedroom. It was blue-green under Truman, green under Eisenhower, blue-white under Kennedy. Presidents from Roosevelt to Nixon maintained a bed for themselves here.

After exchanging LBJ's canopied four-poster bed for the simpler one used by Truman and Eisenhower, Nixon cracked that "politics had literally bred strange bedfellows." Pat Nixon decided to maintain the tradition of a separate room because, as she told the chief usher, "Nobody could sleep with Dick. He wakes up during the night, switches on the lights, speaks into his tape recorder or takes notes -- it's impossible." In fact, Nixon's taping of his thoughts -- a daily habit also practiced by Lady Bird Johnson -- involved a single recorder, considerably simpler than the tangle of wires LBJ had kept under his bed for various electronic gadgets including two clacking wire service printers, a three-television-set console, and a telephone taping system.

When the Fords' furniture from their suburban Virginia home was delivered by movers, a press photograph showed their large bed headboard being moved in, and a reporter asked Betty Ford how often they would sleep together. "As often as possible," she quipped. Both the President and Mrs. Ford used the southwest bedroom to sleep in, and the square room formerly known as "The President's Bedroom" became the true family living room. The Reagans often ate dinner from TV trays here, watching television as they sat in matching red-and-white chintz chairs. Here Mrs. Bush placed a large needlepoint rug that she had made. Removing the many television sets around the private quarters, the Clintons placed their one set here.

More Images

Laura Bush with C-SPAN's Briam Lamb in 2008, looking northwest (C-SPAN)

The Bushes' "little den" in 2008, looking east (C-SPAN)

The Living Room in 1992, looking northeast (HABS)

The Living Room in 1992, looking south (HABS)

The Living Room in 1992, looking east (HABS)

Barbara Bush in the southeast corner in 1991 (Getty Images)

Ronald Reagan writing the State of the Union address in 1987, looking west (Reagan Library)

Ronald Reagan starting work again after recovering from being shot in 1981, looking east (Reagan Library)

Reagan living room and study in 1981, looking west (Architectural Digest - Derry Moore)

The Reagans enjoying a casual dinner in 1981, looking south (NARA - Reagan Library)

The room as Ford living room, looking northwest (Library of Congress)

Betty Ford with Barbara Walters, around 1975

The Fords relaxing, around 1974

Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird sharing a phone call in 1968 (Johnson Library)

Lyndon Johnson, frequently willing to take staff meetings from his bed in 1966;
this is the same bed JFK had used (see a closeup of the curtain) and Truman in his first term (Johnson Library)

The Johnsons prepare for the inaugural in 1965 (Johnson Library)

The room as JFK's bedroom in 1962, looking west (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The room as JFK's bedroom in 1962, looking south (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The room as JFK's bedroom in 1962 with the four-poster bed used by other presidents,
looking northeast (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The room as Eisenhower's occasional bedroom around 1957, looking south (Upstairs at the White House)

The hall on the north side, looking south into the living room in 1952,
when it was Harry Truman's bedroom (Truman Library - Abbie Rowe)

The Living Room hall in 1952, looking north (Truman Library - Abbie Rowe)

The Living Room as Harry Truman's bedroom in 1952, after the reconstruction, looking southwest (Truman Library - Abbie Rowe)

The Living Room as Harry Truman's bedroom in 1952, after the reconstruction, looking northeast (Truman Library - Abbie Rowe)

The room under reconstruction in 1951, looking northwest (Truman Library - Abbie Rowe)

The Living Room as Harry Truman's bedroom in 1948, looking northeast (Truman Library)

The Living Room as Harry Truman's bedroom in 1948, looking northwest (Truman Library)

The room as FDR's bedroom around 1942, looking southeast (Upstairs at the White House)

The room as FDR's bedroom around 1942 (Upstairs at the White House)

The room in the Coolidges' day, circa 1925

The Lincoln bed serving President Wilson and second wife Edith in 1917 (White House Historical Association [Library of Congress])

The Wilson bedroom, circa 1915 (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

The Lincoln bed serving President Wilson and second wife Edith in 1914 (42 Years in the White House - Harris and Ewing)

The room around 1910 (Library of Congress - Harris and Ewing)

The second Cleveland bedroom in 1893 (Library of Congress - Frances Benjamin Johnston)

The Harrison guest room around 1892, around the time it was wired for electricity;
note the town gas hose wrapped around the base of the table lamp (Library of Congress - Frances Benjamin Johnston)

The Harrison guest room with Lincoln bed—and its original canopy—around 1892 (Singleton - Story of the White House)

The bedroom with Lincoln bed and canopy, circa 1886 (New York Public Library)

The "state bedroom" with Lincoln bed and canopy, circa 1882 (Truman Library - labeled "circa 1892")

The Hayes state guestroom, circa 1877 [stereo] (New York Public Library)