Treaty Room

President Obama meets with John Brennan and Denis McDonough after talking with the Prime Minister of Japan,
a few days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami (White House - Pete Souza)

The President's Private Study

Mirror over the mantel
(White House Historical Association)

 

Originally part of the offices of the president on the White House's second floor, this room was used by several presidents as an audience or waiting room. It was partitioned near the windows to allow Abraham Lincoln to pass from the Library (Yellow Oval Room) to his office in today's Lincoln Bedroom without encountering anyone.

The room has been a Cabinet meeting room since Andrew Johnson. When James Garfield was shot, it was turned into a kind of ice-house, where various crude air-conditioning machines were installed in an attempt to make the president more comfortable. William McKinley presided over the signing of the peace treaty with Spain in this room in 1898, which ended the Spanish-American War. The artist Theobald Chartran was inspired by that event to paint a depiction of it, which today hangs in the very room itself.

That treaty, and many others before and since, was signed on what is known as the "Treaty Table," a magnificent Victorian desk originally used as a Cabinet meeting table by Ulysses Grant and commonly used today by presidents as a desk.

Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft both displayed personal memorabilia going back to their college days. During World War I, Woodrow and Edith Wilson returned to his desk here after dinner to decode classified dispatches transmitted earlier in the day.

 

Signing of the Peace Protocol Between Spain and the United States, August 12, 1898, (1899), by Theobald Chartran (White House Historical Association)

Some presidents between McKinley and Kennedy used the Yellow Oval Room next door instead and made this room into a sitting room. Wilson lined the walls with low bookcases. Under Coolidge, floor-to-ceiling bookcases were built along the walls. The Hoovers tore them out and converted the room into the "Monroe Room" parlor, decorating it with Monroe-period furniture or replicas and later the "Rose Parlor." Eleanor Roosevelt replaced some of it with sturdier pieces from the furniture factory she helped found, and briefly held her press conferences for women reporters here. Dwight Eisenhower used this room (along with the Solarium) for his frequent bridge games.

During the Kennedy administration, the room was remade as the "Treaty Room" in memory of the Spanish peace protocol, with dark green walls and carpet in an early Victorian pattern and a Grant-era East Room chandelier. John Kennedy himself signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in this room on October 7, 1963. Mrs. Kennedy, and later, Mrs. Ford, used this room as a work space (Rosalynn Carter was the first to have her office in the East Wing).

Most presidents who choose not to use the Resolute desk in the Oval Office instead use it in this room, including George HW Bush. The Bushes did away with the heavy Victorian theme and made it into a lighter and simpler study with a later-period chandelier. Hillary Clinton restored some of the Victoriana but used dark wood and burgundy walls with an empire chandelier. The second Bushes returned it yet again to light walls and simple draperies with a Victorian chandelier like the one the Mrs. Kennedy had chosen.

Furnishings

The venerable Treaty Table is the centerpiece of the room, brought back by Clinton designer Kaki Hockersmith. In addition to Theobald Chartran's depiction of the signing of the Spanish peace protocol, George PA Healy’s The Peacemakers (1868), hangs in the room and depicts Abraham Lincoln conferring with his military advisers at the conclusion of the Civil War.

The great mirror over the mantel was one of two made for the Green Room in 1853. The mantel itself includes a plaque installed by Theodore Roosevelt, inscribed with the words, "This room was first used for meetings of the Cabinet during the administration of President Johnson. It continued to be so used until the year MCMII [1902]. Here the treaty of peace with Spain was signed."

 

More Images

The Obama family watching television in 2011, looking south (White House - Pete Souza)

Barack Obama in the Treaty Room in 2009, looking west (White House - Pete Souza)

Barack Obama in the Treaty Room in 2009, looking southwest (Time - Callie Shell)

Barack Obama in the Treaty Room in 2009, looking northeast (Time - Callie Shell)

The Treaty Room, circa 2002, looking southwest:
the president is using the old cabinet table as a desk (White House Historical Association)

George W Bush and staff in the Treaty Room in 2001, looking northeast (White House)

The Treaty Room in 2000, looking southeast (White House Historical Association)

The Treaty Room in 1994, looking southeast (House Beautiful)

The Treaty Room in 1994, looking northwest (House Beautiful)

The Treaty Room in 1992, being used by George HW Bush as his private study, looking northeast (HABS)

Colin Powell conducting a presentation for George HW Bush in 1991, looking southwest (George Bush Library)

A meeting in the president's study in 1991, looking south (George Bush Library)

The mantelpiece, circa 1991 (White House Historical Association)

Ronald Reagan and his Cabinet in the Treaty Room in 1987, looking northwest (Reagan Library)

Mrs. Ford in the Treaty Room in 1975 (Ford Library)

Richard Nixon in the Treaty Room in 1971 (National Archives)

The Treaty Room as restored to its early 19th-century roots by Jackie Kennedy in 1963, looking southeast (White House Historical Association)

John Kennedy signing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, looking south (NARA - Kennedy Library)

The Treaty Room in 1962 (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The Treaty Room in 1962 (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

Jackie Kennedy showing off the restored and newly-named "Treaty Room" in 1962 (Kennedy Library)

The room as Monroe Room in 1960, looking northeast (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The room as Monroe Room in 1960, looking southwest (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

Dwight Eisenhower's 70th birthday card game (apparently bridge), looking southwest (Eisenhower Library)

The room as Monroe Room, looking south (National Geographic - Thomas Nebbia)

The Rose Parlor in 1952, after the Truman reconstruction, looking southeast (Truman Library - Abbie Rowe)

The Rose Parlor in 1952, after the Truman reconstruction, looking northwest (Truman Library - U of U Marriott Library - Abbie Rowe)

The Treaty Room as Rose Parlor parlor in 1948, before the Truman reconstruction, looking southwest (Truman Library)

The Treaty Room as Rose Parlor in 1947, before the Truman reconstruction, looking southeast (Truman Library)

Eleanor Roosevelt posing for a portrait in 1941 (Getty Images)

The first lady's parlor in 1940 (Corbis)

The first lady's parlor in 1933, with ladies of the press (Corbis)

The recently-converted "Monroe Room" parlor, circa 1932, looking northwest (White House Historical Association - Hoover Library)

The recently-converted "Monroe Room" parlor, circa 1932, looking southeast (NARA)

The Wilsons in 1915, examining papers; view to the northeast (Getty Images)

The Wilson private study, circa 1917, with the Resolute Desk, looking northwest (White House Historical Association [Library of Congress])

Taft's study, around 1912, looking northwest (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

The Resolute desk, around 1912, looking northwest (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

The Taft private study, around 1912, with the Resolute desk, looking northeast (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

Taft's study, probably 1909, looking northwest (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

The Taft private study, probably 1909, looking northeast (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

Theodore Roosevelt's Cabinet Room, circa 1903, before executive offices were moved to the West Wing

President McKinley in his Cabinet Room, 1900, looking northwest (Library of Congress - Levin Handy)

Actual signing of the peace treaty with Spain on August 12, 1898, a hot but stormy day

The Cabinet Room around 1898, with electric chandelier [stereo] (New York Public Library)

The Cabinet Room, around 1893; note the stairs up to the president's office (today's Lincoln Bedroom) (Library of Congress)

The Treaty Room in its former life as the Cabinet Room, circa 1890, looking northwest (Benjamin Harrison Home)

The Cabinet Room around 1885 [stereo] (New York Public Library)

The Treaty Room of Grover Cleveland's first administration, around 1885 (The Presidents)

Illustration of President Hayes meeting with his Cabinet in 1879, looking northwest (Library of Congress)