Post-War Renovation: 1866-1872

The north face, circa 1860, with Jefferson statue (Library of Congress - heavily restored)

The south face, circa 1870, with the large conservatories on the west side (Library of Congress - moderately restored)



Renovation and Ornamentation


Thomas Walter's 1853 ground floor plan (LOC)

With the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson became president. Although Mrs. Lincoln had purchased many fine pieces of furniture, the White House was in a poor state of disrepair. The state floor, especially, was worn and roughly used; souvenir-takers sometimes cut pieces of frabric from the draperies and carpet, or tassles off the furniture.

First Lady Eliza Johnson being in poor health due to turburculosis, her daughter, Mrs. Martha Patterson, acted as hostess and set about renovating the decor in the White House from top to bottom. She chose contemporary fabrics and colors, mostly with strong geometric designs that evoked ancient Greece, but in a very Victorian way.

Large glass conservatories were constructed on either side of the mansion (replacing the 1857 conservatory, which burned down in 1867). These provided flowers and plants of all sorts, and quickly became a favorite spot for first families to walk or read.

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More Images

Etching of Andrew Johnson receiving the Chinese delegation in 1868 (New York Public Library)

Andrew Johnson's Blue Room, decorated by his daughter in geometric patterns, circa 1867 [stereo] (New York Public Library)

Johnson's Victorian decor of the East Room, circa 1866 [stereo] (New York Public Library)

The Red Room around 1869 [stereo] (New York Public Library)

The State Dining Room around 1867; note the windows blocked up (New York Public Library)

Etching of the Yellow Oval Room as Andrew Johnson's library, circa 1868; note the stuffed bear made into a chair

Newspaper etching of Andrew Johnson being served his impeachment summons in his office in 1868 (New York Public Library)

Etching of the room after being redecorated by Mrs. Patterson during the Johnson administration, circa 1867

Illustration of the south face, circa 1860, with the first greenhouse (1857-1867)

The first floor plan in 1853 (Library of Congress)

The second floor plan in the time of Lincoln, circa 1863 (contemporary drawing by Donald L Carrick)