The West Sitting Hall

west-sitting-hall-c1890Above is an 1893 etching of the west sitting hall in the White House as it looked at that time.

Over the years with different men living in it as president, this room has gone through some very drastic changes.  Straight ahead is a huge half-moon Tiffany window.  To the left you can see a grand staircase leading up to this beautiful hall.

Before 1869, the West Sitting Hall was little more than a staircase landing. The presidents and first ladies would descend to the Cross Hall below on state occasions. President Ulysses Grant had the grand stair remodeled, allowing sitting space by the window.

Charles McKim removed the steps completely in 1902 and the defunct landing became a private sitting area. Eleanor Roosevelt, who screened the area off from the Central Hall, particularly enjoyed it. In the subsequent Truman renovation, architects enclosed the hall with solid partitions and created a living room. At that time, the kitchen elevator was extended to this floor, and the door opened into this room; the Kennedy renovation rerouted it into the little hall when the room to the north was converted into the Family Kitchen.

Avoiding the Family Dining Room on the first floor, the Eisenhowers dined on TV trays here, simultaneously watching two “porthole” television sets.” (The White House Museum)

west-sitting-hall-1893 Frances Cleveland

Frances Folsom Cleveland

Above is a photo of Frances Folsom Cleveland, wife of President Grover Cleveland, taken in 1888 in front of the half-moon Tiffany window.  I love the look.  The sheer curtains are just my style too.

west-sitting-hall-1895Above is an 1895 view of the west sitting hall.  You can see the staircase railing on the right under the huge landscape portrait.

west-sitting-hall-clevelandAgain, you can see the staircase railing on the right.

west-sitting-hall-1902How do you like the west hall now without the staircase?

I think that making this huge space into a sitting area was a great idea.  I am not sure that I like it without the staircase though.   Additionally, I tend to be a purist when it comes to older homes being renovated.  I can understand updating things to accommodate progress, but not destroying beauty in the process.


View of staircase landing

Above is a photo of the staircase demolition at the bottom leading to a long hall.


west-sitting-hall-c1911The west sitting hall in 1911.  You can see where the staircase railing was on the right.  The huge landscape portrait is gone too.


Jessie Woodrow Wilson

Picture above is Jessie Woodrow Wilson, daughter of the resident, Woodrow Wilson, in a wedding portrait taken in front of the half-moon window.  The date was November 25, 1913.

west-sitting-hall-c1928West sitting hall in 1928.

west-sitting-hall-1930The west sitting hall in 1930.

west-sitting-hall-c1934West sitting hall in 1934.

west-sitting-hall-c1937West sitting hall in 1937.

west-sitting-hall-1948 TrumanWest sitting hall in 1948 under President Truman

west-sitting-hall-1952-nw1952 west sitting hall.  The half-moon windows are now covered with traditional curtains.

west-sitting-hall-1952-e1952 west sitting hall from another angle.  On the right is where the staircase used to be.

west-sitting-hall-c19571957 west sitting hall.

west-sitting-hall-1963-wWest sitting hall in 1963 under President Kennedy.  Jacqueline uncovers the half-moon windows.

west-sitting-hall-1963-kennedy1963 west sitting hall.

west-sitting-hall-1964-w1964 west sitting hall.  Lady Bird Johnson sitting in front of half-moon window.  JFK was assassinated and Lyndon Johnson became the president.

west-sitting-hall-1964-him-herWest sitting hall in 1964.

I wonder at what point were the Tiffany windows removed.

west-sitting-hall-1965West sitting hall in 1965.

west-sitting-hall-1971West sitting hall in 1971.  I love Tricia’s dress.

west-sitting-hall-1977-wWest sitting hall in 1977 under President Jimmy Carter.  It looks more countrified now.

west-sitting-hall-1977Jimmy Carter is in the background.  Tip O’Neill is in the foreground with a Carter relative.

west-sitting-hall-1985Ronald Reagan, Prince Charles, Nancy Reagan and Princess Diana in the west sitting hall in 1985.

west-sitting-hall-1988The Reagans with Richard Nixon in the west sitting hall in 1988.

west-sitting-hall-c1999West sitting hall in 1999

west-sitting-hall-1992-emptyWest sitting hall empty in 1992.

west-sitting-hall-1992-w-first-ladiesHilary Clinton and Barbara Bush in west sitting hall in 1992.

Bush Welcomes President-Elect Obama To White HouseWest sitting hall in 2008 during Michelle’s first visit right after Barack Obama won the presidency.

So, do you like the many transformations of the west sitting room over the years?  Would you have kept the staircase or taken it out?  What do you think of each administration’s decorating style?

I love the staircase that was there, but without it, it does give the sitting hall more privacy.  I never would have taken them out though.

I love how the half-moon window looks in the photo with the Nixon’s in it.  The window treatment are gorgeous, and not obscuring the beautiful view.  Just having a window like that is awesome, and I would never completely cover it up.

It also looks like that beautiful wall mirror (seen in picture 3 and 4) was eventually taken out as well.  What a shame!

Photos from the Library of Congress and The White House Museum.

Leave a Reply