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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Clare Pritchett Biography
September 24, 2003

Clare Pritchett
Hi, I'm Clare Pritchett. Thank you for sending all the great questions and for the opportunity to talk to you this afternoon about White House tours and the Visitors Office. Let's go ahead and get started. I'll try and answer as many as I can!

CYNTHIA, from DERKS writes:
I was interested in the floral design department at the White House. Who is the head designer and are there tours of this department Thank you, Cynthia

Clare Pritchett
Nancy Clarke is the Chief Floral Designer and has been at the White House for over 20 years. While you can’t tour her shop, you can see the beautiful work she and her staff create on tour. Look out for all the fresh flowers as you make your way through the White House. The ones in the Blue Room are always a favorite of mine. They use lilies a lot in there and they always smell great! The Flower Shop is also responsible for decorating the White House for the holidays in December. She and her team do a fabulous job!

John, from Memphis writes:
When some movies mostly comedies depic the White House, they have hidden rooms or secret passsages, Is this fact or fiction? If it is not true, why does Hollywood insist on putting this in movies?

Clare Pritchett
Ahh yes, I wondered the same thing when I first came here. Although, I still haven’t gotten a clear answer on this, I do think it’s fun to think about. I guess Hollywood agrees that hidden rooms and secret passages are fun at every age. The mystery continues . . .

Terrica, from school writes:
What are two ways you can tour the white house?

Clare Pritchett
Thanks for asking about White House tours, Terrica. Yes, there are two ways to tour the White House: on-line and in person.

You can visit the White House on-line anytime. All you need to do is go to our website at and click on the “History and Tours” section at the top of the homepage. There you can view and read about many of the rooms at the White House and also see several administration officials give a video tour of their favorite room. Even the President and Mrs. Bush lead you through two rooms: the Oval Office and the Diplomatic Reception Room. Take a look!

Another great on-line tour is on the White House Historical Association’s website at They also have great supplemental information to help prepare teachers and other groups for their visit.

Visitors interested in touring the White House in person should contact their Member of Congress and request to tour through their office. We accept tour requests up to six months in advance and schedule tours about one month before the requested date.

I hope you’ll visit.

Tara, from Springfield, IL writes:
How can I get tickets to go on a tour of the White House?

Clare Pritchett
Tara, we are no longer on a ticket system, however you can still request to tour the White House through your Member of Congress. You’ll want to plan ahead though. The White House is a very popular place to visit and we are already booked through the end of October. We are currently accepting requests through March 2004. Thanks for the interest.

Lora, from writes:
I will be in Washington,DC from September 25th through the 29th visiting colleges along with my husband and son. Our son John is very interested in government and politics and is considering this as a career. Will the White House be open for tours on any of these days?

Clare Pritchett
What a beautiful time for you to visit our nation’s capitol! The fall is our prettiest season.

Unfortunately, we have already scheduled tours through the time you are visiting. However, please still come by and visit the White House from the outside – just seeing this great, historic house from a bordering street or one of the nearby parks is inspiring. And if you have time, plan to visit in the day and evening. The House looks so pretty at night.

I also encourage you to visit the White House Visitor Center which is located at the southeast corner of 15th and E Streets in the Department of Commerce Building. The Center is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and features many aspects of the White House, including its architecture, furnishings, first families, social events and relations with the press and world leaders, as well as a thirty-minute video. National Park Service staff at the Visitor Center also put on a variety of programs and other events. A seasonal calendar of events can be found on their website at

Best wishes on the college tour!

Brooke, from West Chester, PA writes:
What is your favorite room in the White House? And, when you first started working at the White House, did you get lost? GO LONGHORNS!!!!

Clare Pritchett
It’s nice to hear from a fellow Longhorn fan. Thanks for writing, Brooke.

The Red Room is definitely my favorite room. It’s very rich and warm and the legs of the settee by the mantel are really neat too -- they’re shaped like fish!

I’ve fortunately never been lost in the White House. The color coded rooms on the State Floor help us keep everything pretty straight (the Red Room is red and the Green Room is green), and the Secret Service are also very good about not letting us wander off too far in the wrong direction :)

Katie, from Indiana writes:
When visitors come to D.C. are they allowed to visit the White House?

Clare Pritchett
Hi, Katie from Indiana.

Yes, I am happy to tell you that all visitors are allowed to visit the White House. This is really great news, because up until about three weeks ago, tours were only open on a limited basis. Now everyone can request to tour the White House!

But you’ll want to plan your visit well in advance of your arrival in DC or you will surely be disappointed and we don’t want that. Tours are scheduled one month before the requested date. During peak tour seasons (December and March – May) it may be necessary to submit your request several months in advance (we accept them up to six months ahead of time).

Happy visiting!

Lance, from Australia writes:
Evening Ms Pritchett, Do you often get a lot of people going on White House tours and are the tours inclusive of areas in the West Wing? Also, does your role involve you speaking to White House Senior Staff or the President frequently? Thanks, Lance.

Clare Pritchett
Yes, we have a lot of visitors – over 1000 per day! Visitors enter the White House through the East Wing and view the Library and Vermeil Room before heading up to the State Floor to tour the State Dining Room, Red Room, Blue Room, Green Room and East Room. These rooms are dressed with mats and ropes and stanchions during morning tour hours, but these are all removed following tours so that the rooms can be used for official functions. My role doesn’t involve working with the President or his senior staff, however occasionally I have the opportunity to interact with Mrs. Bush and that is always very special!

Stephanie, from Rockford,Illinois writes:
I have been wanting to visit Washington,D.C., but I wanted to wait until the tours commenced. To take a tour of the Whitehouse in the spring, do I need to call ahead and book it? If so how early? Thank you so much, Stephanie

Clare Pritchett
Thank you for your interest in visiting the White House, Stephanie.

We are currently accepting tour requests through March of next year. Spring is always a busy time in Washington with many folks on spring break. I would encourage you to submit your request to your congressman as soon as your plans are set.


Eris, from No Carolina writes:
Is the carpet in the Oval Office re-designed to suit a currant President and does he receive it when he leaves office?

Clare Pritchett
Yes, each president has his own Oval Office carpet created, but the carpet stays in Washington after the president leaves office. This allows future presidents to “borrow from the inventory.” President George W. Bush used President Reagan’s carpet for the first few months of this term before the current carpet was made. I’ve been told the soft, warm tones used in President Bush’s carpet were inspired by the West Texas sky.

Stephen, from South Bend, Indiana writes:
What famous people have you met working in the White House?

Clare Pritchett
Working at the White House provides many wonderful and unique opportunities, and one of these special opportunities is seeing (and sometimes meeting) famous people. So many people come through here: political and world leaders, actors, musicians, artists, athletes, and lots of children’s characters at the White House Easter Egg Roll! I got to work with illustrator Jerry Pinkney on our first holiday program which was really neat and meeting Sean Connery was pretty exciting too.

Joshua, from Wisconsin writes:
How much are the tours and where can you go in the white house

Clare Pritchett
White House tours are free! On tour you’ll visit the Library, Vermeil Room, State Dining Room, Red Room, Blue Room, Green Room, and East Room.

You can see photos of these rooms in the tour section of our website!

PHIL, from DALLAS writes:
How long does it take to take a tour of the White House if Happy and I get up there. Love, Uncle Phil

Clare Pritchett
We suggest people allow about one hour for their visit, however since all of our tours are self-guided visitors go through the House at their own pace and thus the visit times vary from person to person. To extend your tour we encourage you to take advantage of the nice tour officers posted throughout the White House. They can provide you with lots of interesting information about the rooms and you’ll leave with lots of fun facts and stories to share with friends back home.

Thanks for writing – I hope you’ll visit!

Andrew, from Hampton, VA writes:
I am wondering what tours will be available this fall and holiday season. Also, what is a good time to plan a trip for a tour? Thank you.

Clare Pritchett
Good questions Andrew. Thanks for asking.

In addition to our morning White House tours scheduled through congressional offices every Tuesday through Saturday mornings from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., we will be having our Annual Fall Garden Tour.

The Garden Tour will be held on two dates: Saturday, October 18 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday, October 19 from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. The event is open to the public; however a ticket is required for all attendees, including small children. The National Park Service will distribute free, timed tickets at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion located at 15th and E Streets on both tour days beginning at 7:30 a.m. Tickets will be distributed – one ticket per person – on a first-come, first-served basis. This is a great opportunity to visit the White House grounds because they are only open to the public a few times a year.

Then, in December the White House will be decorated for the holidays making it a very beautiful (and popular) time to visit. Visitors interested in seeing the holiday decorations should contact their Member of Congress and follow the same procedures for regular White House tours.

There are many things to see and do in Washington, DC throughout the year, so you’ll find plenty to do whenever you choose to visit. However, January and August seem to be our least busy times for touring the White House.

Thanks again for writing.

Ken, from Houston writes:
When is the best time to see the gardens? What would be in bloom at that time.

Clare Pritchett
The White House Gardens and Grounds are open twice a year to the public. Our Annual Fall Garden Tour is scheduled for October 18th and 19th. And along with the beautiful fall foliage you’ll see the orange, yellow, blue and red of chrysanthemums, asters and salvia.

The Spring Garden Tour usually takes place in April and dates are announced in March. Red and yellow tulips bloom throughout the gardens in the spring.

More information on the history of the White House gardens and grounds can be found on our website through the following link: /history/grounds/garden/index.html.

Joe, from Penna. writes:
When and what is the fall garden tour

Clare Pritchett
Please see the dates and times above for this year’s Fall Garden Tour. Visitors are invited to view the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children’s Garden and South Lawn while military bands perform from a White House balcony.

Eva, from Huntsville, Texas writes:
Clare Pritchett Last year I found a great tour site online which gave a rotating view of the prominant White House rooms. This was a wonderful way for my first grade students to see the White HOuse. Is this site or option still available? Eva Sam Houston Elem. Huntsville, Texas

Clare Pritchett
Yes, go here: /history/life/ This page has online video tours from the President, Vice President, Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Cheney, Andy Card and Karl Rove. It also has a video tour by former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. A new video tour by Scott McClellan is scheduled to be taped very soon. This page also has great historical photos, historical facts, 360 degree video tours of the White House and a past "Ask the White House" discussion with White House Curator Bill Allman who discussed the art, furniture and decor of the White House.

Laura, from Iowa writes:
Dear Mrs. Pritchett, I was wondering--what rooms in the White House are off limits -?? What if a visitor accidentally bumped into a White House official in the hallway!? : Thanks for your time. Laura from Iowa

Clare Pritchett
Since this is a working house, it’s not too unusual for folks to bump into (not literally) a White House official. Some lucky visitors may even catch a glimpse of the President boarding Marine One from the South Lawn from time to time! First dogs Barney and Spot also like to walk the tour line greeting visitors! If you’d like to tour the White House from Barney’s perspective, please go to last year’s Barney Cam.

Jean, from chicago writes:
What age does a citizen have to attain to receive a birthday card from the president? My uncle just reached 91 and I was hoping that he would qualify. Thank you

Clare Pritchett
All you need to do is fax in a request to the Greetings Office of Presidential Correspondence and be sure to include your uncle’s name, birthday and year, and the mailing address. Their fax number is 202-395-1232. Please send him our best!

Betsy, from San Antonio, TX writes:
Clare, This question may be out of your area, but since I was unable to find another place to to direct it, I'll try here. My father will celebrate his 100th birthday on Nov. 1. How can I request that President Bush send him a greeting on this important occasion? Thank you.

Clare Pritchett
100! That is wonderful! Yes, please fax in a request to our Greetings Office at 202-395-1232 and include your father’s name, date of birth and mailing address. The Office of Presidential Correspondence recommends you submit the request about three weeks out. I hope he doesn’t see this so it can be an extra special surprise!

Lucy, from Stevensville, Montana writes:
Hi! The job of working for President Bush and meeting people who come to visit the White House sounds great! What is your favorite part of the job? Thank you. Lucy

Clare Pritchett
I think I have the best job at the White House! I get to do so many interesting and fun things that most days it doesn’t even feel like work. It’s hard to pick out ONE favorite because in addition to tours, I work on different seasonal projects throughout the year. I’m working with a well-known children’s illustrator right now to design our holiday program that visitors will receive when they tour in December. This is one of my favorite projects. I also really enjoy all the planning that goes into the White House Easter Egg Roll, and plans for the 2004 event are just beginning. I always love to watch the look on visitors faces as they enter the White House – it makes it new for me all over again!

Rodney, from Boone, NC writes:
I am searching your web site to find an archive of President Bush's speeches. How do I find the one he made in March on the weekend before the war began, when he spoke with Blair and the president of Spain??

Clare Pritchett
Good question. Are you by chance a student at Appalachian State?? I had to check with the web folks on this one, but have learned that the release you are specifically looking for is located here: /news/releases/2003/03/20030316-3.html In the future, just click on "News" in the top navigation. Then, use the left navigation to bring up press releases, speeches, remarks, etc. sorted by month and year. Thanks for writing.

FanMan writes:
If you could only eat one of the following foods for the rest of you life - what would you pick? a. pizza b. hamburgers c. grilled cheese or d. candy corn Let me know. Thanks.

Clare Pritchett
As a Texan, I would choose E) Mexican Food!

Clare Pritchett
Thank you everyone. This was really fun. I hope you will come and visit the White House!

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