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Eisenhower Executive Office Building

Indian Treaty Room

Former Navy Department Library

Photo of the Indian Treaty Room
The Indian Treaty Room, 1991. Joyce Naltchayan.
Located in the former Navy Department Wing is the Indian Treaty Room, which was originally known as the Navy Department Library and Reception Room. It was designed by Richard Ezdorf, Draftsman for the Supervising Architect of the Treasury. Completed in 1879, it cost more to construct than any other room in the building at about $33.50 per square foot (total $55,675.00 in 1879 dollars). The room was used as a library and a reception room.

Photo showing the detail of the moulding around a doorway exiting the Indian Treaty Room
View to East Rotunda from Treaty Room balcony, 1980. Walter Smalling, Jr.
The design of the room includes many nautical motifs - such as shells over the Italian and French marble panels; seahorses and dolphins in the cast iron railing at the second floor balcony; stars for navigation in the ceiling and the compass in the center of the floor. The floor is the original English Minton tile floor. The room contains the only surviving original lighting fixtures in the building.

Photo of President Eisenhower holding the first televised presidential press conference in the Indian Treaty Room in January, 1955
President Eisenhower giving a press conference in the Indian Treaty Room in 1956. Courtesy of Eisenhower Library, 1956/AP.
The Navy Department vacated the building between 1918 and 1921, but the library remained until 1923 when appropriate space was available at the Navy's new location. By 1930 the building was renamed the Department of State Building (although the War Department did not completely move out until 1938); by 1949 the building was renamed the Executive Office Building. The Treaty Room was used for presidential press conferences from 1950 until 1960. President Eisenhower held the first "live" televised presidential press conference here on January 19, 1955.

The reason for the room's name "Indian Treaty Room" is a mystery. It is not clear where it originated, despite extensive research. Some believe it was due to the fact that during the 1930s the War Department stored papers there, including treaties with the American Indian nations. But this is not true, as the State Department used it for storage until the 1940s after the Navy Library moved out.

Photo of the Navy Library (before the room was known as the Indian Treaty Room)
Navy Department Library and Reception Room, c. 1900. National Archives.

Although most treaties were signed in the State Department Diplomatic Reception Room (212-214) and the Secretary of State's office (208), a few were signed in the Indian Treaty Room. These include the Bretton Woods Treaty- establishing the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Peace Treaty with Rumania, Italy and Hungary after WWII, and the UN Charter.

Restoration of the main room was done between 1984 and 1985 (the upper north alcove was opened in 1991). The finish to the bronze light fixtures was restored in 2003. Today the room is used for meetings, receptions, and special swearing-in ceremonies.

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