print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
 Home > History & Tours

Life in the White House, an exclusive presentation by

Photo Essay
White House Life: Now and Then

President and Mrs. Eisenhower are all smiles as they host a 1960 Christmas Party in the State Dining Room.

Life in the State Dining Room
Art and Furnishings





The Clinking of Glasses
Life in the State Dining Room

360 State Dining Room Tour
The clinking of glasses by President Theodore Roosevelt's Cabinet was not the result of any average toast on December 18, 1902. That night the merriment centered on the room itself. Under the watchful eyes of moose heads and other stuffed hunting trophies hanging on the walls, President Roosevelt and his Cabinet celebrated the 1902 White House restoration and the construction of the West Wing at a dinner held in the State Dining Room.

With six children, President Theodore Roosevelt was cramped when he moved into the White House on September 27, 1901 following the death of President William McKinley. Office and living space were mostly confined to the second floor of the White House. For safety reasons, the floors of the State Dining Room and East Room were reinforced with wooden planks whenever a large number of guests were expected for an event. The new president soon realized the White House needed to be expanded and restored.

President Roosevelt ordered the construction of a temporary office building to the west of the White House. Today the building is known as the West Wing. The renovation not only relocated staff offices, but it also renovated the living space of the White House, expanded the State Dining Room, repaired the rooms on the State Floor, remodeled the basement and transferred the visitor's entrance from the north to the east.

The State Dining Room underwent the most dramatic transformation of any room on the State Floor of the White House. Before the 1902 renovation, the room could only hold 40 guests for dinner. By removing a staircase, the architects significantly expanded the State Dining Room. President Roosevelt decorated the carved oak walls with moose, elk and buffalo heads. In contrast, Edith Roosevelt chose pink as the color scheme for the dinner celebrating the restoration. Members of the Cabinet and their wives sat at a crescent-shaped table decorated with pink candles, white and pink roses and six mythological figurines. Mrs. Roosevelt wore a pink brocade gown and hosted 75 guests.

Over the years, presidents have used the State Dining Room to entertain guests. President Grover Cleveland and Frances Cleveland entertained Princess Eulalia of Spain at a dinner held in her honor in 1893. The guests sat at an I-shaped table, which was decorated with yellow and red roses to honor the colors of the Spanish flag.

When Thomas Jefferson became President in 1801, he turned the State Dining Room into his office. Because few people were allowed into his sacred space, Jefferson used the adjacent Red Room to receive guests and meet visitors. One living creature was always welcomed in the president's office. Jefferson's mockingbird hung in a cage next to a window, and the president would often let it fly freely around the room.

Several years later, President Andrew Jackson improved the ambiance of the State Dining Room when he moved the stables away from the White House. The stables had been positioned just outside the south window of the State Dining Room, and with the windows open, the resulting odor was less than appetizing.

Return to top