print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation

Ask the White House
Privacy Policy  

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.

Lonnie Hovey
Lonnie Hovey
Director of Preservation
Executive Office of the President

May 9, 2005

Lonnie Hovey

Good afternoon. Saturday was the 3-year anniversary of President Bush rededicating the former State, War and Navy Building as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building to honor President Eisenhower and his nearly eight years of service to our nation in the building. It's my pleasure to host this session of "Ask the White House" and discuss the EEOB's history over the past 130 years.

Tyrone, from Norfolk, VA writes:
Does the President of the United States of America, have an office in the EEOB?

Lonnie Hovey
Dear Tyrone:

Thank you for your question. President Bush does not have an office in the EEOB, because he the Oval Office for his use across the street in the West Wing. Three presidents have had offices in the EEOB. President Hoover had an office in the building following a Christmas Eve fire in 1929 that nearly burned the entire West Wing. He occupied the former Secretary of Navy's office for three months, which is today used as the Vice President's Ceremonial Office. Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon also had offices in the EEOB. Johnson continued use of his vice presidential office once he became president and reserved the Oval Office for ceremonial uses out of respect for the unfinished term of President Kennedy. Nixon liked the precedent set by President Johnson, and also used the Oval Office for public uses and had a private office in the EEOB. Today, Nixon's former office is used as a conference room, although it was also used by Vice Presidents Humphrey and George H. W. Bush.

Steve, from Virginia writes:
Who was the last President to use the bowling alleys in the White House and EEOB? Are they still functional and who maintains them? It would be nice to see a few old photos.

Lonnie Hovey
Hi Steve:

The bowling alleys that you refer to were a gift to President Truman and moved from the basement of the West Wing to the basement of the EEOB in 1955. The last president to use them was President Nixon who was the most avid bowler of the presidents. He enjoyed bowling so much, a single lane alley was installed at the White House in 1970 as a gift from his close friends. I have some photos of President Nixon bowling and will work to find a place to post them on the new EEOB tour site.

Shehzad, from Saint Louis, Missouri writes:
Lonnie can you explain the need, history and signifance of Eisenhower Executive office Building?

Lonnie Hovey
Dear Shehzad:

The EEOB was built to house the Departments of State, War and Navy, which had outgrown their original buildings and were occupying multiple buildings all over Washington, DC. The Secretaries of those departments and President Grant wanted to bring them all back under one roof and within proximity to the executive residence following the War Between the States. The building's design was created in 1870, and construction occurred in four phases between 1871 and 1888. Through a series of congressional appropriations, the building was built at a cost of $10,038,482.42, and just over $80,000 in unspent funds was returned to the Department of Treasury.

Daniel, from Lakeville, CT writes:
First, when was the EEOB built? Second, because my great uncle was the Secretary of the Air Force under Eisonhower, did my great uncle brief Eisonhower in the EEOB?

Lonnie Hovey
Hey Daniel:

The EEOB was built between 1871 and 1888 in four phases. I'm not sure if your great uncle briefed President Eisenhower in the building that is now named after Eisenhower. Perhaps you can contact the Eisenhower Library with names and possible dates to see if he appears on the President's schedule. I have found the different presidential libraries very helpful when I've called to determine if and when they came to the EEOB for meetings or press conferences.

Richard, from Washington D.C . writes:
Are their tours that are avialable of the Eisenhower Executive Office building??

Lonnie Hovey
Hi Richard:

Unfortunately, public tours of the EEOB have been suspended since September 2001, which is why we have launched a new virtual tour online at the web site. We've expanded the number of rooms that are on the tour, as well as expanding the number of features such as the timeline and "fact of the week." I hope you check it out and let us know your feedback.

tom, from florida writes:
when was the eisenhower executive office buliding first built

Lonnie Hovey
Hi Tom:

The EEOB was built from 1871 to 1888 in what we call the French Second Empire Style today. It was modeled after an addition to the Louvre in Paris that was completed in 1852. The EEOB is one of the largest buildings in this style that remains in America today.

Nicole, from Seattle writes:
What is the difference between the Old Executive Office Building and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building?

Lonnie Hovey
Hi Nicole:

Good question. The only difference between the Old Executive Office Building and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building is the name. They are both names of the same building. The EEOB was renamed by President Clinton in 1999 and rededicated by President Bush and the Eisenhower family on May 7, 2002.

Margaret, from Washingotn writes:
Dear Lonnie,What does your job entail as "Director of Preservation" for the building?

Thank you, Margaret.

Lonnie Hovey
Hi Margaret:

My job as Director of Preservation involves preserving the architectural integrity and the historic character of the buildings used by the EOP staff while making them work to meet current needs. My work also includes review of work to minimize damage or non-reversible alterations to the buildings. I also help coordinate construction projects being managed by the General Services Administration to safeguard our historic preservation stewardship. My favorite task is increasing the public’s awareness of the history of the EOP properties through forums such as this online chat.

Johnny, from Virginia Beach writes:
How much years of experience do you need to work in the white house, Sir?

Lonnie Hovey
Hi Johnny:

Lots of people are very interested in knowing the answer to this question. I'm an architect with 19 years' experience in historic preservation. I was working in private practice before the administration asked me to join the president's staff. I've been here since August of 2001. I've enjoyed the job and hope to continue working here for many more years.

Bob, from Frederick writes:
I heard you recently discovered a secret hidden bathroom in the EEOB next to the White House with a golden commode and fancy Italian tiling and the like. Can you tell us the rest of the story?

Lonnie Hovey
Hi Bob:

The EEOB has LOTS of hidden history that I uncover all the time. During the current modernization project underway, we uncovered original tile evidence that remains from the Secretary of War's bathroom that was designed and built in 1888. While we did not find a golden commode or fancy Italian tile, we did find original English Minton tile on the walls and floor. The plywood walls that were installed to turn the bathroom into a telephone closet are being removed this week to give us a full glimpse of the tile's extent. The room's been used as a phone closet for over 50 years, so its former finishes were forgotten. GSA is excited with the discovery, and plans to restore the room as a bathroom, and repair and restore the finishes. I encourage you to visit the EEOB web site, and check out the "Recent Discoveries" section to see photos of the tile that we found.

Kayla, from New York writes:
Somebody in my class said that the old looking building next to the White House is haunted. Have you gotten any reports of ghosts or dead people being seen around there?

Lonnie Hovey
Hey Kayla:

Because the building was built in the French Second Empire style, many Americans think the building looks like a haunted house. Part of the reason is that Charles Addams, the cartoonist, modeled the house in his "Addams Family" cartoons in the New Yorker magazine after an abandoned French Second Empire style house in his New Jersey hometown. His cartoon brewed the ingredients, but TV and merchandizing cast the spell on Americans in thinking this style of building is haunted.

As to anyone having died in the building, there have been several deaths in the building's 130 year history. I've researched this topic and found that a few deaths were accidental, a few were deliberate, and a few were attempted and unsuccessful. The ground floor location beneath the northeast monumental stair was the location for two accidental deaths, and I have witnessed evidence of activities that I can't explain, which has led many to think that spot in the building is haunted. Fortunately, with added safety precautions there has not been any deaths in the building in recent history.

Harry, from Washington DC writes:
Lonnie,This building is so grand and magnificent--why is it many tourists do not know what it is or the history of it?

I feel lots of tourists pass right by it not knowing what it is, yet admire it greatly.

Thanks Harry

Lonnie Hovey
Hi Harry:

I think the EEOB is the most photographed "unknown" building in Washington. I, too, see lots of tourists passing by, and after they take a picture, I hear them say,"What is that building?" I'm not sure why the building's history is not better known. I'm hoping that the new website will allow the public and tourists coming to DC learn more about this building.

It was in the EEOB that our nation went from a small introverted country to a national leader in democracy and military strength. Within these walls, our nation's diplomatic and military leaders drafted all the diplomatic and military plans from 1875 until 1947. Since 1947, the building has been used by staff to support the president and the vice president.

Frenchy, from Washinton, DC writes:
I've heard there's a swimming pool and a bowling alley in the White House. Does the current administration have any plans to put a mountain biking trail on the White House, EEOB and Treasury grounds? If so, how gnarly could it be given the relatively flat terrain?

Lonnie Hovey
Hey Frenchy:

Great question. Many presidents have adapted the White House facilities to meet their recreational needs. Yes, there is an outdoor swimming pool on the White House grounds (installed in the Ford Administration), and a single bowling alley lane in the White House (installed in the Nixon Administration). President Jefferson added two large mounds to the southeast and southwest of the residence to modify the flat terrain, and these add great hills to the south lawn for various recreational activities. President Clinton added a jogging track around the south lawn, which President Bush has also used.

Kyle, from College Station, TX writes:
In what ways is the building being restored and when will the restoration be completed?

Lonnie Hovey
Hi Kyle:

Thanks for your great question. The building has undergone a systematic restoration of all the public spaces since 1982 when the Preservation Office was created. All of the corridors, rotundas, monumental stairs, and former department libraries have been restored to their original colors that date from the date that each wing was completed (1875 for the south wing, 1879 for the east wing, 1884 for the north wing, and 1888 for the west and center wings).

The General Services Administration is leading an effort to modernize the building and all of its utilities in three phases; the first of which began last year, and is expected to be completed in 2006. The second and third phases will also be completed in two-year phases. It is hoped that all the work will be completed by 2010.

Lonnie Hovey
Thank you to everyone who submitted questions today. I enjoy learning about the history of the buildings here in the White House complex, with the EEOB being my primary focus,and I hope you do too. I particularly like sharing the "hidden history" that I discover with the staff, their guests, and the public through our web site. Be sure to check out the new EEOB history site that we launched last Friday. Visit it each week to see the new "fact of the week" feature. Thanks for joining me today.