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Vice President's Ceremonial Office

Former Office of the Secretary of the Navy

Vice President's Office after its restoration, 1987. Harlan Hambright.
In addition to the Vice President's Office in the West Wing, the Vice President and his staff maintain a set of offices in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), which is located next to the West Wing on the White House premises. The Vice President's Office in the EEOB is called the Vice President's Ceremonial Office. This restored, historical office served as the Navy Secretary's Office when the EEOB housed the State, Navy and War Departments. Today, the Vice President uses the office for meetings and press interviews.

Sixteen secretaries of the Navy occupied the office from 1879 until 1921. From 1921 until 1947, General John Pershing occupied the room as Army Chief of Staff and as Chairman of the Battle Monuments Commission. Pershing's occupancy of the office was interrupted only once during these 26 years, when President Hoover was forced to relocate his offices following a Christmas Eve fire in the West Wing of the White House in 1929. Since 1960 it has been occupied by every Vice President from Lyndon B. Johnson to Richard B. Cheney. (with the exception of Hubert Humphrey, who used a room on the floor below). Since its restoration in the 1980s, it has been considered a "ceremonial" office.

Office of the Secretary of the Navy, ca. 1905. US Naval Institute.
The room was designed by William McPherson, a well-known Boston painter and decorator. The walls and ceiling were decorated with ornamental stenciling and allegorical symbols of the Navy Department, hand painted in typical Victorian colors. These designs have been restored on part of one wall (two places between the hall way entrance doors) and replicated on canvas throughout the rest of the room. The reason for replication on canvas is two-fold: first, large areas of the original designs were damaged and a large amount of in-painting would have been necessary; second, the replicated designs on canvas preserve the original design underneath. The floor is very delicate, being of mahogany, white maple and cherry. The two fireplaces are original Belgian black marble; the two overmantle mirrors were regilded during the restoration. The original Minton tile hearths were removed due to their disrepair and replaced with green marble.

The chandeliers are replicas of the circa 1900 gasoliers, which had been removed and could not be located. The historic fixtures, as viewed in photographs, were equipped for both gas and electric power, the gas globes being on top, the electric lights below.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, 1897. Library of Congress.
There are several items of note in the room, but the most interesting may be the Vice-President's Desk. This desk is part of the White House collection and was first used by Theodore Roosevelt in 1902. Several important figures have chosen to use this desk - including Presidents Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon. It was placed in storage from December of 1929 until 1945, when it was then used by President Truman. Vice President Johnson and all subsequent Vice Presidents except for Hubert Humphrey have used the desk. The inside of the top drawer has been signed by the various users since the 1940s.

Another item of note is the Bust of Christopher Columbus. One of the few items on display that were originally in the building, it was removed from the Spanish Cruiser Christabal Colom by the crew of the USS Montgomery after the battle of Santiago in July 1898. It was exhibited here in the Secretary's office between 1898-1924.

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