Two open limousines carrying four distinguished passengers drove down Pennsylvania Avenue on a hot June morning in 1939. President Franklin Roosevelt and Britain's King George, who wore the full-dress uniform of an admiral, waved to the crowd of more than 400,000. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the young Queen Elizabeth, who wore a mauve dress and a straw hat, also greeted the enthusiastic cheers from the American people.
They soon arrived at the South Portico of the White House. Within minutes, the quartet entered the quiet respite of the Diplomatic Reception Room, where they talked privately for a few minutes. The beautiful, oval-shaped Diplomatic Reception Room made a nice first impression of the White House for King George and Queen Elizabeth, who were the first British sovereigns to visit the White House.
Located along the Downstairs Corridor, the Diplomatic Reception Room was the furnace room until the 1902 White House Renovation, which turned it into a beautiful parlor for guests to gather before a White House event. The Diplomatic Reception Room was first used for hosting diplomats on January 8, 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt and Edith Roosevelt hosted a diplomatic reception.
The Diplomatic Reception Room was the site of President Franklin Roosevelt's famous radio addresses known as "fireside chats." The room was an ideal place for the broadcasts because it could host a small audience, and equipment could be easily moved in and out of the room. President Franklin Roosevelt also used the room to enter and exit the White House. He could easily move his wheelchair through the doorway and down the hall to the elevator.
Mamie Eisenhower decorated the Diplomatic Reception Room in 1960 in the federal style to reflect the time period in which the White House was built. She added a set of antiques, which included a pale gold silk sofa with matching wing chairs and armchairs. Jacqueline Kennedy added a set of wallpaper panels to the room in 1961. Called Scenic America, the wallpaper features idealized North American landscapes, including Virginia's Natural Bridge, Boston Harbor, Niagara Falls, West Point and New York Harbor.
President George W. Bush and Laura Bush often enter and exit the White House through the Diplomatic Reception Room. They also have used the room to greet special guests, such as the President of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski and his wife, Jolanta Kwasniewska. For many visiting heads of state, the Diplomatic Reception Room is the first impression they have of the White House.
The Map Room is located next to the Diplomatic Reception Room. President Franklin Roosevelt turned this room into his war room during World War II. Maps showing the progress of the war helped the President with military strategies. One map in particular always caught the President's eye--the map showing the location of his son's ship.
Abigail Fillmore began collecting books for the second floor oval room in the 1850s, and Mary Todd Lincoln added to this collection a decade later. Today the White House library still hosts a collection of books.
Located off the downstairs corridor, the Vermeil Room is used as a display room and as a ladies sitting room for formal occasions. Also known as the Gold Room, this room hosts the White House collection of vermeil, which is silver dipped in gold. The collection was given to the White House in 1956 by Mrs. Margaret Thompson Biddle. The room also showcases several portraits of 20th Century First Ladies.
This room, located next to the Diplomatic Reception Room, displays some of the beautiful pieces of the White House china. From Nancy Reagan's red and gold china to Bess Truman's green and gold pattern, this room showcases a variety of historic pieces.