the Press Briefing Room
As the men and women of New York opened copies of the New York Daily News on March 14, 1933, they learned of a campaign to raise money for building the president a swimming pool at the White House. The effort was a way to honor President Franklin Roosevelt, a New York native who suffered from the crippling disease, poliomyelitis. The President often swam at therapy pools at his Hyde Park home in New York or at a center in Warm Springs, Georgia.
The campaign was a success, and the workmen gathered around the pool on June 2, 1933 to listen to President Roosevelt, who spoke from his wheelchair and thanked them for their work. The pool was built inside the west terrace between the White House and the West Wing. Arched ceilings and high rows of half-mooned windows surrounded the rectangular pool. French doors opened into the Rose Garden. The President's pool was a modern-day showcase of technology, featuring underwater lighting, sterilizers and the latest gadgets.
Nearly 40 years after the construction of Roosevelt's pool, a new wave of technology pressed upon the President to create a work space for the media. President Richard Nixon arranged for the construction of a press briefing room above the old pool to accommodate the growing demand for television news. Since 1970 the White House press corps has assembled in a small theater to listen to the White House press secretary's briefings and reports. The doors opening to the Rose Garden allow the members of the media quick access to outdoor events.
The Press Briefing Room was renamed the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room on February 11, 2000 in honor of James Brady, the White House press secretary who was shot and seriously injured following an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
In 2006, the press relocated to temporary space in the White House Conference Center while the room underwent the first, full-scale renovation.
The renovation was driven by the need to replace aging utility infrastructure, including failing and inadequate air conditioning and insufficient electrical capacity.
Renovation highlights included improved media work space with new work stations and briefing seating. Cooler, energy efficient lighting was installed, along with interactive media screens behind the Press Secretarys podium. The room was also re-wired with more than 500 miles of fiber-optic cable.
The swimming pool space below the briefing room floor remained structurally intact and was utilized to house electronics for supporting press operations.
President George W. Bush cut the ribbon to reopen the renovated James S. Brady Briefing Room on July 11, 2007.
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