State Dining Room
The State Dining Room welcomes the Christmas season with snow-dusted garlands, a forest of illuminated trees, and boughs of greens cascading from the sconces.
The pièce de résistance is the gingerbread White House. Every year, White House chefs combine weeks of work, and about 300 pounds of gingerbread and chocolate, to create an edible masterpiece. In a command performance for 2006, former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier has designed a tasty southern view. More than 800 hand-piped icing snowflakes swirl overhead.
In 1929, President Herbert Hoover and his family welcomed friends to the State Dining Room for Christmas Eve dinner. But the meal was interrupted when the chief usher rushed in — to tell President Hoover that the West Wing was on fire!
The men hurried onto the West Terrace, where they saw fire trucks already battling the blaze. They bolted toward the West Wing, hoping to save the presidential files. One staff member ran to his office to rescue the puppy he had bought his son for Christmas. Another rushed to the Oval Office with President Hoover’s son, who pulled the drawers from his father’s desk to salvage the president’s personal files.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Hoover stayed in the State Dining Room, shepherding the women and children toward the Christmas tree at the room’s south end. The first lady gathered her guests around the tree, distributing gifts, telling stories, and replacing chaos with Christmas cheer. The next Christmas, Mrs. Hoover gave toy fire trucks to children who had been at the dinner, as reminders of the great Christmas Eve fire of 1929. Today, the mementoes are part of the collections at the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa.