Map Room

The Obamas wait for the President of Mexico in 2010 (White House - Pete Souza)

8-Ball Corner Pocket, Mr. President

The Map Room is so-named because it was used by President Franklin Roosevelt as a situation room from which to follow the course of World War II. It now serves as a private meeting room for the president or the first lady. But until 1929, it had historically been used as a billiard room by many presidents, and occasionally for doctors' visits.

Chief Usher Ike Hoover wrote of Harrisons' enjoyment of the billiard room:

The fact that this room was located in the then very dirty and unsightly basement did not prevent the family from spending many happy hours there. The ladies as well as the men took part in the games and, to all appearances, became quite expert. The billiard-room was short-lived however, having been installed during the Arthur Administration and abandoned at the coming of [Theodore] Roosevelt, who did not find the game strenuous enough for him.

After TR renovated the basement into a useable ground floor, the room was again used for billiards by Wilson and Coolidge. Mrs. Hoover wrote:

[The room,] always kept private, had been a billiard room since the Wilson day. The Hoover regime, returning the billiard table to the lending manufacturers, as billiard tables had been lent and returned since Adams II [John Quincy Adams], made this quiet room, protected by the corridor screens, into a consulting room for household and executive officials. Opening in the doctor's treatment room, it was also a waiting room, and its position made it a useful meeting ground for such affairs as need not encroach on the time or space of the Executive or the Usher's office. To the Chesterfield set of Wilson furniture, brought by him from the Peace Conference Ship George Washington, was added a working desk of useful pattern, revolving office-chair, and a glass-fronted bookcase.

This room is about 27 1/2 feet by 22 1/2 feet. The room was decorated in 1970, and again in 1994, as a sitting room in the Chippendale style, which flourished in America during the last half of the 18th century. Named after the English furniture designer Thomas Chippendale, this style combines the graceful lines of Queen Anne furniture with carved motifs in more elaborate rococo, Gothic, and Chinese styles. The handsome, walnut high chest of drawers on the south wall was made in Philadelphia about 1770 and has shell carvings on its pediment and apron and the knees of its cabriole legs. The side chairs that flank the high chest, from a set of four and an armchair, were made about 1770 in Philadelphia, possibly by Thomas Affleck. Attributed to the same cabinetmaker is the mahogany easy chair with square, upholstered back.

The simple sandstone mantel was made from stone removed during the Truman renovation of the White House. Above it hangs the last situation map prepared in this room for President Roosevelt, on April 3, 1945. To the right of the fireplace is a chest of drawers with a serpentine front made in Philadelphia about 1765. On it rests a medicine chest that is believed to have belonged to President and Mrs. James Madison, and to have been taken from the White House just before the building was burned during the War of 1812.

A rare 1755 French version of a map charted by colonial surveyors Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson's father) hangs on the east wall, covering a case of world maps presented by the National Geographic Society.

Ladies' Lavatory

The Map Room provides access to a ladies' lavatory.

More Images

Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office second time in 2009 (White House - Pete Souza)

The Map Room in 2008, looking north (C-SPAN)

The Map Room in 2008, looking west (C-SPAN)

The Map Room in 1999, looking east (White House Historical Association)

President Clinton reviews designs for his official portrait in his final days in the White House in 2001, looking southeast

The map cabinet (HABS)

The map room in 1992 (HABS)

The Map Room in 1992, looking southwest

First Dog Millie in the Map Room in 1991, with a model of the construction of the White House (Bush Library)

The room around 1979 (White House Historical Association)

Rosalynn Carter being interviewed by David Hartman of Good Morning America in 1978, looking southeast (NARA - Carter Library)

President Nixon discusses China in 1972 (Corbis - Bettman)

Jackie Kennedy finalizing details in the room as curator's office in 1962

The Map Room in 1962, when it was being used as an office for the curator (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The room as it served Calvin Coolidge in the capacity of a billiards hall, looking northwest (White House Historical Association - Ralph Waldo Magee)