Ushers’ Room and Clock Room

Ushers' Room, circa 2003

Office of the Chief Usher

While most of the nation's capital is just waking up, the Residence staff are already busy at work, ready to welcome the day's many visitors and ensure that official events go smoothly. Upon arrival, most check in at the Ushers' Room. The full Residence staff numbers ninety-one. Historically, servants—including some slaves at one time—lived in the Residence in the basement and attic, but no staff now live in the White House itself.

The chief usher, who has an immediate staff of seven, is responsible for overseeing all activities that take place within the Executive Residence. His private office is in the Clock Room on the mezzanine level, directly above the Ushers' Room.

The room was sometimes used for other purposes. Early on, it was the doorkeeper's lodge and was furnished with a bed for whomever was on night watch. During the Clevelands' second administration, the ushers' desk was removed during receptions and the room was made into a smoking parlor, with imitation morocco leather on the walls. As late as the early 20th century, this room was a secretarial office of the president. Woodrow Wilson signed a joint resolution at a desk here, declaring war on Germany on April 6, 1917.

In the early days of the White House, this was a waiting room. Chief Doorkeeper Captain Pendel wrote:

It being the first Sabbath we were on duty in the White House [1864], we were in a little waiting room on the right hand side of the stairs. This room is now [1901] sometimes used by the president as a smoking room and also as a reception room for those calling on the president and his family socially. ... When [President Lincoln] came downstairs that Sunday morning, we were all chatting... When Mr. Lincoln came into the room, he said, "Which of you will take a walk with me as far as Secretary Stanton's house? He is sick in bed, and I want to see him."


More Images

Chief Usher Gary Walters (left), circa 2002;
note that Walters is sitting in a niche created by closing off a door to the Family Dining Room

View out of the ushers' office in 1992, looking east into the Entrance Hall (HABS)

Mrs. Bush watches her husband give a press conference in 1989 (Getty Images)

President Ford takes a phone call in the Ushers' Office in 1975 (Ford Library)

Chief Usher JB West at his desk around 1964 (Upstairs at the White House)

The Ushers' Office in 1951; note the wall safe (Truman Library - U of U Marriott Library - Abbie Rowe)

New Chief Usher Howell Crim in 1938 (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

New Chief Usher Howell Crim (seated) with usher Charles Claunch in 1938 (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

The room circa 1915, looking east into the Entrance Hall

The room around 1894, used as a smoking lounge during receptions

Oblique view of the "Clock Room," the chief usher's office, over the Ushers' Room (HABS)

The "Clock Room" in 2008, looking south (C-SPAN)

The "Clock Room" in 2008, looking southeast (C-SPAN)