Green Room

The Green Room in 2008, looking southeast (White House - Pete Souza)

The "Lodging Room"

Although intended by architect James Hoban to be the "Common Dining Room," the Green Room has served many purposes since the White House was first occupied in 1800. The inventory of February 1801 indicates that it was first used as a "Lodging Room." Thomas Jefferson, the second occupant of the White House, used it as a dining room with a "canvas floor cloth, painted green," foreshadowing the present color scheme. James Madison made it a sitting room since his Cabinet met in the East Room next door, and the Monroes used it as the "Card Room" with two tables for the whist players among their guests.


Work table and lamp in the Green Room (White House)

This room is about 28 feet by 22 1/2 feet. Emerald and gold wallpaper and matching green and gold upholstery were added to the Green Room during President Grant’s administration. Styles in the room changed as frequently as the tastes of the presidents until the time of Theodore Roosevelt, when it was furnished with reproductions of early 19th-century American furniture. Not until the Coolidge administration, however, was authentic Federal-period furniture placed in the room.

The Green Room was completely refurbished in 1971. Its walls were re-covered with the delicate green watered-silk fabric originally chosen by Mrs. Kennedy in 1962. Draperies of striped beige, green, and coral satin--a major part of the 1971 renovation—were carefully designed from a pattern shown in an early 19th-century periodical. The coral and gilt ornamental cornices are surmounted by a pair of hand-carved, gilded American eagles with outspread wings. The eagle, patriotic symbol of the United States, was one of the favorite decorative motifs of the federal period and appears in many forms in the room.

In "a noble, or genteel house," wrote Thomas Sheraton, the English furniture designer, a drawing room "should possess all the elegance embellishments can give." Most of the furnishings now in the Green Room date from the years 1800-15, the period of Sheraton's greatest influence on American decor.

John Quincy Adams named the room the "Green Drawing Room" sometime between 1825 to 1829. The inspiration for the name may have come from Thomas Jefferson's use of the space as a dining room, when he covered the floor with a green-colored canvas for protection.

The Green Room was the site of one of the nation's earliest dramatic moments. With the stroke of a pen, President James Madison signed the nation's first declaration of war in the Green Room. The War of 1812 led to the burning of the White House by British troops in 1814.

In this room, the body of young Willie Lincoln, President Lincoln's 11-year-old son, lay for the viewing, and his mother Mary Todd Lincoln avoided the room ever afterward.

Over the years, presidents and first ladies have used the Green Room as a small parlor for hosting guests and encouraging informal conversation. Helen Taft, the wife of President William Howard Taft, described the Green Room as her favorite. She enjoyed the room so much that she sat for a photograph in this room in 1909.


More Images

The passage between the Blue Room and the Green Room, 2009 (White House - Pete Souza)

The Green Room in 2008, looking southeast (Architectural Digest)

The Green Room in 2008, looking south (Ruawildeone)

The Green Room in 2007, looking southeast (Time - Brooks Kraft)

New carpet and reupholstered Duncan Phyfe side chair in 2007 (Washington Post)

The Green Room in 2006 at Christmastime

The Green Room in 2005 (Annie & Capo)

The Green Room in 2005 at Christmastime (Wasylik)

The Green Room in 2005 (cressonc)

The Green Room in 2004 at Christmastime (Kristin J. Forbes)

The Green Room in 2001 at Christmastime


Historical photos of the Green Room