Closet Hall

The Closet Hall in 1992, looking north (HABS)

From Lafayette to Clothes Closet

The two small bedrooms in the center of the second floor share a closet hallway. Here there had been a large, formal guest or "state bedroom," created by Monroe and decorated in yellow and pink by Jackson. The Marquis de Lafayette almost certainly stayed in that grand room when he came to the White House.


President Lincoln with Tad, who liked to dress in a Union uniform

In 1853, during the Pierce administration, this room was divided into two bedrooms, the large area now split down the center by a newly created narrow corridor with its window directly over the front door. Here, Lincoln often came to give speeches from the window.

It was at this window that Abraham Lincoln gave his last public address. Reporter Noah Brooks held a candle so the president could read his speech hailing the end of the Civil War, calling for reconciliation between North and South, suggesting a national Thanksgiving, and asking for consideration of voting rights for black Americans. Beside them, First Son Tad Lincoln collected the pages as the president finished each one and let them fall to the floor. Brooks wrote:

Within stood the tall, gaunt figure of the President, deeply thoughtful, intent upon the elucidation of the generous policy which should be pursued toward the South. That this was not the sort of speech which the multitude had expected is tolerably certain.

Later, a small schoolroom was established for Scott and Fanny Hayes. It was a bedroom for two Theodore Roosevelt family maids. It was rebuilt in the same configuration during the Truman reconstruction and later became a bedroom for Maude Shaw, nurse to the Kennedy children.

The space was converted to two facing wall closets for the Johnson family, who had two teenage daughters to accommodate. The two bedrooms still flank this narrow space, mostly used for clothes storage, including the dress collections of Ladybird Johnson and Nancy Reagan.

More Images

The view out the window (HABS)

The closet hall under construction in 1951 (Truman Library)

The closet hall prior to demolition, 1949 (Life magazine - Thomas Mcavoy)