Family Residence Dining Room

The Dining Room in 2016 (Architectural Digest)

The Prince of Wales Room

The first family's private dining room is known variously as the "President's Dining Room" or "Family Residence Dining Room" but should not be confused with the President's Dining Room in the West Wing, which is also sometimes called the "Oval Office Dining Room" (and is sometimes actually a study), or with the Family Dining Room on the first floor of the Residence. It started as just another bedroom on the second floor. By the time of the Lincoln administration in the mid-19th century, it had become used as a state guest room and was known as the "Prince of Wales Room," since the Prince of Wales had stayed there in 1860 during the Buchanan administration. Later, it became the master bedroom for the McKinleys and was later used as a bedroom for Alice, the elder daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, and then Helen, the daughter of William Howard Taft. In 1929, the Hoovers moved the Lincoln bed here and made it the Lincoln Bedroom. Mrs. Hoover wrote:

The large northwest bedroom had begun to assume an individuality of its own—at least a period. Most of the State Guestroom furniture of Buchanan's day had collected there, and Mrs. Hoover took particular delight in adding the right notes to make a comfortable mid-century bedroom of it. She added the old wardrobe of the State set. ... Two quaint pictures of a Washington reception and a Lincoln reception were unearthed and added to walls. Copies of prints or photographs of the Lincoln family were collected. And the triumph of the room was found peacefully resting in the storeroom, whither it had been brought from the President's cottage at the Old Soldier's Home in Washington. It had been Lincoln's own desk—used in summer months during the Civil War. The desk is walnut, with a closing front and drawers ornamented with the carved walnut fruit thought so handsome in the [eighteen-]sixties.

The Truman family moved the bed to the southeast suite and called that the Lincoln Bedroom. This room became daughter Margaret's sitting room both before and after the reconstruction. It was here that one of the legs of the piano broke through the floor, prompting structural engineers to evaluate the whole house and decide that it was only still standing "out of habit" and begin the complete gutting and reconstruction of the mansion.


The antique American Revolution wallpaper: Washington and Cornwallis

In 1961, as part of the Kennedy renovation, the room was converted into a dining room. As she had for the Diplomatic Reception Room, Jacqueline Kennedy found antique wallpaper of fanciful scenes to paper the room. However, rather than landscapes, these were scene of battles of the American Revolution. Betty Ford disliked the battle scenes and had them removed to make the walls a bright yellow. The Carters chose to reinstate the battle scenes, however, and they remained until the Clintons covered the walls with a pale green silk covering. The second Bush family chose a patterned gold-and-cream wall covering and brought back the dramatic Nixon-era square-patterned rug.

Adapted from America's First Families: Chapter 3, A Home Within a Symbol:

Directly across the hall from the president's bedroom suite is the northwest suite, today used as a kitchen and dining room. Prior to 1961, the larger of the two rooms was a prime bedroom suite. For some unknown reason, President William Henry Harrison took this room; perhaps his death here led his successors to return to the original plan of using the bedroom across the hall. When the Prince of Wales came to stay with the Buchanan family, he slept in the suite, and it was christened the "Prince of Wales Room."

Here in 1861 Mary Lincoln placed an ornately carved rosewood bed and matching marble-topped table from the Philadelphia firm of William Carryl. She had the bed, which would forever after be known as the Lincoln bed, crowned with a gold American shield, from which gilt lace, overlaid by rich purple satin curtains fringed in gold, flowed to the floor, covering the bed's perimeter. The bedspread was also purple and gold. Lizzie Grimsley, the First Lady's cousin, called the room "the best in the family suite." Just months after the room's completion, eleven-year-old Willie Lincoln died in the Lincoln bed. Three years later, the remains of his father would be embalmed in this room.

This was the McKinleys' bedroom, decorated rather simply in crisp whites, with double brass-knobbed beds; a painting of their daughter, who had died two decades earlier, hung on the wall. Cleveland had the room painted yellow for them, but Ida McKinley demanded that it be changed to pale pink. Here she spent most of her White House life, and it was photographed for the American people for the first time in 1897.

Dining here with the Nixon family some seventy years after she lived in the White House, Alice Roosevelt Longworth looked around the room and realized this was her old bedroom—where her appendix had been removed. In 1961, Jackie Kennedy had made the room the "President's Dining Room," hung with mid-nineteenth-century wallpaper showing battle scenes. Betty Ford found the paper unappetizing and had the room painted yellow. Rosalynn Carter returned the wallpaper, and it remained in place, although in 1997 it was covered—but not harmed—with a more soothing pale green silk fabric.

More Images

Nancy Reagan with Michelle Obama in 2009 (White House - Pete Souza)

The Dining Room in 2008 (C-SPAN)

George W Bush hosts Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2006 (White House - Eric Draper)

Laura Bush hosts the US-Afghan Women's Council in 2004 (White House)

Hillary Clinton hosts a working lunch with senior staff in 1999 (White House Historical Association)

The Private Dining Room in the 1990s

The Private Dining Room in 1992 (HABS)

The Private Dining Room in 1992, looking east (HABS)

The Reagan Dining Room in 1986 (Reagan Library)

The Reagan Dining Room in 1981, set for a dinner party for Prince Charles of Wales (Reagan Library)

Mrs. Carter and family around 1978

The Carters entertaining in the Dining Room in 1978 after uncovering the antique wallpaper (Carter Library)

Rosalynn Carter entertaining actor Kirk Douglas and others in the Dining Room in 1977 before reinstating the antique wallpaper (NARA - Carter Library)

The Fords hosting Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip of England in the yellow-walled Private Dining Room in 1976 (Ford Library)

The Fords in 1975 (NARA)

President Ford having breakfast in 1975 (Library of Congress - Marion Trikosko)

The room in 1975 (White House Historical Association)

The Nixon Private Dining Room, circa 1973

The Nixon Private Dining Room, circa 1970

The Nixons family sitting down to dinner in the Dining Room, 1972 (White House - NARA)

Lyndon Johnson meeting with advisers in the Dining Room in 1967 (NARA - White House)

Lyndon Johnson meeting with advisers in the Dining Room in 1967 (NARA)

The Dining Room in 1963 (Kennedy Library)

The Dining Room soon after completion in 1962, looking north (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The Dining Room soon after completion in 1962, looking east (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The Dining Room soon after completion in 1962, looking northwest (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

The room as a family room after the Truman reconstruction in 1952 (Truman Library)

The room as a family room in 1952 (Truman Library)

The room as a family room in 1952 (Truman Library)

The room under reconstruction in 1952 (Truman Library)

No longer a bedroom, the Truman's family room in 1948, before the Truman reconstruction (Truman Library)

The room as a family room in 1948, before the Truman reconstruction (Truman Library)

Recreation of the room as the Coolidge boy's bedroom, circa 1923 (Backstairs at the White House)

The room as first daughter Helen Taft's bedroom, circa 1911 (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

The room as first daughter Helen Taft's bedroom, circa 1911 (Library of Congress - Harris & Ewing)

The room's view of the north lawn and fountain, circa 1902 (Library of Congress - Frances Benjamin Johnston)

The room as Alice Roosevelt's bedroom, circa 1902, looking southwest into Ethel's bedroom (Library of Congress)

The room as the McKinley bedroom in 1898, in pale pink (Library of Congress)