Sun Room

The Solarium in 2016 (Architectural Digest)


Ike grilling on the Promenade outside the Sun Room
(Eisenhower Library)

The "Sky Parlor"

The Solarium, or Sun Room, was added to the White House in the early 20th century by William Howard Taft in the form of a "Sleeping Porch" to give the first family a cool place to sleep on hot nights. It was improved in 1927 when the third floor was expanded, and Grace Coolidge called it the "Sky Parlor." It was redesigned again in the 1952 Truman reconstruction and now includes a kitchenette.

The Sun Room has been a particular favorite of many first families. President Eisenhower like to grill on the Promenade just outside and eat and play bridge in the Sun Room. The Kennedys turned this room into a school room for Caroline and several other children. The Johnsons (after Caroline's semester ended), turned the room into a teen hangout for Luci and Lynda.

This room is also where Richard Nixon broke the news to his family in 1974 that he had chosen to step down as president. And Mrs. Reagan was in this room with Chief Usher Rex Scouten when she was informed the the president had been shot.

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

The most famous and popular room on this floor was created by Grace Coolidge, directly above the Yellow Oval Room. She called it her "sky parlor" because it offered an open view looking out to the sky from walls of glass. The Trumans installed a linoleum floor and artificial bamboo furniture, and the space was Mamie Eisenhower's bridge party room, Caroline Kennedy's kindergarten, the teenage Johnson daughters' hangout—complete with soda machine. It was the one quiet retreat where Nixon son-in-law Ed Cox could come to study for his law bar exams, and Rosalynn Carter could focus on Spanish lessons with her in-residence daughters-in-law Caron and Annette.

Ronald Reagan recuperated in the bright room in the weeks following the assassination attempt. There is a small wet bar here. It was the favorite room of the Clintons, whether for meetings or board games or family dinners. Here they displayed collections of humorous stacking Russian dolls depicting them and other political figures.

More Images

Solarium around 2008, looking south (C-SPAN)

Solarium around 2008, looking north down the ramp (C-SPAN)

Solarium around 2008, looking southeast (C-SPAN)

Solarium around 2000, looking southeast

Chelsea Clinton celebrates a birthday, circa 1994 (Roland Mesnier)

Solarium in 1992, looking southwest (HABS)

Solarium in 1992, looking north to the ramp and kitchenette (HABS)

Solarium kitchenette in 1992 (HABS)

The Reagan Solarium, circa 1985 (Reagan Library)

The Reagans relaxing, around 1981, looking west (Getty Images)

The Reagans in 1981, looking southwest (Getty Images)

The Reagan Solarium in 1981, looking southwest (Architectural Digest - Derry Moore)

Rosalynn Carter in the Solarium around 1979, looking south

First Lady Rosalynn Carter entertaining Joan (Mrs. Walter) Mondale in 1977, looking southeast (NARA - Carter Library)

First Lady Betty Ford entertaining Happy (Mrs. Nelson) Rockefeller in 1974, looking northwest (Ford Library)

Betty Ford entertaining in 1974, looking southeast (Ford Library)

Richard Nixon in 1974, on the day the broke the news of his resignation to his family (Nixon Library)

Sun Room in 1966, hosting a buffet shortly before Luci Johnson's wedding

Lucy Johnson studying in 1964 (LIfe)

Sun Room kitchenette in 1964 (LIfe)

Sun Room in 1963, as Caroline Kennedy's kindergarten classroom (Kennedy Library)

The first lady visits Caroline's classroom in 1962 (Life)

Sun Room in 1960, looking east (Kennedy Library - Robert Knudsen)

Sun Room in 1952, after the reconstruction, looking southwest (Truman Library)

Sun Room in 1951, at the end of the reconstruction

Sun Room in 1948, before the reconstruction, looking west (Truman Library)

Sky Parlor, soon after its creation 1927

The Sleeping Porch on the roof, circa 1920, before the construction of a full third floor
(the structure in the foreground is an "automatic fire escape") (Library of Congress)