Today it's the most famous building in the world, recognizable to millions as a symbol of the American presidency. But the White House was not always an iconic monument—it was first an American home.
From 1800 until 1960, the president's house kept pace with changing ideals of the perfect American house and garden. It began as George Washington's dream of a country estate; a century later, when robber-baron palaces came into fashion, it became the imperial seat of the larger-than-life Theodore Roosevelt. In the 1950s, Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower enjoyed the middle-class life in the capital city, barbequing on the roof of the curving south portico. That ended when Jacqueline Kennedy redecorated the White House as a museum to upper-class taste. Today the Obamas are pulling the White House back to its role as an American home.
Dream House: the White House as an American Home looks at the president's house in the context of American house design and decoration. Hundreds of historic photographs, plans, and drawings compare the president's residence to other American houses, gardens, and interiors, showing the White House as it changed through decades of interior renovation, rebuilding, and landscaping. The nation's finest decorators, garden designers, architects, and retailers—Herter Brothers, Sister Parish, Beatrix Farrand, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., and McKim, Mead & White—helped first families realize personal, and yet always American, dreams of how presidents should live.
As Americans we think we know the White House, from the Red, Green, and Blue rooms to the Oval Office. What we know is only part of a much bigger story . . .
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About the Author
Ulysses Grant Dietz, a great-great-grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, has been the curator of Decorative Arts at The Newark Museum since 1980, and Senior Curator since 2007. He received his BA from Yale in 1977, and his MA in Early American Culture from the University of Delaware�s Winterthur Program in 1980. Mr. Dietz restored the centerpiece of the Newark Museum, its 1885 Ballantine House. He has published numerous articles on decorative arts and books on the Museum�s Studio Pottery, Art Pottery and 19th century furniture collections.
Sam Watters lectures and writes on the built environment within the context of American culture. Educated at Yale, the University of Marseilles and at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, he is the author of Houses of Los Angeles, 1885-1935 and the "Lost LA" column for the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Watters is preparing, with the Library of Congress a book on the early 20th century garden photographs of White House photographer, Frances Benjamin Johnston.