Jan 13, 2009

So, What's Inside the White House Anyway?

With yet another peaceful transition of power on its way in Washington, my interest in our capital city and in its most famous landmark has skyrocketed. Recently, there has been a spate of interest on the web/TV. For those who missed C-SPAN's special "Inside the White House" on Dec. 14, it is now available to buy on their website. Here's the trailer:

If you watch that and don't have goosebumps, then the only explanation is that you are a Communist, or a terrorist, or both. I'm only kidding a little.

Also, The White House Museum is an awesome resource for historic photos of almost all the rooms in the house. It's super cool and updated often, so check it out.

Now, I've been a longtime fan of The West Wing. The show has been praised by former staffers of the Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 administrations for its realism. The only major complaints seem to be that (i) staffers don't tend to remain that idealistic in the rough-and-tumble world of national politics and (ii) the real West Wing isn't nearly as expansive as the one in the show. In fact, people have made blueprints for the TV West Wing.

And here's the real West Wing:
As you can see, the actual West Wing has a Chief of Staff's office, but it is not adjacent to the Oval Office. Instead, it is past the President's Private Study (see below), the Dining Room (see below), and a Deputy Chief of Staff's office.

President Reagan in the private study, 1987 (h/t White House Museum)

President Bush and Vice President Cheney meet in the president's dining room (h/t White House Museum)

Additionally, there is no 'Mural Room' (it seems to be loosely based on the Diplomatic Reception Room), the Roosevelt Room is far more boring than in the show, and there are no bullpens. Perhaps, however, the most distinctive difference (and, I think, the best) is the lobby. The current West Wing lobby is pretty lame. Aaron Sorkin apparently recognized this, and so he actually reverted it back to the Truman-Johnson lobby, which consisted of a Roman-column facade and classy black and white marble floor tiles (see below).

(h/t White House Museum)

I love the White house--its history, its architecture, and the unique place it holds in the American psyche. It's come to symbolize the eras of our nation--political and cultural--and its character as well. That's why the occupant means so much to us. Through him, we see a reflection of ourselves and the choices we make as a people. There are few things left in this country that are not politicized, but in some odd way, the White House, the center of American politics--and I mean the institution, not the administration inside--remains stubbornly apolitical.

1 comment:

Turner Publishing said...

Hey Josh!
Sorry to leave you a message this way; I couldn't find an email address to contact you.
I came across your blog and wanted to write because I'm with a publishing company, and we have a title called "Historic Photos of the White House." It's a coffee table book with black and white, never before seen photos from archives. I was just wondering if maybe I could offer you a free copy in exchange for review, since your blog entry tied in so nicely with the book. If you're interested at all, you can email me back (lchenery@turnerpublishing.com) or give me a call (615-255-2665). I promise I'm not spam, nor will I give out any info! Anyways, just let me know what you think--I hope I hear from you!
Have a great week,
Liz Chenery