WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCES RESTORATIONS
As have most of their predecessors in the White House, President and Mrs. Clinton have undertaken several interior refurbishings and restorations to ensure the upkeep of the Executive Mansion as a living museum that has been the home and office of every President since John Adams. No public funds were spent on the work.
The recently completed work is part of the routine maintenance and restoration of the White House and concludes the initial phase of a broader restoration project to include additional repairs and maintenance. According to White House Curator Rex Scouten, significant restorations are necessary about every 10 years due to the heavy volume of tourists and guests who visit the White House each week.
In addition to the routine maintenance and restoration, some changes reflect the lifestyle of the occupant family, such as converting the butler's pantry into an everyday kitchen for family meals, the President's work habits (installing bookcases in the Treaty Room), and the taste and character of the President's principal work place, the Oval Office, which now has new drapes and carpet.
The restoration featured the re-upholstering or recovering of 73 pieces of furniture and furnishings, the conservation of 23 pieces of furniture already in the White House collection and the retrieval of 52 pieces of furniture and 22 historic and decorative pieces from storage for use within the house. Two floors were repaired and re-covered. Twenty-eight windows received new curtains. Nineteen carpets and underlays worn and needing attention were replaced. Eleven chandeliers were conserved.
The President and Mrs. Clinton are already involved in making needed refurbishments in the state rooms of the White House. The Committee for the Preservation of the White House met earlier this month to discuss the restoration projects in the Blue Room and East Room. The President recently appointed Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Director, Studio Museum in Harlem; J. Thomas Savage, Jr., Curator, Historic Charleston Foundation; Dick Moe, President, National Trust for Historic Preservation; Leonore Annenberg and Kaki Hockersmith of Hockersmith Interiors to the Committee for Preservation of the White House. The President reappointed the following members of the Committee for Preservation of the White House: Leslie Greene Bowman, Curator, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Wendy Cooper, Curator of Decorative Arts, Baltimore Museum of Art; Jonathan Fairbanks, Katherine Lane Weems Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Museum of Fine Arts; Richard Nylander, Curator of Collections, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities; John Wilmerding, Christopher Binyon Sarofim '86 Professor in American Art, Princeton University; Mark Hampton; William Kloss and Charles W. Engelhard, Jr. (A complete list of the members of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House is attached.)
Included in the restoration were portions of the family quarters and rooms widely used for private work, meetings, official functions, and entertaining -- the Oval Office, Treaty Room, West Sitting Room, and Lincoln Sitting Room. The most extensive changes were made to enhance the special character of the Oval Office and the Treaty Room -- the President's two offices -- and to expand their use as public and private work areas.
Over the years, the Treaty Room, now a Presidential office located in the residence, has served as a Cabinet Room, sitting room, Presidential reception room, and private study. It has also been the site of important treaty signings, such as the Peace Protocol marking the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the Treaty for a Partial Nuclear Test Ban signed by President Kennedy. Aware of the room's rich past, President Clinton was committed to restoring its 19th century character while also maintaining it as a working office and meeting area for visiting dignitaries. The table in the Treaty Room, now serving as the President's desk, was used this fall by the signators of the Israeli-Palestinian Agreement.
In the family quarters of the residence, most of the restoration consisted of necessary maintenance, repainting, carpeting, and upholstering.
The recent improvements, totalling $396,429.46, were financed by private donations of money to the White House Historical Association, including a donation from surplus funds of the Presidential Inaugural Committee as well as donations of goods and services to the National Park Service. (The Inaugural Committee also contributed funds to the Vice President's Residence Foundation.) The Clintons chose not to use the $50,000 appropriated by Congress for White House restorations.
Among the donations to the National Park Service was $74,607 contributed by the Clinton/Gore Transition Foundation in payments to Kaki Hockersmith of Little Rock, Arkansas, for her services as the design consultant for the White House restoration project. (The Transition Foundation is privately funded.) Ms. Hockersmith devoted a significant amount of personal time to the project, essentially closing her small business and dedicating nearly an entire year to the White House refurbishment. Ms. Hockersmith also donated draperies of her design which now hang in the Lincoln Sitting Room. (Lists of those who contributed to the White House Historical Association and the National Park Service are attached. A list of members of the White House Historical Association is also attached.)
In late November 1992, Ms. Hockersmith, president of Kaki Hockersmith Interiors, began working with the White House curator and usher's offices to review the condition of the residence and offices used by the President to determine a priority list for refurbishments. She oversaw the gathering and placement of historic objects to be displayed throughout the residence and offices of the White House -- a priority for the Clintons.
Ms. Hockersmith surveyed storage facilities inside the White House and the main storage warehouse in Maryland for paintings, furniture that could be used after refurbishment, and other suitable furnishings. To minimize costs, nearly all of the furniture used for the restoration came from Executive Residence storage.
Most of the draperies and upholstering were done by Nelson Beck, a Washington, D.C. firm recommended by the White House curator and usher's offices and widely acclaimed for its quality workmanship and attention to historical detail.
Nelson Beck has assisted in a number of earlier projects at the White House, including upholstering the walls of the Green Room, upholstering the Bellange chairs in the Blue Room, and providing slipcovers and upholstery for the Bushes and the Reagans.
Other work done by Nelson Beck includes drapery treatments and upholstery for the Vice President's house during Nelson Rockefeller's term, the draperies and window treatments in the restored period offices at the Treasury Department, as well as work for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Portrait Gallery, the Renwick Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran Gallery, the DAR Museum and the U.S. Capitol.
"We are grateful to the many Americans whose generous contributions have helped preserve the White House as a proud piece of American history and an ongoing national treasure," the President and Mrs. Clinton said.