“I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this House, and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
The State Dining Room, which now seats as many as 140 guests, was originally much smaller and served at various times as a drawing room, office, and Cabinet room. Not until the Andrew Jackson administration was it called the “State Dining Room,” although it had been used for formal dinners by previous presidents. The room is expanded from its original size and is now a little less than 49 feet by 36 feet.
During the Eisenhower administration, Mamie Eisenhower regularly decorated the State Dining Room for each holiday, including Halloween skeletons, witches, jack-o’-lanterns, and stalks of corn, and St. Patrick’s Day leprechauns, shamrocks, and green ribbon.
As the nation grew, so did the invitation list to official functions at the White House. The room that was once Jefferson’s library and office became a dining room (and, at times, a billiards room) for state dinners so that the East Room could remain clear for an accompanying reception. It originally had one fireplace on the east wall, but when the house was rebuilt after the 1814 fire, a second fireplace was added on the west wall, which required that the two west windows be blocked, although new windows were eventually cut to open the space to the conservatories.
During the renovation of 1902 by architects McKim, Mead, & White, the room size was enlarged after the main stairway from the west end of the Cross Hall was removed. The two Italian marble mantels installed by Monroe were moved to the Red and Green Rooms; a single larger fireplace was constructed on the west wall and the original window spaces repaired. The architecture of the room was modeled after that of neoclassical English houses of the late 18th century. Below a new ceiling and a cornice of white plaster, natural oak wall paneling with Corinthian pilasters and a delicately carved
frieze was installed. A silver-plate chandelier and complementing wall sconces were added.
During the Truman reconstruction, the 1902 mantel was replaced with a green marble mantel. The 1902 mantel was restored during the Kennedy renovation and includes the inscription placed there by Franklin Roosevelt, from a letter by John Adams to his wife written immediately after he first moved into the house in 1800:
I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this House, and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.
When not set for a state dinner, the mahogany dining table, surrounded by Queen Anne-style chairs, displays part of Monroe’s gilt service purchased from France in 1817. The ornamental bronze-doré pieces are used today as table decorations. The plateau centerpiece, with seven mirrored sections, measures 14 feet 6 inches in length when fully extended. Standing bacchantes holding wreaths for tiny bowls or candles border the plateau. Three fruit baskets, supported by female figures, may be used to hold flowers. The two rococo-revival candelabra date from the Hayes administration. Three console tables with eagle supports, made by the AH Davenport Co. of Boston, stand against the walls.