OUR CHANGING WHITE HOUSE by Wendell--Ed. Garrett

OUR CHANGING WHITE HOUSE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This collection of papers on historical aspects of the White House suffers from both a surplus and a deficit of information. These papers were originally presented at a 1992 symposium celebrating the 200th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for the White House. Dedicating the book to the late Jacqueline Onassis, Garrett, senior vice president of Sotheby's in New York City, could also have used the help of her disciplined editor's hand. While there is material of interest here both for the lay reader and the scholar, we are introduced too many times to George Washington's active interest in the design of the ""President's House,"" architect James Hoban's inspiration for the design (Leinster House in Dublin), Louis Comfort Tiffany's redecoration under President Chester Arthur, and Charles McKim's role in renovating the White House in 1902 under President Theodore Roosevelt. On the other hand, there is a dearth of adequate schematics that would help the reader follow the changes as greenhouses came and went and offices moved from first floor to second floor to West Wing. Compensation comes in the form of stories about how the stone for the original White House--sandstone of nearby Aquia Creek--was quarried and cut and how the ""imperialistic"" look of the McKim renovation coincided with a more ""imperial America."" The color and black-and-white photographs and drawings, many familiar, arouse as much curiosity as they satisfy about what the White House looked like over the course of its history. A cheerful but essentially insubstantial chapter confirms that White House employees are closemouthed about First Families. A pleasant volume that does perhaps all it needs to do, which is pique curiosity about the dignified building that symbolizes so much to the American people--and that, with growing security concerns, may become less and less accessible.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Northeastern Univ.