Oval Office

From Academic Kids

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Oval Office from above

The Oval Office is the official office of the President of the United States, in the West Wing of the White House, built in 1902. The grand concept of an oval room had not figured in the original White House. An oval interior space is a Baroque concept that was adapted by Neoclassicism.

White House Oval Office
Long Axis: 35' 10" (10.9m)
Short Axis: 29' (8.8m)
Height: 18' 6" (5.6m)
Line of Rise: 16' 7" (5.0m) the point at which the ceiling starts to arch.

The office features three large south-facing windows behind the President's desk and a fireplace at the north end of the room. The Oval Office has four doors: the eastern door opens to the Rose Garden; the western door leads to the President's private study; the northwest door opens directly onto the main body of the West Wing; and the northeast door opens to a personal secretary's office.

History

On an early October morning in 1909, President William Howard Taft became the first President to walk into the Oval Office. Greeting the 27th President of the United States were silk velvet curtains and a checkerboard floor made of mahajua wood from the Philippines. Caribou hide tacked with brass studs covered the chairs in the room. President Taft chose the olive green color scheme. Taft's Oval Office was different from the rectangular office of his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, who built the West Wing in 1902. Taft relocated the office and changed its shape to oval, like the Blue Room in the White House.

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White House Oval Office in 2003

Neoclassical oval rooms did not often feature in American classical architecture. The "elliptic salon" was the outstanding feature of James Hoban's original plan of the White House. At the president's temporary home in Philadelphia, Washington had two rooms each modified with an apsidal bowed end, which were used for hosting the formal receptions called levees. As his guests formed a circle around him, Washington could stand in the center with everyone an equal distance from the president. The apsidal end of a room was a traditional site of honor, for a host, a potentate, or the magistrate in a basilica.

President Taft intended the Oval Office to be the center of his administration, and by creating the Oval Office in the center of the West Wing, he was more involved with the day-to-day operation of his presidency than were his recent predecessors. In 1933, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president, he had a new Oval Office constructed; he disliked the original central location because it lacked windows, as a result being entirely reliant on skylights. The new office's location at the southeast corner of the West Wing also allowed presidents greater privacy, being able to slip back and forth between the main White House and the West Wing without being in full view of the West Wing staff, a problem with the two earlier offices.
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Oval Office in 1999

Through the years, the Oval Office has become a symbol of the Presidency. Over the years, Americans developed an attachment to the Oval Office through memorable images, such as a young John F. Kennedy, Jr. peering through the front panel of his father's desk or President Nixon talking on the phone with astronauts after a successful voyage. Television broadcasts, such as President Reagan's speech following the Challenger explosion, would leave lasting impressions in the minds of Americans of both the office and its occupant.

The desk used by the President in the Oval Office is called the Resolute Desk, so named because it was built from the timbers of the British ship HMS Resolute. The desk was a gift of Queen Victoria who gave it to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. Every President since Hayes has used the desk except Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford. President John F. Kennedy first placed it in the Oval Office in 1961.

Typically, each new administration redecorates the office to the President's liking by changing the rug, the drapes, the paintings on the walls, and some furniture.

References

  • Portions of this article are based on public domain text from the White House (http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/life/ovaloffice.html).

External links

fr:Bureau ovale nl:Oval Office

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