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Oct 04, 2016 Washington, D.C.

The White House Historical Association announced today the release of its new publication A Garden for the President: A History of the White House Grounds by landscape historian Jonathan Pliska. The 300-plus page hardbound book explores the grounds, gardens, uses, and plantings of the White House. His research has uncovered new information about a range of topics, including the earliest White House planting lists, the origins of the Jefferson Mounds, and the history of the famous Jackson Magnolia.

Pliska expertly takes the reader from 1608 when the region was home to Algonquin and Nacotchtankes people to Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s plans for the President’s Palace; from Thomas Jefferson’s plans with Benjamin Henry Latrobe to Millard Fillmore’s hiring of Andrew Jackson Downing and ultimately Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s retaining of Frederick Law Olmstead Jr.

“The White House grounds are integral to the more than 200 year history of the Executive Mansion. Capturing the changing landscape, through use and plantings, enables us to bring a new perspective to that history and to the presidents, first families, and many individuals who have shaped and influenced the White House,” said Stewart D. McLaurin, President of the White House Historical Association. “Jonathan’s work provides a much needed in-depth examination of this iconic setting that is at once both scholarly and easily accessible to readers.”

New principal photography by Bruce M. White enhances the publication, which also features numerous historic images, plans, and related documents. The Association also commissioned new illustrations of specimen trees, never before featured in print.

White House Grounds Superintendent Dale Haney observes in the book foreword, “I have often wished for a book that would tell the whole story of life and growth in the garden from the beginning until today, a book that would supplement the experience of a spring garden tour or provide a virtual tour to those who may not be able to visit in person. In the following chapters Jonathan Pliska has accomplished this and Bruce White, with his camera, has captured the spirit of the landscape from a gardener’s perspective. They love the subject, and the reader will love it too.”

McLaurin added, “As one of America’s great national parks, the White House stands out among the many treasured landscapes entrusted to the National Park Service. As an official cooperating partner of the NPS, we are honored to dedicate this publication in honor of the National Park Service Centennial.”

The book is available for purchase from the White House Historical Association for $49.95 online at shop.whitehousehistory.org, in person at the Associations stores at the White House Visitor Center at 15th and Pennsylvania, the White House History shop at 1610 H Street, NW, and this weekend, October 8-9, at the entrance to the White House garden tours.

The Association has also developed other garden related products inspired by the White House, including a new White House seed packet and children’s White House Garden Kit.

About Jonathan Pliska

Landscape historian Jonathan W. Pliska undertook the long process of researching and writing about the history of the White House Grounds, beginning with the site’s 1789 inception and continuing up to the present time, while consulting for the National Park Service. He has written cultural landscape reports, contributed to National Register of Historic Places nominations, and uncovered new information for such important historic sites in the District of Columbia, as the Civil War Defenses of Washington and Theodore Roosevelt Island. Pliska has also documented historically and biologically significant trees in the metropolitan area for the Witness Tree Protection Program.

About the white house historical association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $45 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission. 

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit WhiteHouseHistory.org

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