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Oct 18, 2018 Washington, D.C. —
The White House Historical Association released the latest episode of its The 1600 Sessions podcast today: “Back in the Blue Room: Restoring the Bellangé Suite.”
White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin speaks with Lydia Tederick, Curator of the White House, and Melissa Naulin, Assistant Curator of the White House about the restoration of the Bellangé suite, a collection of furniture from Paris, made for the White House in 1817 by Pierre-Antoine Bellangé for use in the Oval Drawing Room, now known as the Blue Room, following the historic White House fire of 1814. The Office of the First Lady made the announcement of the restoration last month.
The White House Historical Association has invested more than $450,000 in the restoration of the Bellangé suite since 2013.
White House Curator Lydia Tederick reiterates that the Monroe Era influence is most strongly felt in the Blue Room, “There are other objects and displays in that room that hark back to the Monroe days in the White House including some porcelain vases. There's another gilded bronze clock. This one has the figure of the Carthaginian general Hannibal on it. In the center of the room we have a beautiful circular mahogany table with a marble top that dates back to the Monroe years. And we also display in the Blue Room two busts by Giuseppe Ceracchi of Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci,” said Tederick.
What is surprising to most however is that the pieces in the Blue Room have not always been blue. White House Assistant Curator Melissa Naulin elaborates: “The one major difference from the original suite as it was first brought over from France is that the original upholstery was crimson… The room, it was red from about 1817 to 1837, when under President Martin Van Buren, the upholstered textiles were changed to blue. And because we've had a history of 180 years of blue fabrics in the room we decided we certainly weren't going to upend that and suddenly have a second red room in the house,” Melissa Naulin said.
Today, the White House owns 10 of the original 53 Bellangé pieces. To preserve their timeless history and iconic beauty, the curators put extensive effort into maintaining the condition of the items.
“We are using all of the traditional materials in terms of how the gilding is done, it's done in the traditional way, in the same way it would have been done in 1817. We are using linen and horsehair and you know, the silks and the fabrics that would have been available and everything is hand-stitched on the upholstery which is just stunning to me,” Naulin said.
The 1600 Sessions
In this podcast series, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews luminaries, historians, and eyewitnesses to history about America’s most famous residence and office—the White House. Each episode includes a prominent guest or guests to discuss varying facets of White House history, including insights from former staff and many other topical issues.
The 1600 Sessions is available on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher. To hear the full episode, visit The1600Sessions.org.
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 $50 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission.
To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit WhiteHouseHistory.org.