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Feb 03, 1996 Washington, D.C.

The lovely White House gardens of today and those that preceded them are the theme of a new book The White House Garden, published by the White House Historical Association with text by historian William Seale and color photography by Erik Kvalsvik.

The White House Garden captures two hundred years in the life of a living garden; extolling its earliest days as a working farm, to a battlefield for the nation’s growing pains, to a public promenade with tropical greenhouses to the symbolic media backdrop of today.

Presidents have loved these gardens. Each has played his part, from early—day gardeners like John Quincy Adams, who actually tilled the garden’s soil, and Andrew Jackson whose magnolias are still covered with white blossoms each June to Theodore Roosevelt who reluctantly allowed his architects to demolish his cherished conservatory to John F. Kennedy, who made the private Rose Garden near the Oval Office into an outdoor meeting place that accommodates a thousand spectators.

“No garden has ever been so lovingly tended,” writes author Seale “nor any garden known so many famous people.”

Today ancient oaks and giant elms shade ground known to George Washington and his forty-two successors. These lawns and gardens have seen administrations come and go, witnessed receptions for kings and queens and the signing of laws and treaties affecting the world. They have heard young couples exchange wedding vows and the joyous laughter of children rolling Easter eggs on White House grass. If trees could talk we would have one more chapter in American history books.

The author, William Seale, is a historian, writer, and restorer of historic buildings. He has served as White House historian for the White House Historical Association and for the National Park Service and as curator of American Culture at the Smithsonian Institution. His recent books include Domes of America (with Eric Oxendorf), and The White House: The History of an Idea.

The photographer, Erik Kvalsvik, is a well known architectural photographer whose work has appeared in House and Garden, Colonial Homes, Time, and many other magazines. With William Seale he has written Domestic Views about historic houses across the nation. For a decade he has trained his lens on the White House, its interiors, fine art and gardens.

The White House Historical Association was established in 1961 as a not—for—profit private organization whose educational and historical purposes are to enhance public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the White House. In addition to The White House Garden, the Association has published seven books about the White House and its occupants: The Presidents of the United States of America; The First Ladies; The White House: An Historic Guide; The Living White House; The President’s House: A History; Art in the White House: A Nation’s Pride, and White House Glassware: Two Centuries of Presidential Entertaining. Income from the sale of the Association’s publications and other items are used to fund acquisitions of historic furnishings and works of art which become a part of the permanent White House Collection.

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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 nonprofit, nonpartisan 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

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