tv The Presidency White House History Design CSPAN August 27, 2018 2:57pm-4:02pm EDT
a discussion on how presepgss of presidents change over time. and former white house executive pastry chef talks about working for five presidents. wednesday, former press secretaries join a panel with historians, talking about why some stories are told and not others. live coverage both days, tuesday and wednesday mornings beginning at 9:00 eastern. as a public service by america's cable television company. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> up next on the presidency, the design history of the white house and how it was influenced
by british and irish connections. panelists include architecture professors from the united kingdom and ireland as well as white house historians. this hour-long program is part of a day-long symposium hosted by the white house historical association. >> thank you all very much for sticking it out for all of this. i want you to know this is now your chance to ask the questions of the scholars and the experts and i want to say that i have no background whatsoever in history or scholarship. i'm just a reporter. but i really have had a privilege of a front-row seat to history. first walking up that white house northwest driveway a few months after i graduated from college as a news intern for cbs and retiring 40 years later from
abc news, late in the obama administration. and i would walk up that driveway, usually early in the morning before live shots on "good morning america," and while the seven presidents i covered were across -- everything from the cold war to the digital revolution, to be able to look at that house and look up at the doorways and the scottish roses and the architecture around each window, and to watch the sun bring in a pink light every morning or to be there after midnight at night with some kind of crisis, including walking out of the driveway on september 11, 2001, when i had been on air force one for about ten hours, allowed to stay with the president that day. the white house represents to me a bigger, broader american character. and i want to begin the questioning, if i could, not all of you have to answer everything.
but i think the irish brought the great idea that when the white house was built, it wasn't to represent any one of the 13 colonies or now states. they were all different. it had to speak to a national character. merlo, i want to start with you. when we look at the white house, what is it about that, that is so distinctly american, from an irish, a european point of view? >> i think the first thing is that there was a journalist whose name was willis in the 1840s. he was quite reputable, and the bearers of his coffin were in fact the harvard school. so, he was serious. now, he wrote a short description in "american scenes" on the white house that he described it as being ultimately a sufficient measure of state for a republic. in other words, that it had enough of state in it, but not
too much. too much was an assertion over people. i think what washington had in mind all the time is these states could easily fracture. that daniel webster later on was effectively to say it was a compact between states and a constitution, which is a definition of a nation, which applies to individuals. so, instead of passing back through the states, in fact, one had to want the constitution affected individuals directly. that -- >> that's a wonderful description. i'm going to skip to merlo real quickly because you know the roots in dublin. when you look at the white house, what do you see in it that's uniquely american? >> that's an interesting question, because in a way what i've been doing in the last has been focusing on the irish roots within it. and i suppose that the houses
that we see that it was kind of modeled on in many ways are houses such as leinster house, which would have had, i suppose, at the moment obviously it's the seat of the government, but it was this image of a kind of -- a grand -- a grand house but in terms of how it expresses in american identity, i think this kind of -- i mean, in a way, there's a relative modesty in terms of the scale of it, which was obviously smaller than was originally intended. and something about how that decision to create this house that was in many ways a kind of a beginning and, you know -- >> let me bring in one british voice and then we're going to get to all of your questions.
do you have a thought when you look up at the white house that the -- what it is with all of the elements that it has brought to it from ireland and the united kingdom, what you see in it that's kind of uniquely american? >> well, i see -- it's a republican building because very clearly, as i was suggesting in a very -- in about one sentence in my talk that the whig inability in england in the early 18th century had chosen very deliberately this style associated with palladio, which very clearly were anti-royalists. and very much associated with republican ideals. one thing he didn't state in his very influential book called "reminiscences" is what that
style was intended to be, but it's almost certain he had rome as his idea. the whole point about the turbulent times at the end of the 18th century -- i'm sorry, the end of the 17th century in england is there was this choice between sticking with the stewart dynasty or hanover dynasty, which was selected by parliament. so, i see that being repeated very clearly at the end of the 18th century when washington came to make his choice. >> i'm going to open this up to questions from the audience. we have microphones roving around so everyone can hear. can you raise your hand if you have a question? we'll try to be even-handed on either side. oh, come on, i know this crowd is much better. we have one question right here in the front. and -- could you wait until we get the mike season so we have the audio clearly recorded as
well. oh, yes, bill. >> i want everyone to remember in this discussion of anglo irish and all, that the house george washington originally approved was a french palace. it was not of british background. and that's what he was designing. he designed a quirky house like that in philadelphia. i don't think it was ever finished. it was made up in a great mock-up of latrobe, who mocked everyone. it was a palace as laid out. there was no lafayette square. it was a driveway or a roadway to this palace, with gates and huge house. 20 feet higher than the highest point on the white house. >> thank you. question, front row, please. >> lydia, do you get a lot of bequests left to the white house? and can you turn them down or do
you take everything and -- >> no, we do not take everything. we do not receive a lot of requests, but we also have a presidentially appointed advisory committee. and so when these offers of gifts, per se, come before us, we refer them to this group of specialists to help us determine where -- whether it's something appropriate for our collection. >> we have a question over here. thank you so much, sir. >> hello. i'm a high school history teacher and i'm always talking to our students regarding the city that they live around and interact. and i had a question, might be for dr. seale, but anyone opening, the white house, as you guys spoke, is a symbol of republican government. and over the years the white
house is balanced and as of late very differently of it being the seat of power and also being a house for the people. and i wonder, there's famous stories of andrew jackson of having anyone could come up and see the white house and interact and those kind of things. in the age of security and those kind of things, do you think the white house now since september 11th, maybe, has balanced the idea of it being accessible to everyone and was that its original intent? anyone can answer that question. did they intend for the people being able to access the white house? >> bill, maybe you could start on that. bill? >> well, it wasn't open to the public until jefferson, april of 1801, because he traveled in europe and he bribed the stewart to go in the house. you could go in the house and look at the paintings and
things. and he started that. it's more difficult today. but, frankly, one of the jobs of the white house historical association is to cross that barrier from the public to the house. and the association does everything possible to make people know all about the house because security, we all know, is a way of life now in this century. i would say that's the status of it now. there are private tours, but it's hard to get them. and they're very quick. but they do the best they can. you know, it's always been open. franklin pierce said, can i see your house? he said, why not, it's your house. so people just began wandering through. traditionally through the 19th century they showed the east room only, and then it became more and more -- as it became more interest of the roosevelts,
had done it all over diplomatic style, french furniture. and then in the kennedy administration, and really a little in the eisenhower before, everyone wanted to see eisenhower, and it was a program tour. but when you talk about, what, a million a year or 2 million a year going through that house. and president johnson had a great sensitivity to sound, and he would try to take a nap upstairs, and the steel in the house would vibrate and it would just give him headaches. so i think the best is being done that could be done. president eisenhower talked about moving into a high-rise. general clay and all those civil war heroes, i mean, world war ii heroes like him all lived in the waldorf or whatever. he liked that. but he quickly rescinded the suggestion. the public was infuriated about it. >> can i get you to jump in on this?
>> yes. it's interesting if you put the white house in the context of the period in which it was built, in the 1790s, in the era of these great country estates, these great country leaders and, in fact, in ireland they were emulating and trying to create similar estates as well as in great britain, these were not necessarily, even at that time, walled off, separate from the public. washington at mt. vernon was plagued by a constant stream of visitors all through his life. whether coming back from the revolutionary war and the confederation period or as president, there was an expectation that it is private but it's also public. it's a strange balancing act that has to be carried out where it is open, it is accessible, you are supposed to be able as a citizen to encounter the leading
citizens of your day as long as you are a respectable individual, you should be able to call upon a thomas jefferson, a george washington, a james madison, within limits. certainly they didn't anticipate what happened at andrew jackson's inauguration or things of that sort. also they couldn't anticipate the security issues as bill was alluding to, that evolved over time. but it was always a balancing act between the two. >> a question. we have a question right back here. wait until you get that microphone. thank you so much. >> thank you. >> i have a question i've been trying to have answered since november 1963. yes. obviously, by all accounts, the white house is a lovely building. however, the metal doors on the north side of the white house are quite unattractive and look
as though they belong at the entrance of a sears and roebuck store. why do they throw off the white house beauty so much? why are they there? >> gosh. bill? >> we are, they are descendants from earlier called storm entrances because in the bad weather, which is always a problem on that north side. and it was to keep the weather, at least from going in. now it has security functions. it's aluminum. it dates from the '50s, right, lydia? it's that modern '50s stuff. i totally agree with you. if they did such a good job on the handicap ramp, why can't they at least paint that white? but you have other people who agree with you. lydia's going to change it. [ laughter ] >> i can tell you that security
has made a huge difference in how the white house has welcomed visitors. and the presidents i've covered over the arc of that 40 years, each president said, and first ladies, too, say this is the people's house. they're trying to do more to open it, but right after september 11th tours were called off and now there is an elaborate procedure where they do get hundreds of people who are allowed to come in. and very often events such as the -- when president bush welcomed the pope to the south lawn, i believe they brought in 10,000 people who had to stand through the whole several-hour process. but at least they got people in there. did you want to jump in? >> yeah. it raises a very interesting point. that is, what is conservation? because what's happened is, there has been an evolutionary change. whether the weather got in in the early 19th century didn't much matter. it matters now because we live differently. as we live differently, our
buildings continue to be useful have to accommodate these things. in conservation principle, there's no reason modern technologies can't be used and in a case like that, it would be possible to incorporate, if you like, build in screens that would be not normally visible, technically, perfectly acceptable and that these could be brought down when required. so, i think it is a question, i think as bill says there, these possibly date back to the 1950s. it's time that a conservation policy was adopted in relation to bringing these, so to speak, up to date in terms of the evolution because conservation is about evolution of use and buildings, retaining their historical significance. it's not about preserving them, as such. and that in the 1950s, it was quite an acceptable solution, what we now regard as clumsy. we have moved on. i think it's time for conservation to move on with the building. it's a flow, a continuous flow. >> christopher moran, you've done restoration.
>> yes. >> do you have to balance public good or can you be true to history? >> well, my house was -- it was owned by the government. i bought it from the government. and it was open to the public every day. when i bought the house from the government, i made it a condition that we would allow public access but it would be on our terms. in other words, people couldn't just turn up every day. and the demand is such that one has to be very careful because we allow groups particularly interested in that period of architecture, we find the demand so much from them, that allowing every other group to come, every day we would be inundated. it's very hard.
the curators you have really want to be there to answer questions who have an interest in the art and architecture of the period and they get a lot out of it. could i say one other thing about the white house? >> sure. >> to me being involved in irish-american relations is it soon became clear to me when i became involved that the white house we were -- we had this tremendous access. every year we were given a speakers lunch, not only the speaker, the president and vice president, and speaker, then you go to the white house. you were obviously -- it was evident to us that america had this -- had a very big role, evident to me, had a very big role in irish-american and great british relations. and the white house was very terribly iconic, you know.
and it is. and there are many people in other areas of government who are very jealous of the fact that we have this access on irish matters. what's it like? it's wonderful you have this building with that history and the history lives. you suddenly put it into a great modern tower for security or convenience reasons, it would be pretty awful. >> we have a question right here. >> thank you so much. thank you, all, so much. and i am curious because i've been so impressed when i've gone to england at their ability to preserve documents, preserve paintings, buildings. and i think that we're doing a great job of that here. i just wondered, since so many of you are historians and curators and preservationists, how you think we will all do moving forward? and if this is an exciting time for you or a challenging time? >> any of you could -- yes, please, comment.
>> i think the white house sends a huge political message out. it's the message of optimism, hope, vision. and you just look at the buildout of the great cities of the united states that followed on afterwards. in terms of conservation and looking after things, we in britain haven't always had that optimism that you have had in america. we can serve our history really beautifully but we are not sometimes brave enough. one of the things which i really admired is going out to the home of president roosevelt, out to hyde park, is the amazing whole center around that, which explains the deprivations of the 1920s, why america was so isolationists. some of those things have really inspired what i call the highest quality of visitor
experience. i think sometimes in britain we need to look for a bit more inspiration from our american cousins with what you've achieved in your many great visitor places. >> merlo? >> i suppose it's a fascinating question as well because i think this idea of conservation and, i suppose, one of the best definitions i got about conservation was management of change and that kind of acknowledgment that things must -- buildings must evolve and change. and i think in ireland, similarly, we have a mixed record, but i think there is this emerging attitude, i suppose, in a way i was looking at the -- it's now part of dublin city council offices. i don't know if you saw in the image i saw, we have people with workstations working. it's a typical office in this beautiful oval room.
so, there is this balance between -- and i think someone mentioned the beautiful, i think, dr. seale mentioned the beautiful staircase there, which they bolstered with reinforced concrete because they're afraid it would be damaged, which is actually undermined, i will say, the quality of the staircase. and i think we're looking at undoing that. also the thing of the digital age that you mentioned and this thing of lasting, you know, and one thing that i found is the amazing availability of historical material now that's online and historical and archival footage. even in the last five years, students i'm teaching, the maps and things they can find and the knowledge that's there. so that's a hugely beneficial side to this kind of change and digitization. >> kathleen, did you want to add in on this? >> well, i'm a consumer rather than a producer. documents speak to me.
and it's -- the great thing about -- i work on the national archives here. it opens at 8:00 in the morning. you can go and just spend 10 or 12 hours there, doing that sort of thing. so, the accessibility. not the library of congress. the archives. the accessibility is very good. that's very important to people who have to travel over and only have a certain amount of time. the advantage of great britain, of course, is we have them going back to pipe rolls, to mule things, to having magna carta and so forth. great britain is not a hugely rich country and it's got over 1,000 years to conserve and produce for people's use or edification, so the difficulty there is not the will but sometimes the resources. so, it's interesting to go back and forth. that is to say, family history is accessible on both sides.
looking at the great documents, the bill of rights and so forth, is accessible on both sides. but it's a wide range that you have to take on board when you go to great britain, i think. whereas, the focus here is on a smaller range, but it can be very deep. and i like the difference. >> rufus? >> a practical point on collection care because we've spoken a bit about buildings and the use of buildings, which is something that lydia and i were talking about over lunch and visiting. the white house is a functioning building is something i've come across with palaces in the uk and windsor castle and buckingham palace. this is -- this is probably about 50 years in development. the science behind collection care, which has been very much promoted by organizations like english heritage and the national trust, which tend to look after buildings which are not occupied. and something which i think is growing greatly in -- the
check uns i look after is the collection care of working objects. it's a completely different science. it's not something greatly developed. it is different than the care of houses not lived in. you want people to be able to use the furniture. you want the fires to be burning in the fireplaces. you know, you want the heating to be at the right level, the relative humidity, all these sorts of things we now want in functioning houses. you probably want your house in that particular way. it's that particular science, which is in its infancy, and gaining a lot more science behind it, but it's very much experimental. and it's emerging. >> well, that's the point, of course. it's a working house. and the white house is a working house. where many things are done.
so, you have to regulate public access and tours and the way people access it and who accesses it. unfortunately, you'd like everybody to be able to. one gets criticism because, you know, you can't afford it to everybody, but you try to educate the best you can and the people who are receptive to that education, you try to encourage those institutions that will benefit from it. that's what we do in a more regulated way. i'm sure her majesty does the same, too. >> lydia? >> i just want to say, it helps to educate the staffs that work with you, too. we try to hold handling sessions to be sure everybody when they pick up a chair, knows they have to pick it up by the seat, not grab it by the back. every little thing like that helps.
but in a house that's only partly a museum but a home, it can be very frustrating at times. >> yes. we have a question. john peters, ireland, and then two more over here. john? >> i have to preface my question with the fact -- >> john, hold it up tight. work it like a rock star. >> i have to preface my question that it always comes up at these symposiums, criticism of the truman redecoration of the white house, renovation. first of all, he probably wouldn't have been allowed to have torn out and filled it in with concrete and steel. that the interior would have been better maintained. moreover, mrs. kennedy's redecoration i applaud tremendously. i do take issue with her comment that it looked like a rundown country grand hotel. given the fact that at that time, williamsburg had opened in late '30s, early '40s, americans were using reproduction
furniture in quantities appear antiques were actually tossed aside or donated to museums. i always thought the truman administration gets a bad rap for using reproductions. also you go back to the 1902 renovation of the white house and theodore roosevelt, the same thing existed. the blue room furniture was a conjured-up version of what they thought might have been there. that existed in many of the years. i'd like your comment on -- actually, i'd like to never hear again about how badly the trumans -- i think they did a good job with it. >> let's pass the microphone down here. there were two other hands. gale berry west? >> yes. my question is a little different. but we're looking at historical perspectives and the beauty of the white house and the stone mason's cutting. bill, i want -- bill or anyone, but i think bill is the most likely to answer my question. we know slaves were very much
involved in building the white house. were they at all assisting the stone masons, for example, in carrying these very heavy stones? >> i'm glad you asked because, as a matter of fact, the slave labor -- see, a slave could take the job in conjunction with a master and could get pay and buy his freedom. what the scots didn't like that they were used to were the apprentice boys. there was a system in scotland and ireland about apprentices. and these were brats. and they wouldn't stay on the job. they slept late. there are ads all over the newspapers, so and so offered for bobby o'hara, apprentice boy ran away, one-half cent reward. yes, the slaves -- free slaves -- 100 were hired at the
quarry to clean the big mound, i talked about, of stone. they were always at the quarry the whole time. now, some of those people could have gone out and -- been freed and gone out in the world as stone masons. i don't know. only one in kentucky who was a stone mason and i think he came from here. but they were very much in evidence in all the construction. there were, in fact, agents in washington that one could go through and say he needed -- he called them hands. they never used the word slave. they said, i need 20 hands, 20 good hands, and so the owner of the slave was dealt with and he came and worked. that's how the system went in those days. >> wonderful. >> i'll just ask a second question.
>> that's what we do at the white house, the white house press conferences. we ask one question, we ask two questions. enough already. >> this is between hoban and latrobe. was there an age difference between them? and we -- i go to st. john's church and latrobe is just revered there. we are in decatur house, which was designed by latrobe as well. he evidently was difficult to deal with. can i ask, was there an age difference? was one more mature? george washington liked hoban, didn't like latrobe. there was a portrait of latrobe with the washingtons -- i mean at mt. vernon with the washingtons. i just wonder how latrobe was not so well thought after. >> who can take that? >> it's an interesting question on the basis that latrobe, i think, his real problem was two-fold.
he had a very acerbic temperament. he lost his temper very easily. he was self-opinionated. he was good. he was actually very competent, but as a personality he was a person who tended to laud it over others. he was coming to the stage when he was falling between the air stock racy, if you like, and the peasantry. he was in between the two. that was a proper rising status in england and france at the time. what was happening is the profession of architecture was shifting from the idea of a co-partnership, as existed between hoban and washington, that is the old order where you had the gentleman master who knew what he wanted, or thought he did, and when he saw it, he did know what he wanted. you had the person who could give it to him without telling him what he wanted. on the other hand, you had latrobe coming in who was coming in fully educated. he now wanted a patron.
he simply wanted somebody to put him in a position, a bit like a portrait painter or something. he would paint the portrait. he would interpret it. the subject matter would be washington. and that the portrait would be latrobe. it was quite different in the case of hoban. in fact, hoban was working to washington and it was a genuine partnership. we're at a position of transition. now, at that time hoban actually temp mentally was affable, easy going, a person who wanted to please. everybody says that of him. also he was a person who was trained to be, if you like, an apprentice, totally competent in his right. had no great interest in pushing the boundaries of architecture forward the way latrobe did. but latrobe was on the wave moving forward whereas to hoban this was a business. it was something he did. therefore, he fitted in very comfortably with it. if you look at all the correspondence between everybody, you will find latrobe eventually offends everybody.
in fact, he comes -- he just can't hold it. he can't keep it. he's given the opportunity. he's shown the way to the top of mt. olympus time and time again, but he can't climb it. he just doesn't have the ability to get up there. you can say that's stupid. i don't think it is stupid. he was at a transition. that's how he found himself. a generation later, latrobe would have been recognized as an architect in the sense that now instead of having a partnership to produce and design buildings, you had one person producing them. i think that's the fundamental that lies between them. age difference, yes, he was slightly younger, but not much. he was roughly a contemporary. >> we have another question here and then another one. if we can get a microphone over here. yes. yes, sir. thank you. >> this is a question for mr. king, rufus, is that right? king? >> bird. >> bird, i'm sorry. >> a royal. >> would you like rufus to take
this one? >> there is a rufus king in american history. i'm sorry. when we have a change of administration here, the first lady often assumes some sort of curatorial role in the white house art collection, where things are displayed, maybe bringing in some new art. to what extent is the queen a curator or involved in the curation of her collection and how does she interact with the collection itself? >> she's very much involved in the displays and very much aware of what is around and any changes that are made, certainly. but on the whole, you know, her majesty has lived and enjoyed living in her home and knows particularly the rooms and is, you know, familiarity. it's a private collection, so,
you know, you would expect a degree of involvement. it's very hard to say exactly what that involvement is, because her reign is so long and things change and acquisitions were made at the early part of the reign and fewer acquisitions have been made towards the end of the reign. so, i think, you know, in many ways it's just as you would expect in a private collection. a private collector of a country house, perhaps. >> how accurate is "the crown"? when you look back and see the series "the crown," that all look pretty realistic to you? >> i don't -- again, i wasn't there, so i can't -- i don't know how accurate it is. i mean, i don't know the answer. i'm sorry. >> randolph.
>> the public have had these incredible expectations, leonardo da vinci. i don't know if any of you got the royal academy, the charles ii exhibition which contained many of the greatest paintings of our lands, which someone like myself had never seen. so, i would say the royal family has made the collection available to people on a wider basis. >> that's great. >> so, we have -- i have several more questions. one here. i'm going to two here. yes, please. >> i have a question for brian o'connell. by the way, i could have listened to you forever. i was fascinated by your story of james hoban. you described him as an irish catholic peasant, a carpenter and then he went on to this wonderful architectural school and was able to come to the united states. what were the circumstances in
ireland that enabled him to move to that architectural school? did he have a mentor? was it a system that was in place that would have enabled that to happen? >> yeah, at the beginning of the 18th century, it was a time of philanthropy when, in fact, organizations and a time of the growth of knowledge, organizations or societies, which became royal societies, are be being set up for the investigation of science in the interest of mankind. agriculture, a whole series of things were being improved. it was a concept, the idea of improvement, that everything could be improved. what you had then was an aristocracy that would contribute. the way they would contribute is to create a society, the dublin society was created and merlo has outlined the history of that and by the middle of the 18th century they decided then they would create a school for drawing. that school would include drawing in architecture. they had a provision whereby they would admit as many boys as
the society would decide and that where appropriate they would not have to pay fees. this would be on the basis of ability and talent. they had a very strict rule, again, i think merlo identified it earlier, they would not accept people who wanted to come for academic purposes. it was only for the improvement of people who were already in the system. so, the idea was to increase and improve ask build on talent and that they would admit by application and they would consider applications that came in and they would decide whether this person was worthy in terms of his talent and ability to, in fact, be given a place in the school. you could also come and pay. hoban, as far as we know, was paid for in the school, because he doesn't appear on any of the admission lists that would have let him in as a free boy into it. once they had that, they spent usually about three years. they learned drawing. they also -- again, merlo
outlined that the masters could take them as -- not apprentices but as support labor and they had to work three days a week and they had to prepare drawings. it was quite a strict regime. this was, therefore, really a benevolent society. i guess in both ireland and england were full of those. they come from the fact there was so much descent at that time, so many religious societies that looked after themselves that they created charitable institutions. you had this whole development, that didn't occur anywhere else, charitable institutions for health and education and so forth that were seen as being for the public benefit. it rose largely from that. hoban came in through that system. my guess is that he had already got his sights on america as the new world and the new life, this is where you could start again, as he proved you could. he could achieve the american dream. he did. and that he was, as i say, a catholic peasant kind of carpenter who then took the first step up. he came to the states.
he had then -- these didn't go against him. he did join the free masons which was, if you like, a general club, which a very interesting aspect of the whole thing is the way in which free masonry worked as a series of contacts and removing social barriers. and it all worked for him, but that was broadly speaking. >> merlo, do you want to add? >> yeah. i suppose what i think very interesting is it was modeled on this french school by dechambeau where it was free. you asked about a mentor. he did grow up and his parents were tenant farmers on the desart estate. they were the co-family. they were an influential family
in 18th century ireland. they also had property in dublin. it's possible there were connections there and possibly he trained as an apprentice in the estate workshops. as a carpenter and wheel-right. he would have built up an association with the family, a very close association. it's very possible there was support for him in moving to dublin. it was quite an aspirational jump to make that move from that kind of maybe humble origin and moving to the city. >> some of the hobans were house servants. they lived in the gate lodge. >> yeah. >> and then when the last of them died -- they went into the courts, judges and all that in london. the last of them died, there were two hobans in their household staff. >> he stayed, yeah. >> that would have provided some
privilege, i'm sure. >> yeah, without a doubt. >> go ahead. we have a couple more questions that we'll try to get in. yes, thank you very much. >> thank you. so, my question -- i don't know if this is the right forum for it, but my question is, we spent most of the day speaking about historical periods and it occurs to me that architecture of the white house at its time would have seemed sort of bracingly modern relative to the other urban houses of the day, as decatur house was a bracingly modern though neoclassically inspired house. the postwar period in the u.s. it's such an important period of decorative arts and now has approached history, right, the national trust is starting to acquire modern houses. indeed, they're in the watergate complex now, as i understand. is there an interest in the white house collections of incorporating important historic
modern artifacts? >> well, there was some paintings, contemporary paintings acquired for the last administration. one by joseph alpers and allen thomas. we, again, have an advisory committee which helps us determine what we can collect for the collection. we also as part of our collection policy are not able to acquire works by living artists. i think they have to be deceased and the work at least 20 years old. so, what limited. >> both the eames and frank lloyd wright have been dead a good long time. >> we have a question. this gentleman in the second row. >> that was my question. >> can't improve upon it? >> evolution, when you look back
50 years from now and say, well -- and because it's not just -- it's acquired by this committee, but the presidents and the first ladies, you know, we want to encourage them to collect now for 50 years from now. >> we have one right here in the center. >> thank you very much. it's been a fascinating day. it wasn't always a given that the federal government would be located here, where it is. in fact, the play "hamilton" certainly highlighted the fact that most famous dinner in american history, that jefferson and hamilton traded off the location of the capitol for hamilton's banking and financial reforms. how would the white house have been different had it been located in philadelphia or new york? any speculation, considering, you know, it was a different cultural environment, the northern colonies? >> do any of you want to take this?
yes, bill. >> but i don't have to. there are other people. two houses, you know this, two houses were built in new york and one in philadelphia for the president. and george washington loving this site would never enter either one of them. even mrs. powell, whom he adored, took him there and tried to get him to go in the front door and he wouldn't. they were palatial houses. more is known about the one in new york, but philadelphia also, it had rotundas, three floors of angels and cherubs and all this. they were hell-bent on keeping him there. the last minute they thought it would work. he had the bit in his mouth and that was that. so, they didn't do it. but those houses, i guess, is what it would have looked like. one became the medical college in philadelphia. the other one, you know, new york style was just torn down. but they have good records of those houses. >> i'm told we have to wind up. i do want to ask each one of you
one of those -- kind of last questions. looking forward, and i want to start with you, lydia, looking forward 100 years from now, will the white house -- what will it be like? it will still have its big collections. it will still house a president and her husband or whoever. [ applause ] but what can you imagine, how close to today's model would be a white house in the future? and each of you to kind of cast forward and give a prediction. even on any of the treasured homes and the artwork that defines them all. lydia? >> i suspect that the white house will probably look the way it does today. there are renovations and modernizations, but don't you think that abraham lincoln would
show up and still recognize the white house 100 years from now? >> it would be slicker than he knew it, but it would be -- you know, washington saw it completed except for the porches. they were later. but i -- the secret service in my 40 years with it, the secret service, the park service, all those people exert themselves and keeping it look the same and looking prim and well kept. it's the home of the presidents. it's like the capitol dome, they're not going to take that off. i'd be very surprised, unless some tragedy happened, then i think it would be built back. >> i'm going to come down the rest of the row. christopher, when you think of all the great houses you've been in, do you think 100 years from now we will still have this kind of treasure? >> i like to think so because the white house is the home of the president. it is -- some say, well, all the great statesmen of the world and
the monarchs go to america. it's the iconic center, though it's not the actual center of the administration of government. it's the center of the -- of the american government, being the president's home. i would have liked to have thought that that was -- that still -- that would still be there. and also bodies like the -- well, they need the white house historical association, the association with that to help you, lydia, with all the things you do, i suppose they must say to you, well, is this artifact, is that artifact, through their research and things like that that are available, that might be able to purchase or access, put there. and so they can evolve over 100 years. and be the iconic building for the american nation that it is that i could say other buildings i'm familiar with in the uk will do likewise. >> yes, kathleen.
>> well, my duty today was to provide the backdrop to everyone else's discussions about objects, paintings, the building of the white house and so forth. so, that is not my main line. so, what i look like is the anglo-american relationship. it not a given, of course. it wasn't determined by god so it would -- it needs working at, i think. relationship between leaders doesn't matter as much as people sometimes think it does. it doesn't matter if trump loves may or, you know, if leaders get together. what's important in the relationship as much as anything is the next layer down. bureaucracies matter because people get in the habit of working with other people. and leaders come and go.
but on the whole, those bureaucracies, if you look at the military, the british work together. they know their kids. they know there's a common history. and so sometimes one wonders when you look at the sparity of power, american empire will go in due course, british empire did. empires don't stay. but for quite a time yet the united states is going to be supremely powerful. but they need someone to talk to. and so the english language is important. a certain shared ideas are important. the fact that the supreme court decisions still sometimes quote magna carta, for example. these things are important. the political cultures of both sides are incredibly different. i think people make a mistake in thinking the two countries are very much alike.
but there are certain shared values, shared language, shared history, not necessarily shared jokes, but a certain written likes irony, america likes slapstick. there's a different approach to these things. nevertheless, there is enough to white house fall down when buckingham palace falls down. >> thank you. yes, i'm reminded of the longevity of windsor castle and -- 1,000 years of that particular building, which has changed so much over 1,000 years. so, at i believe firmly, like lydia and others that the white house will continue to be, broadly speaking as we sit today in 100 years' time, but i think we also, as you were saying earlier, christopher, about what her majesty said in ireland that we shouldn't be bound by our history. and i think very much today we have organizations such as
national trust but here in the uk and english heritage which are very, very much taken towards preserving collections buildings and having that very, very kind of historic minded approach. but we have to make that right with windsor castle just to see -- or buckingham palace, for that matter, which was a smaller house when it started out. evolution is important to stay alive. >> ed? >> yes, and touching kind of on the same theme, i don't know what the white house will be like 100 years from now. last week i gave a talk at a pub about presidential pets. someone asked me is there someone designated to chase after these dogs and cats and
make sure they don't jump up on the furniture? i thought, that's a good question, thinking about the state rooms and how nicely preserved they are, as they should be, very properly preserved, all the antique furniture. and i thought, oh, my gosh, if fido chews on the leg of the sofa, you're in big trouble. there is a wonderful passage in bill seal's book called "the president's house." you talk about what the white house used to be in the 19th century, kind of a ramshackle, lived-in home, and you knew pets lived there, that they jumped up on the sofa, that there was hair everywhere, that there were things that changed, and now it's become something different. now in some ways in the process of preservation, some things are walled off from us. i would like to see a balance of
the wonderful work that lydia and her team do as has been going on for so long, the preservation, with a little bit more of the lived-in feeling, a little bit more of the domestic feeling in the house. >> okay. looking forward? >> yeah, looking forward, and i suppose just taking up on ed's scheme of change, i imagine again that the ability to facilitate change and evolution of a building that a few people have mentioned is absolutely critical to its survival. and i think in terms of conservation and conservation practice, things are getting more and more sophisticated, and i think that's going to help -- i would imagine that the building a hundred years from now could be robust and survive as it is now. but i do think it is this
critical thing of allowing it to change and evolve. and the other thing i'd like to say is having been on a wonderful tour yesterday, i think jefferson's idea of allowing the public in, i think that's absolutely wonderful. and i think, you know, i was standing outside with a large group waiting and the excitement of getting to see inside the house, and that's something -- that's all tied in with communication and research, and i suppose an awareness of the wonderful building methods and i hope that education continues. >> brian? >> i think all modern conservation policy, and it's international, is the first to determine the significance of something and then you protect the significance while you allow the objects to evolve. proportionately, you do not allow the significance to alter.
the significance of the white house, the quality that's been adopted since the time of washington is that the exterior of the white house will not be changed. nobody permitted that. truman did alter the inside considerably and where he fell down, winslow, in fact, wanted to reuse and replace all the materials that were taken out. this wouldn't allow truman to actually depart from office, from the white house, so given harry's approach to it was, forget all that stuff, just buy it in. most of it was dumped. it went to various military dumps around the place, and all kinds of new materials were brought in in the 1940s. of course, what's happened since then is it's acquired a new association with all the presidents and all that has happened since the truman time. with regards to going back to washington, what hasn't changed -- sorry, i shouldn't say washington, i should say the beginning of andrew jackson's
presidency when the portico in the gallery, the portico on the north side, the gallery to the south. since it's been completed, nothing has really changed much since then. when you talk about what is the significance, the answer has been by several people who used the word icon. icon is a greek word for an image. an image is what you see yourself. when america looks at the white house, it sees america, and when america looks at it, they see themselves. once you changed that, i think the answer is technically there is no reason why it should change in 100 years, or in fact 200 years. it's well capable of being maintained. the nature of the storm, the protection, all of that is totally protectable. with regards to the inside of the building, it wasn't picked up earlier about the inside of the building and the changes
that have occurred. >> i'm going to cut you off at that point before i get cut off, brian. and how appropriate the last word goes to a churchill. >> well, the whole point of the white house is a place to meet people. for people in 100 years, technology will take all of us away, but the years have created so much history. what you will enjoy 100 years hence, and i feel really proud as the father of three daughters, is the portrait of the first lady of the united states. >> i'll ask the panel to stay seated. thank you very much. >> first of all, an enormous, enormous thanks to ann for superb and masterful moderating. it made for a real family conversation over here. on behalf of the white house
historical association, we've been working on this for well over a year. you always wonder who you're going to get and how is it going to sort out. this is erudition, it's family connections, it's deep and abiding kinship to scotland and ireland. this is a really remarkable group. we couldn't expect anything this good. thanks to all of you and from all of us. [ applause ] >> and before we adjourn, there is a reception, as you've seen in your program, and there is irish music awaiting you and spirits and other nice things, and we'll introduce you to the musicians. we would be remiss in not introducing you to the piper because he's really been putting in yeoman's work, but that's later. while you're still here, stuart mentioned the 10% discount in our shop, so don't forget that.
i do want to add that i think stuart and i are sharing this. we have rhodes scholarship cufflinks and they're really quite lovely. and you'll be doing book signings, won't you, until 5:00 as well? buy a book and buy a cufflink. in any case, thank you all for being here, for joining us, for sticking out the day. it's been a good day together. please come join us at the reception. [ applause ] ♪
this is american history tv normally only seen on weekends here on cspan-3. but we're showing it weekdays this month while the u.s. house is on break. this week we're hosting the presidency. coming up, the relationship between george washington and alexander hamilton and how close hamilton the musical is to the historic truth. then the relationship between bess and harry truman during their 54-year marriage. that will be followed by gerald ford's political career, and next a look at the white house building and its design. the white house historical association is bringing together people from presidential sites across the country this week, and on tuesday we'll have live coverage of a discussion on how perception of presidents change over time. and messian talks about working for five presidents.
wednesday, former press secretaries join a panel with current historians talking about why some stories are told and not others. live coverage both days tuesday and wednesday mornings beginning at 9:00 eastern. up next, on the presidency. historian peter henriques talks about the relationship between washington and han washington and hamilton and where their relationship went awry and hamilton the musical. gadsby's tavern museum in virginia hosted this event. >> my name is liz williams and i'm the director here. welcome for braving the elements outside and thank you for joining us tonight. i'd like to also welcome our cspan guests as well. you are sitting in the room where it happens, or where it happened, for so many