The 2016 Inaugural Presidential Wine Gala will take place in the East Room of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, which is a reproduction of the East Room of the White House. The East Room is the largest room ( 40′ wide, 80′ long, and 22′ high) in the White House because it was intended to be a public audience room. Our reproduction here is slightly larger and appears as it looks in the White House today.
Construction of the White House began in 1791, during President Washington’s first term, but President and Mrs. John Adams were the first occupants having moved in on November 1, 1800. Because the East Room was just a vast, naked shell of clay bricks, Abigail Adams had the family laundry hung in the room to dry since there was no discreet place to hang it outside.
During the war of 1812, Dolley Madison gained fame for saving the portrait of President Washington before the English burned the White House. The portrait is the only original item of the White House, and it did not hang in the East Room until President Andrew Johnson’s Administration. It was President Monroe who was the first President to refer to it as the “East Room”, and it was not completed as an assembly room until 1829 during the first year of Andrew Jackson’s presidency.
The East Room has been used for other purposes other than an assembly room. During the Civil War, soldiers slept there while awaiting assignment. President Garfield’s boys had pillow fights while riding three-wheeled cycles.
President Theodore Roosevelt hosted a wrestling match in the East Room, and his children used the room for roller-skating.
Every president who died in office, with the exception of President Garfield, was laid in state in the East Room. Many presidential funerals were conducted there, including the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln, who was the first president to be assassinated.
The oak parquet floor and the current crystal and brass chandeliers were installed during President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration.
Weddings of presidents’ daughters also have been held in the East Room. After Tricia Nixon’s wedding in the White House Rose Garden, dancing took place in the East Room.
At least one President was formally inaugurated in the East Room. In 1957, the official date of the inauguration was on a Sunday, so President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon took the oath that day in the East Room. The public inauguration then took place at a ceremony at the Capitol the following day.
President and Mrs. Nixon used the East Room for religious services on Sundays, the first service having been conducted by Dr. Billy Graham. The East Room has been a venue for performances by many entertainers, including Duke Ellington when President Nixon presented him with the Medal of Freedom award. The President and Mrs. Nixon hosted a series of programs called “Evenings at the White House.” The series began with comedian Red Skelton and ended with singer Frank Sinatra. It was one of many memorable events held in the East Room. In addition to being an elegant and magnificent sight, the East Room is filled with a very rich history.