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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blair House is lovelier than the White House


It is much lovelier than the White House.


It is bigger than the White House.
 One butler said it is prettier than the White House at Christmas.

And you thought it was "just" that three story standing behind the "Blair House" plaque at 1651 Pennsylvania Avenue. Au contraire, messieurs et madames: It stretches from the Lafayette Square corner all the way to the Renwick Gallery, encompassing all the buildings in-between, including the Lee House.   It is lots more than the cream-colored building with the flag.  It is all the buildings around it.

One butler said it had 14 bedrooms (17 beds). Another butler said it had 15 bedrooms (17 beds). One butler said, "bathrooms? Oh, my...50?"

They vacuum and dust every day.

Even when visitors are not present?

Even when visitors are not present.

The downstairs walls (we were not invited upstairs where I was hoping to glimpse a shirtless Vladimir Putin ) are painted Williamsburg light yellow and peach. Centuries old wallpaper from China stretches from floor to ceiling in one of many parlours.

In another room General Robert E. Lee faces a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln.

Blair House is much more than just this (photo) with the flag.

Paintings of George Washington hang on several walls. In one of four (!) dining rooms (the Lee House dining room was off-limits due to water damage; now under repair) is a memorials mural which covers all the walls from the chair rail up and includes, but is not limited to, depictions of Mount Vernon, the U.S. Supreme Court building, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the Washington Monument, and there in a corner, St. John's Episcopal Church, the president's church, on Lafayette Square. (Painted by Robert Jackson in 1988.)

The resplendent and abundant chandeliers!

Andrew Jackson here; Andrew Jackson there, Andrew Jackson was everywhere...on the wall in several places. In a dining room, sculpted in miniature on a bronze horse (a la the Lafayette Square statue). A visitor from the National Portrait Gallery explained that President Jackson had many connections to the Blairs and thus is omnipresent in the house. (She also highly recommended the CSPAN story of Blair House.)

Yes! (Photo) Blair House(s) is all this, down to Renwick Gallery at the far left.

But, alas, ...fake trees! They are in a large, expanded reception area at the back of Blair House which was originally part of the garden. Real trunks, and that is all, the butler told me. Their small pots gave them away. (Size matters.)

The butler said the State Department has jurisdiction over Blair House which is exclusively reserved for heads of state on "official," "state," or "working" visits. Who pays for their food? State works it out with the governments, the butler said.   (The website calls it "the President's guest house.")

The staff we met came from several nations; Spain and Brazil were two. And they have long tenures at Blair House. Of course. 

Some of its famous guests have included President Charles de Gaulle, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Boris Yeltsin, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Vladimir Putin, Pervez Musharraf, and Muhammed VI.  (Check out the guestbook for more names and nations.)

Does anything mar Blair House?

Oh, yes.

Eyesorish telephones. Really. They sit on various tables in stark contrast to the period furnishings and elegance, rather like slugs atop wrought-iron white furniture beside a swimming pool. That's how much they stand out, and quite ugly things they are.

And, pul-leazz, would someone  cover up the ugly back of that unsightly red thing at the corner of H and 17th which forms the back wall to the Blair House garden interrupting its serenity? (It's like putting a decrepit red devil on stage with Margot Fonteyn, when she was living.) You know the building that looks like it went up in the 1960s and hurts your eyes to look at it, it is so awful? (Like the slugs above.) As a matter of fact, if the entire building could be removed or permanently covered up on all sides, that would be a bonus. Where is Christo when you need him? (At the National Gallery of Art! Or he was.) 

Is Blair House on FB?

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