The Oval Office is probably the first thing you think of when you imagine the White House. It is where the President works out of. And since the White House belongs to the people, we should all know a little bit about the most important office in the United States. From the desk to the rug, these are 25 Facts About The Oval Office You Probably Didn’t Know!
Although the Oval Office is the President’s work room, for the first hundred years of White House history, there was no designated office area.
During the 1800's, most Presidents worked and lived in the same rooms. The center of this working/living area was the Lincoln Bedroom (the Oval Office’s first predecessor).
In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt got tired of the White House being so cramped and ordered the West Wing to be built. There still wasn’t an Oval Office though. His command center is now called the Roosevelt Room, and unlike the Oval Office, it was square.
It was President Taft who ordered the first version of the Oval Office to be constructed in 1909. He ordered it to be built from what used to be the secretary’s office. Since part of the room was already round, it was turned into an oval.
Oval rooms were really popular in the early days of American democracy. Even George Washington had oval shaped rooms in his home in Philadelphia. It allegedly allowed guests to mingle easily.
Some have said that Taft’s desire for an Oval Office right in the middle of the West Wing showed his desire to be more involved with the day-to-day operation of the presidency. (His predecessors apparently weren’t as involved as him.)
President Franklin Roosevelt did not like the location of Taft’s Oval Office because it was in the center of the West Wing and didn’t have any windows. Therefore, he moved the office to the edge of the West Wing where laundry used to be hung.
The Oval Office today is 35 feet long and 29 feet wide. This provides room for both working and meeting.
Each incoming President decorates the Oval Office to suit their own personal tastes.
One of the permanent fixtures is the Presidential Seal on the ceiling.
Across from the President’s desk is the fireplace with two Martha Washington chairs. This is where the President meets with foreign leaders.
In some TV shows, it seems like the Oval Office is disconnected from the rest of the White House. In reality, there are 4 doors leading to the rest of the West Wing.
Two doors on the north side of the Oval Office are designed to blend into the wall.
Jimmy Carter is one of the few Presidents who didn’t redecorate the Oval Office. This was due to his alleged frugality.
John F Kennedy had the Oval Office covered with pictures of the ocean and the Navy.
Bill Clinton had two busts of his favorite Presidents (Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln) set behind his desk. His colors were red, blue, and gold.
George W Bush changed Clinton’s colors to antique gold and hung up lots of pictures of Texas.
Barack Obama switched things up and went with more neutral colors. He also favored a mix of traditional and modern art.
There are two things that nobody ever moves. The presidential flag remains to the president’s left, and the United States flag is always on the president’s right.
President Truman had a sign on his Oval Office desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here!”
Both President Reagan and President Clinton had the slogan “It can be done” on the their desk.
Most Presidents since Kennedy have used the same desk. It’s called the Resolute Desk. It was cut out of the timbers left over from the British ship HMS Resolute. It was a gift from Queen Victoria in 1880.
Apart from paintings and colors, each President famously gets to redesign the Oval Office rug to their own liking. Regardless of the design though, the middle of the rug carries the presidential seal.
Laura Bush redesigned the rug for her husband and included a bright sunburst that was intended to inject some optimism into the room.
The seal in the rug contains an eagle holding an olive branch in one talon and a bunch of arrows in the other. Before World War II, the eagle was looking towards the arrows. President Truman, however, decided that the eagle should instead look towards the olive branch to represent a peaceful future. The seal remains this way today.
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Photos: Featured: www.flickr.com (public domain), 25-22. wikimedia commons (public domain), 21. Joye~ via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 20-16. commons.wikimedia.org(public domain), 15. obamawhitehouse.archives.gov (public domain), 14-8. commons.wikimedia.org(public domain), 7-6. www.flickr.com(public domain), 5-1. commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)