FBA Tour of the State Depart­ment Diplo­matic Rooms is set for February 23 @10:30 a.m.

The Foggy Bottom Association has made arrangements for a tour of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department for members of the Foggy Bottom Association on Thursday, February 23 at 10:30 a.m.

Jefferson State Department Reception Room

The Diplomatic Reception Rooms are among the most beautiful rooms in the world used for official entertaining. The 19th century-style rooms contain a collection of museum-caliber American furnishings of the period 1750-1825. In this setting the Secretary of State, the Vice President, and Members of the Cabinet entertain the leaders of the world as well as foreign and American dignitaries at luncheons, receptions, and dinners. The tour will include an overview of the rooms and their contents with selected emphasis on some items and their history.

Those wishing to attend should contact Jackie Lemire at 337-2167 or by email jglemire@aol.com prior to February 13. Space is limited. Reservations will be honored in the order they are received. Attendees will need to provide a photo ID such as a valid driver’s license or a valid passport.

The Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the Department of State hold a premier collection of 18th century American furniture, paintings and decorative arts. For fifty years, the art of diplomacy has thrived in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms against a stunning backdrop of American art and architecture from the time of our country’s founding and of its formative years. This historically evocative suite (42 rooms) contains a museumcaliber collection of American fine and decorative art (5,000 objects) from the period of 1750-1825.

The Secretary of State, Vice President, and Members of Cabinet conduct the essential business of diplomacy in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. In these State Rooms, the United States signs treaties, conducts summit negotiations, hosts swearing-in ceremonies, facilitates trade agreements, and promotes peace.

When planning for the construction of the State Department was underway in the 1950’s, Deputy Chief of Protocol, Clement E. Conger made a high recommendation to Congress for creating space for the Secretary of State who entertains more foreigners than the President. Congress concurred and ruled that if they were going to give millions of dollars to build the new State Department building, it should include space for official government entertainment. Thereby, the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, senior officials of the State Department, and all the members of the President’s Cabinet would be given access to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms but, the ruling continued, if the occasion were social, funds had to be raised from private contributions.

So too, since its inception, everything in the rooms, from furniture to drapes, insurance to upkeep, and research to light fixtures, has been paid for by patriotic individuals and institutions committed to the project. Located on the top floor of the three block square building, the sixteen rooms were opened with the completion of the State Department during the winter of 1960. But, when completed by government contracted bid winners, the rooms looked like a 1950s motel with floor-to-ceiling plate glass, exposed steel beams, openings but no doors, support beams encased in fire proofing in the middle of rooms, wall-to-wall carpeting, and acoustical tile ceilings.”

The first official function was a state dinner in January 1961 in honor of Queen Frederika of Greece. The hosts were to be the Secretary of State, the former Governor of Massachusetts, and their wives with the guests. Governor Herter’s wife visited the venue the afternoon of the event to see that rooms were proper for the occasion. She was mortified and while the dinner proceeded, there was a tearful compromise, whereby Chief of Protocol Conger volunteered to run a public campaign to furnish the rooms. It lasted thirty years.

In 1961, then Secretary of State Dean Rusk named the main Diplomatic Reception Rooms for early secretaries of state who became presidents (the original route to the presidency) in 1961. This decision fortuitously tied to the golden age of American design and craftsmanship which spanned from 1725 to 1825. These eras included Queen Anne, Chippendale and federal style furnishings and American art was the going to fill the space.

The architectural transformations to 42 rooms on two floors from modern marble, glass, steel, and concrete into magnificent period style American interiors, occurred from 1965 through 1989 at a cost of $18,000,000 in privately contributed funds. The architectural improvements raised the Diplomatic Reception Rooms reputation to national and international level. Moreover, the art which furnishes these rooms is reputed to be among the top ten collections of American 18th and early 19th century art in the United States. They act as the mirror of our American cultural accomplishments, and for this, only the finest examples of American cabinetmaking and American art should ornament the official rooms.


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