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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