The President’s House: A History by William Seale

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A completely revised and expanded comprehensive social history of the White House, The President’s House: A History by noted historian William Seale, has been published by the White House Historical Association. This compelling book — in two rich volumes — chronicles both the unique continuum of the White House in American history and the human side of the White House as home to the presidents and their families. It covers every president from George Washington to George H.W. Bush. The William J. Clinton and George W. Bush years are included in an epilogue.

 “Along the way the reader experiences the many colorful facets of life in the seat of presidential power, the etiquette, protocol, politics, architecture, décor, landscaping, and cuisine, all that made and make up the setting of the presidency,” said Neil W. Horstman, President of the White House Historical Association.

 Few moments in American history escape having some connection with the president’s house. From the front steps, Thomas Jefferson announced the Louisiana Purchase; Dolley Madison took flight from the invading British; at the close of the Civil War, from a front window, Abraham Lincoln addressed a crowd that included the man who would assassinate him within 24 hours; Franklin D. Roosevelt officiated at the lighting of the great outdoor Christmas tree in the wake of Pearl Harbor to demonstrate his faith that the nation would triumph; Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first president to use television on a regular basis to communicate directly with the people.

John F. Kennedy’s interest in the gardens and grounds led to revising the Rose Garden into the useful outdoor ceremonial space that it is today; hospitable Lyndon B. Johnson made greater demands upon the house than any president before him, welcoming thousands through its door’s, Richard M. Nixon filled it to the brim with art and antiques; Ronald W. Reagan made the president’s house his grandest stage, while making it more comfortable as a home. An endowment fund to preserve the historic rooms of the White House and offer it protection from the vicissitudes of passing time was created during the administration of George H.W. Bush.

“No building better reflects the nation’s history,” said author Seale. “Granting that walls can’t talk, I’ve done my best to make them seem to in The President’s House. I’ve sought out documents, old letters and books and brought them together, president by president. And I’ve made every use I possibly could of the house as it stands, going over it carefully, attic to cellar, for what it can tell about its past and how it was, as well as how it is today.”

William Seale is a historian who has studied and published on the White House for many years. In addition to The President’s House, he published The White House: History of an American Idea, and The White House Garden. Other books by Seale include The Tasteful Interlude: American Interiors Through the Camera’s Eye, 1860-1917. Of Houses and Time, and with Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Temples of Democracy: The State Capitols of the USA. He is actively involved in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings and is editor of White House History, the journal of the White House Historical Association.

The White House Historical Association was established in 1961 as a non-profit organization to enhance the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House. All proceeds from its trusts, publications and other items are used to fund acquisitions of historic furnishings and artwork for the permanent collection, to assist in the preservation of the public rooms, and further its educational mission.

 The President’s House: A History
William Seale
Architecture/American History
White House Historical Association Deluxe Edition
170 images. 1350 pages. 2 volume set
ISBN 978-1-931917-02-5 $59.95
Library of Congress Catalog Control Number 2008927017
Publication Date, September, 2008

William Seale is available for interviews and speaking engagements. For more information contact Maria Downs 202-737-8292 x317 mdowns@whha.org.