I heard the recent comments attributed to our president in which it was claimed that he referred to the White House as “a dump.” As someone privileged to have visited this historic home twice, I beg to differ.
The first time was during the summer of 1975, which was approximately one year into the presidency of Gerald Ford. I went with my friend Cindy.
When Grandpa learned of the trip, he told me that he had a friend who had some White House affiliation at that time. I cannot remember if the person worked there or just had some inside connection. All I know is that Grandpa said he could get us the special White House tour passes, which were quite different from the easy-to-get public tours available to anyone who got up early enough to obtain a ticket at the booth located on the Ellipse.
Since Grandpa’s request for the tour passes was at the eleventh hour, they could not be mailed to us. I was instructed to go to White House to obtain them.
The night before the tour, Cindy and I went to the side gate, where I explained to the guard that we were there to pick up our tickets. We were told that one of us could go inside to retrieve them. My dad got the tickets, so there was no discussion who would go. Surprisingly, I was permitted to walk up the driveway unescorted.
I arrived at the closed door, my heart pounding with excitement at being at the doorway to this historic building. I recall hesitantly knocking, and then being ushered inside.
“What do you want?” I was asked by a uniformed man at the desk.
“Oh no, I thought. I shouldn’t be here. Am I in trouble?”
Then the guard laughed and told me that I was at the right place. I looked around, hoping that one of President Ford’s attractive sons would appear. I was in awe just being inside “the dump.” I left with his card.
The tour the next day was incredible. Having gone on the tour twenty years later with the three of you, I can confirm that my first tour was much better than the general public tour.
We saw many more rooms, the group was much smaller, and I did not feel at all rushed. I remember lingering in the China Room, and felt honored to be viewing china used at state dinners dating back to George Washington.
As we were guided into each room—identified by color such as the Green Room, Blue Room, and Red Room—I remember feeling honored to be inside, and impressed with the elegance and beauty of each room of the iconic mansion.
Incidentally, the architect of the White House was an Irish man named James Hoban. The very old family Bible which sits on my dresser was owned by a woman named Jemima Hoban. Are we related to the man who designed America’s house? I am still working on that.