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    Sale 1922

    Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana

    3 December 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 212

    WHITE HOUSE. An archive of drawings and blue prints from Davenport Co. and McKim, Mead & White, 1902.

    Price Realised  

    WHITE HOUSE. An archive of drawings and blue prints from Davenport Co. and McKim, Mead & White, 1902.

    PLANS AND DRAWINGS FOR THE 1902 RENOVATION OF THE WHITE HOUSE, BY A.H. DAVENPORT FOR MCKIM, MEAD AND WHITE

    The cornerstone for a Presidential mansion in the nation's new capital was laid in October 1792, on a site chosen by George Washington and Pierre Charles L'Enfant. In a competition, a design by Irish-born architect James Hoban was selected. Construction was slow, so the mansion's first residents were President and Mrs. John Adams. The imposing edifice, one of the finest stone structures of its period, became widely known as "The White House" due to its whitewashed exterior. In 1815 it was sacked and burned by a British army, but by 1817 the gutted shell had been rebuilt.

    The interiors and furnishings of this revered and historic building--one which, more than any other structure, evokes and symbolizes the office of Chief Executive--have undergone profound stylistic changes. Each President has modified--for better or for worse--its decor and furnishings, mirroring countervailing shifts in design and aesthetics.

    When Theodore Roosevelt became president after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901, he and First Lady Alice Kermit Roosevelt found the interiors crowded, dingy and fustily dominated by late Victorian taste. A sweeping overhaul of both the residential quarters and the diplomatic rooms was called for, and for the project Mrs. Roosevelt contacted the distinguished New York firm of McKim, Mead & White. This highly respected firm was commissioned to carry out a transformative renovation, the most drastic the White House has ever undergone. It called for new floor plans, improved lighting, wholly new furniture, paneling, moldings, rugs, tapestries and complementary color schemes. For the first time, the re-design had a historical reference point. "A major goal of the 1902 Roosevelt restoration," writes Betty C. Monkman, "was to design and furnish the interior in harmony with its neoclassical exterior architecture, in order that it would not be subject to changing fashion. McKim, Mead, & White designed Colonial Revival furnishings for the home, impressive chandeliers were installed in the East Room, and other furnishings were obtained to fill the house" (The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families, pp. 176-197).

    While the overall designs for the interiors were prepared by McKim, Mead & White, the best and most accomplished designers, craftsmen and manufacturers were enlisted to furnish and adorn the newly opened interior spaces. For the lion's share of the White House's new furniture, McKim commissioned the Boston firm of A.H. Davenport, a company that also worked with Peabody & Stearns and H.H. Richardson. Davenport and his designers became key contributors to the project. "Mrs Roosevelt was very much involved in the interior decoration. All fabrics and furniture passed her approval," writes a distinguished historian, adding that "Francis Bacon, an architect with A.H. Davenport, doubtless advised her" (William A. Seale, "Theodore Roosevelt's White House," in White House History, Coll. 2, p. 323). In its furniture designs for this undertaking, A.H. Davenport "promoted the best in design and skilled craftsmanship in an era of mass manufacturing," writes Anne Farnum. Davenport's contribution cannot be overstated: he "worked closely with the architects providing furniture to complement their concepts and, in some cases perhaps contributing to those concepts by his interpretation of interior designs" (Farnum, "A.H. Davenport and Company, Boston Furniture Makers," Antiques, May 1976, pp.1053).

    The present extensive archive of furniture drawings, floor plans, fabric samples and annotated blueprints constitutes unique and invaluable documentation of the 1902 White House renovation, a highly influential architectural and design project which, in a mere four months, transformed the White House "from a crazy quilt of alterations over time into a cohesive statement of modern times," accurately reflecting Theodore Roosevelt's vigorous "new presidency, more powerful and evident than it had been since Washington's time" (Seale, p.321).

    THE COLLECTION IS DESCRIBED AS LOTS 213-247 AND WILL BE OFFERED AS A SINGLE COLLECTION, SUBJECT TO A RESERVE PRICE. IF THIS PRICE IS NOT REACHED, THE LOT WILL BE OFFERED SEPARATELY AS LOTS 213-247.


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    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A LADY