Archive for the President Chester Arthur Category

Happy 182nd Birthday to our 21st President

Posted in 19th Century, Aesthetic Movement, President Chester Arthur, Tiffany & Comp., White House on October 4, 2011 by babylonbaroque

The 5th of October is President Arthur’s birthday, he is probably my favorite president for all the wrong reasons.He wasn’t in office for terribly long, frankly if Garfield hadn’t been shot we probably wouldn’t remember Arthur. But Garfield was shot, and Arthur became our dandiest president ever. I am so terribly fond of him not because of policy or programs but because he took such a keen interest in redecorating the White House. I’ve explored this theme before, so i will not bore you with details, for a refresher check out this earlier post.

So happy happy Mr. President, thank you for making the White House , at least for a short moment such an aesthetic wonderland.

Chester A. Arthur

21st President of the United States of America

b. October 5th 1829

d. November 18th 1886

Recquiscat in Pace

A bit of the Chester-Tiffany magic, see post for more details.

Reconstruction of the Blue Room under President Arthur, pure magic.

Until next time,

good night,

Babylon Baroque

Aestheticism hits the White House, the Tiffany/Arthur collaboration 1882

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, Lewis Comfort Tiffany, Oscar Wilde, President Chester Arthur, Thom. Ustick Walter, White House on September 21, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Like a fragile St.John preaching in the desert, St. Oscar lands upon our barren shores on January 3rd 1882 ready to preach the Gospel of Aestheticism.

St. John the Baptist

Titian

1542

(the above completely gratuitous , hunky men never fail to please)

Oscar Wilde had intended to spend four months cultivating the Cave-people of North America, poor fellow found himself stuck here for a year.

cartoon of Wilde by Keller, 1882

I feel for Wilde, I doubt most Americans were open to his fey notions of  Aesthetic Beauty. We tend to favor a robust expression of architecture, the infestation of Richardson Romanesque piles providing suitable argument.

Yet his wit and taste clearly affected at least one very important dandy, President Chester A. Arthur.

21st President Chester A. Arthur

term Sep. 19th 1881-Mar.4th 1885

20th President James A. Garfield and his Vice President Chester A. Arthur

“Chet” finding himself  President after the tragic assassination of President James A. Garfield, was  confronted with a new home loathsome to his own rarefied tastes. Finding the White House and its decor  outmoded and decrepit; Arthur shed the house of 24 wagonloads of furnishings and 30 barrels of old china. Like many of my readers, I cringe at what was lost.

Foolish where it concerns our heritage, he was quite wise in hiring the young buck Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of his friend Charles Lewis Tiffany. Tiffany the younger had recently formed the design firm Associated Artists. Arthur assigns them the commission to redecorate the Entry Hall, East Room, Blue Room, Red Room, and State Dining Room in 1882. The decision was made not to redecorate the Green Room. Furnishings were not to be commissioned, but architectural enhancements such as glass screens, lighting, and decorative finishes were to be employed to create this Aesthetic Palace we know as the White House.

a youthful Louis Comfort Tiffany

The Entry Hall

The Entry had long posed a problem in its draftiness. In 1837 President Martin Van Buren installs a decorative screen to combat the problem. In 1853 President Franklin Pierce hires the Philadelphian architect Thomas Ustick Walter to fashion a more agreeable screen. This screen was apparently handsome enough for Tiffany to fabricate his own wonder upon it’s skeleton.

This scene from 1881 shows the Walter screen of 1853

Tiffany transforms the Entry Hall into a harem worthy of any Pasha’s attention.

Entrance 1882

Tiffany’s jewel like vision was not to be long lived. The delicate red, white, and blue opalescent splendor  was not suitably American for Teddy and his Big Stick. Soon enough, that Big Stick would send crashing to the ground all that Aesthetic prettiness.

ca. 1889

either the Cleveland or Harrison administration.

ca. 1893

Cleveland administration.

The skeleton of the Walter’s screen very visible.

I like the eagle motif between the arches.

ca. 1894

Cleveland administration.

I particularly like the ungodly overmantle decoration. not sure if its Tiffany’s doing. Seems a bit un-Aesthetic, but is typical of my preference for the vulgar.

The Roosevelt Big Stick has entered the room!

ca.1902

The 26th President,Theodore Roosevelt’s

the McKim, Mead, & White renovation full steam ahead.

A tragic and beautiful image, reminiscent of Pompeii.

ca. 1903

Almost completed and ready for its close up.

As I mentioned Tiffany was in charge of the Red, Blue, Dining, and East Room, I will present a few glimpses.

Red Room

ca. 1883

Tiffany’s dreamy vision

ca. 1888

Mrs. Cleveland tainted the Aesthetic purity with conventional touches, the Asian vases selected by Tiffany, replaced with the following commonplace urns.

(do like the lampshade.)

The Blue Room

I’ve discussed this room before, but it’s worth revisiting.

ca. 1882

Note the patriotic shields in the ceiling decoration, proving  Aestheticism can indeed be red blooded American.

ca. 188g

digital reconstruction by Nest magazine.

The East Room

ca. 1883

I was unable to find any images of the State dining Room attributed to Tiffany, the following is dated the 1880’s. It may have been from the Garfield administration. It’s pretty conventional, so that is most likely.

ca. 1880’s

I’ll bet you a nickel it ISN’T Lewis Comfort’s work.

As I said this Eastern Splendor was short-lived.

The magnificent glass screen which had cost $15,000.00 to fashion, was auctioned off in 1902  for $275.00. The screen ultimately met its sad end when its new home the Belvedere Hotel in Chesepeake Maryland burnt to the ground. For more information concerning the ill-fated screen follow this link

As in all things, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

Have a great week.


Feeling Blue in the White House; the Blue Room and it’s various incarnations.

Posted in 18th century, 19th cent., 20th century, Aesthetic Movement, architecture, bergere, President Chester Arthur, Tiffany & Comp., White House on September 8, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I have read that blue is the color favored by most folks, men in particular. After having been critical of President Obama’s timid attempts at redecoration , I thought it fair to show examples of color.

Beginning with the beautiful Blue Room seemed appropriate.

An early depiction, ca. President Pierce , in office 1853-1857

Old Abe didn’t do much with the place, perhaps the fancy bed Mary bought had created enough outrage.

Lincoln reception in the Blue Room.

Lincoln presidency

March 1861- April 15th 1865

Recquiscat in Pace President Lincoln

As I am now engaged in study concerning Reconstruction, President Andrew Johnson is of interest to me.

Apparently a stubborn , willful man, and a racist to boot. His decorating, left to the hand of his daughter,seems a bit rigid for my taste.

Blue Room during the Johnson administration, 1865-1869

President Andrew Johnson

Note: Andrew Johnson was the first U.S. President to be impeached.

Good old  Ulysses does a bit of redecorating. He was responsible for the new carpet, the sconces , and the impressive gasolier.

Blue Room, ca. 1874

Ulysses S. Grant administration 1869-1877

Swell guy.

My favorite Dandy President, “Elegant Arthur”, made the greatest impact. In a future post I will explore his tastes more thoroughly, but for now I will focus on the Blue Room. “Chet”, a man of fashion and style wisely chose the forward thinking Louis Comfort Tiffany to redecorate his new digs.

Blue Room refurbished by Tiffany for President Arthur, administration 1881-1885

Note the Aesthetic paper, the wild Starburst sconces.

Perfection.

Official White House portrait

President Chester (Chet) Arthur

We mustn’t forget to thank the always fabulous Louis Comfort.

Louis Comfort Tiffany

ca. 1880’s

1848-1933

Note: for years I dated a madly wonderful fellow, direct descendent of  L.C. Tiffany; the physical resemblance striking.

The collaboration truly dazzled as this coloured reconstruction demonstrates.

via Nest magazine

Recquiscat in Pace Nest magazine.

The following, another coloured depiction , ca. 1887, shows that President Cleveland made few if any changes.

Blue Room during President Grover Cleveland’s administration, 1885-1889

President Benjamin Harrison seems to have made a few patriotic changes. Do I detect a Federal crest on the ceiling?

Out with that pansy Aesthetic stuff.

What will they think, that we’re England!!

Blue Room , ca. Harrison administration 1889-1893

Another coloured view , ca. 1898, William Mc Kinley’s administration.

Blue Room, Mc Kinley administration 1897-1901

I love Teddy Roosevelt, our only self admitted Imperialist President. I love how he brashly swept away the  fusty Victoriana, bringing in his own bold ,taxidermic splendour.

The following is what he inherited.

ca. 1901

And the following to suit his own distinct taste. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my…

Blue Room Splendor

Theodore Roosevelt Administration 1901-1909

I love the Imperial lambrequin.

The room seems to undergo few interesting changes ,

at least according to my own humble opinion.

Truman tarts it up a bit in ’52.

Blue Room

Administration of Harry S. Truman

1945-1953

Re-using Teddy’s window treatment.

It isn’t until Her Majesty Jackie ascends the throne that the magic returns.

We haven’t seen such beauty since the Tiffany/Arthur collaboration.

Drawing inspiration from the James Madison administration ( 1709-1717), a stunning room is revealed.

Blue Room

Kennedy Administration

1961-1963

Thank you Mrs. Kennedy

Perfection

I find it of interest that President Nixon felt it necessary to redecorate such a perfect room.

I do admire the chutzpah of the Napoleonic candelabra, a room should reflect it’s occupant.

Blue Room

ca. administration of President Richard Nixon

1969-1974

(As in the Nixon Oval Office, I admire the grandeur and color of the window dressings.)

Apparently the room needed further freshening up.

Here we have  Hillary acting as Decorator-in Charge.

I don’t know why I find this so amusing. She doesn’t look terribly comfortable in the role.

In closing , a detail of a Blue Room bergère, upholstered in Scalamandre silk.

Blue Room bergére

ca. 1815

Pierre-Antoine Bellange

L’Shanah Tovah my friends!