May 15th marks the 50th Anniversary of First Lady Pat Nixon’s debut of the newly refurbished Blue Room. The Blue Room was returned to its original French Empire style inspired by the French Bellangé suite of furniture President James Monroe purchased for the room in 1817. While the walls of the room are not blue, the room has been decorated with blue furnishings since 1837 when Martin Van Buren was president.
According to a report prepared by the White House’s Office of the Curator, the Blue Room was originally designed by White House architect James Hoban to be the building’s most elegant room. The room is one of three state parlors designed for use as formal reception areas and diplomatic receiving rooms. The other two, the Red and Green rooms, were also renovated by Pat Nixon. On May 15, 1972 the President and First Lady hosted a reception to honor the over 800 people who were involved in the renovations of the three state parlor rooms. Previously on the same day, Mrs. Nixon gave the press a preview of the renovations and remarked “We want the room to be enjoyed by people so that they can really see without interference and also to be proud of their heritage which is represented here.”
Renovation of the Blue Room was part of a larger White House renovation and refurbishment project spearheaded by Mrs. Nixon. In Pat Nixon: The Untold Story, author and Nixon’s daughter, Julie Eisenhower Nixon shares that Clement Conger, the White House Curator who worked with Mrs. Nixon, said Mrs. Nixon was “always regrettably modest” about transforming the “average” White House collection into the “preeminent collection in the country.” During her time as First Lady, Mrs. Nixon added 600 paintings and furnishings to the White House collection, more than during any other administration. Reflecting on this 50th anniversary, Historian Bob Bostock remarked, “The impact Pat Nixon made is unparalleled and has endured. Fifty years later we still see the fruits of her effort.”
A digital exhibit created as part of a partnership between The White House Historical Association and the Richard Nixon Foundation highlights the Blue Room renovations as part of Mrs. Nixon’s White House Legacy.