Department of State - Diplomatic Function Rooms
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms are among the most beautiful rooms in the world used for official entertaining. The 18th century style rooms are located in the Main State Department building. In this setting the Secretary of State, the Vice President, and Members of the Cabinet entertain the leaders of the world, as well as foreign and American dignitaries. Each year over 80,000 guests are entertained at luncheons, receptions and dinners.
Since 1961, the Fine Arts Committee under the guidance of former chairman, Clement E. Conger, has assisted the State Department in assembling a collection of museum caliber American furnishing of the period 1750-1825 and assisted in the architectural transformation of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms from ordinary rooms into masterpieces of 18th and early 19th century architecture. The collection, valued at $90 million, has been acquired with the generous contributions from public spirited citizens, foundations and corporations. No tax dollars have been used to assemble the collection, to redesign the architectural backgrounds, or to preserve the collection.
The Edward Vason Jones Memorial Hall
The first impression guests and visitors have of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms is the Edward Vason Jones Memorial Hall, dedicated to the talented architect who transformed the main reception rooms. The room was modeled after that in the drawing room at Marmion, an 18th century house in King George County, Virginia.
The Faux Marbre pilasters and cornices create an aura of opulence. These rooms contain marble busts of George Washington, John Jay, and the Marquis de Lafayette, as well as fine examples of furniture made in the last half of the 18th century in Boston and Philadelphia.
The Entrance Hall
Designed by Edward Vason Jones, the hall's paneled interior is based on the interior of Carter's Grove (1751-1753) and Westover (1674-1744), two great Georgian plantation houses on the James River in Virginia. The Hall is a handsome space with thirteen-foot ceilings and a Tabriz rug on its mahogany floor. The ceiling is a copy of that taken from the Powel House in Philadelphia. The cut-glass chandelier is English, c. 1800. The bombe desk is from Boston, c. 1755-1770. Above it hangs a New York Looking Glass, c. 1765. To the left is one of the Collection's masterpieces, a secretary desk of 1753 by Benjamin Frothingham, Jr.
Started in 1965 by architect Edward Vason Jones, the Gallery was the first project in the renovation of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. The design for the room incorporates at each end Palladian windows inspired by Philadelphia houses of Thomas Jefferson's time, notably Mount Pleasant and Cliveden.
This room serves as a gallery for portraits, landscape paintings, and American Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture with emphasis on blockfront furniture by John Townsend and John Goddard of Newport, Rhode Island. A Baktiari rug, c. 1910, and a rug from northwest Persia, c. 1900, are two of the floor coverings. The cut-glass chandelier is a fine English example of the rococo style, c. 1770.
The John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room
The John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room, in which the Secretary of State receives guests at state luncheons and dinners, is furnished with masterpieces of 18th-century cabinetmakers.
Among the important furnishings are Paul Revere silver, Chinese export porcelain once the property of George Washington, and the desk on which the Treaty of Paris, ending the American Revolution, was signed in 1783. Walls of raised panels with hand carved architectural details display portraits of John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, John Jay, Andrew Jackson, and Henry Clay.
The Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room
The Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room is considered to be a masterpiece of neoclassic design with perfect proportions, a Doric entablature, pedimented glass doors, triple-sash windows, and an 18th-century Cararra marble mantle. Flanking the Boston mirror over the mantel are four paintings depicting American scenes. On the upper tier are 18th-century views of Baltimore and the Great Falls of the Potomac; in the lower tier are an early view of the Capitol painted in 1844 by William MacLeod and a marine painting by Fitzhugh Lane in 1852.
The room is furnished with American Chippendale furniture from New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. The Jefferson Room, although primarily used as a reception room, is an elegant and intimate room when used by the Secretary of State for smaller official
The Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room
The largest of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms was named after the "Father of the American Foreign Service," Benjamin Franklin. It was redesigned architecturally in the classical manner by John Blatteau and completed in 1985.
This monumental room has free-standing scagliola Corinthian columns along the room's long walls and engaged columns along the short walls. At the end of the room hangs a portrait of Benjamin Franklin painted by David Martin in London, 1767. Gilding has been used to heighten the decorative plaster ornament of the entablature and the coffered cove above the entablature. The Great Seal of the United States, depicted in plaster and gilt, decorates the center of the ceiling, along with eight Adam-style cut-glass chandeliers.
The floor is covered with a Savonnerie style carpet, made for the room with design elements including the Great Seal of the United States, symbols of the four important crops of the early Republic, the four seasons, and in the the field 50 stars representing the States of the Union. This State Dining room is the primary room used to entertain both foreign and American guests.
Tours of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms are given at 9:30am , 10:30am and 2:45pm, Monday through Friday by reservation only. Reservations should be made approximately four weeks in advance by communicating with the Tour office: (202) 647-3241, Fax (202) 736-4232 or TDD (202) 7364474, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520.
Material provided courtesy of the United States Department of State - Photography by Will Brown