- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 1999

Housing, domestic and otherwise, is much on the mind of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton these days.
At Monday’s press preview of White House holiday decorations, Mrs. Clinton juggled questions about festive preparations for what she termed the family’s favorite time of year with queries about her planned move to a more permanent home in Westchester, N.Y.
She is deciding which personal furnishings to take north and which ones need to be restored, because the Secret Service could give the signal to take up residence there as soon as late December, she said. She ignored a reporter’s question about whether this is the last year she will have much time to spend on official decor, with a New York Senate race pending.
Meanwhile, life in the Pennsylvania Avenue mansion will do quite nicely, thank you, among splendidly gilded formal rooms full of the smell of pine and garlands of fruit and flowers.
Artificial fruit, that is, with many of the decorations recycled from past years to save money. A newly refurbished creche transformed so that it is more portable and troves of treasure replicas are highlights of this year’s scheme. The theme is, in fact, a celebration of America’s treasures.
The theme, a more traditional one than in past years, has two meanings, Mrs. Clinton explained: “The treasured memories so many of us have from past seasons … also going back to Colonial Williamsburg with the theme of decorating with fruit.” The second meaning refers to the campaign to save American treasures, which began two years ago.
A poinsettia tree is in place in the East Foyer, but those plants are far less visible than the handmade crafts and ornaments found on windows and mantels and on the main, 18*-foot-tall, Washington state fir in the first-floor Blue Room. The Christmas tree also holds an array of dolls fashioned to honor famous figures in history, including a tiny Mother Teresa cradling a child, aviation pioneer Charles A. Lindbergh holding a New York Times with his photo on the front page and several of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks.
A so-called “treasures tree” in the East Wing holds replicas made by American craftsmen of many of the projects visited by Mrs. Clinton as part of her Save America’s Treasures program, a public-private partnership between the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to preserve notable American sites and buildings.
The Grand Foyer at the north entrance is full of garlands in predominantly a Victorian ruby red hue rather than the bright red on the Santa Claus costume that was worn by Secret Service officer Jim Shea, who has portrayed the jolly figure for the past 10 years.
“Just another uniform,” he joked for photographers while posing with Mrs. Clinton in front of President Abraham Lincoln’s portrait in the State Dining Room.
The latter room is dominated by a splendid gilded bronze plateau a large table centerpiece purchased from France by President James Monroe when he had to refurnish the mansion following its burning by British troops in 1814. One end of the room holds gingerbread replicas of four local treasures the Washington Monument, the White House, Jefferson Memorial and Mount Vernon. They were made by the pastry staff under the direction of chef Roland Mesnier. “Roland’s masterpiece,” Mrs. Clinton called the tableau.
The White House replica is complete with a flashing red light and a miniature cat and dog Socks and Buddy carefully watching some birds around a tree on White House grounds. The complicated confection required 100 pounds of gingerbread and is held together with nearly 50 pounds of chocolate.
A steel-reinforced wreath made with woven grapevines and covered with white lights decorates the South Portico. A painting by Ray Ellis on this year’s official White House holiday card shows the North Portico under snow with beribboned green wreaths in every window.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide