I mentioned in an earlier post that for a hot second Philadelphia was the capital of the United States. Our Founding Fathers not only declared independence from our downtown district, but they determined our fate and life as we know it today. Our first President, Mr. George Washington, lived in downtown Philadelphia in what was essentially the “first White House”, though it was more of a brick color and held the title of “Presidential Mansion”. In 1800, after living in the Persidental Mansion for 3 years, President Adams moved the capital about 150 miles South to a newly renovated town, named after his predecessor, Washington, D.C..
On a beautiful tree lined street in D.C.’s downtown district sits a stunning house painted white. It’s filled with colorful rooms, ornate furniture and… ah, yes, the leader of the free world! 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has housed every President of the United States since John Adams, and has been graced with the presence of world leaders, activists, actors, musicians, etc. etc. Oh, to be a fly on the walls of that house! Being the lucky duck that I am (and because I know a fancy-pants who works for the said leader of the free world) I was taken in to the White House for a tour of the East & West Wings, Residence, Executive Offices of the President, and…wait for it… bowling in the presidential bowling alley!
The East Wing offered up lovely views of the Kennedy Garden, as well as a photographic look into the past First Families, including a wall devoted to First Pets. This was by far my favorite part of the East Wing, for I was tickled pink to find out that a raccoon had lived in the Residene. Yep! First Lady Grace Coolidge had a pet raccoon! It gets better! She didn’t go and give it a fitting name like Sir Bandit Weasel or Creepy Fingers Gus, no, she named her pet raccoon Rebecca. Because why the hell not? If you’re going to have a raccoon in the family, the first family no less, then I guess it better have a dignified name.
Like I said earlier, the White House is filled with rooms of a designated color. Truth be told, decorating a room in all red, or blue, or what have you, is not my style. If you have saturated a room in one color so much so that it becomes designated as the “red room” or “green room”, then, in my humble-modern-day-generation-Y opinion, you have crossed the line and gone too far. A red couch here, and a yellow rug there are all well and good, but that is not how they rolled back then and so the first floor of the Residence is a color-coded, opulent, ode to the past. Luckily, the library remained a neutral color and was the most “homey” of all the rooms.
Moving on to the West Wing! This was a VERY high security area, as it should be, and therefore I have no pictures but allow me to paint you a picture. Seeing as we were there on a Saturday, and there weren’t any pressing matters that needed an emergency gathering, the West Wing was pretty low key. Though the politicians had the day off, secret service was still on duty. You couldn’t walk more than 10 feet without running into an agent, and this was without anyone of importance being in the building, though there were millions of dollars worth of art hanging on the walls. For as outdated as the first floor of the Residence was, the West Wing made up for it in modernity. Outside of the Cabinet Room and the Roosevelt Room were phone cubbies (apparently the “no phones at the table” rule is taken a step further in the West Wing, to “no phones in the room”), flat screens hung on just about every wall, and there were rooms devoted to to video conferencing. All very much a modern day office environment, aside of course, from all of the surveillance and high tech doohickeys that are embedded in the walls, no doubt, and strapped onto the belts of the secret service. The only room we were allowed to snap a photo in was the press room, so here ya go…
Now, on to the main event! Bowling in the West Wing! After meandering through the (stunning) hallways of the Executive Offices of the President (EOP), we took the elevator down to the basement were we were met with a wall of lockers, of which I’m assuming belong to Secret Service agents – don’t quote me on that. Tucked in among wires, pipes, and everything else that helps the EOP function on a practical level is the Harry S. Truman Bowling Alley.
It’s a small, two-lane alley that was gifted to President Truman in 1947, just one year after the automatic pinsetter was introduced in 1946. Lining the walls were photographs of past, and present, Presidents and a handful of first ladies all giving it a go at the lanes. Now, these are not the lanes one would go to to perfect their game. It’s more like a space to unwind and have a good time. In fact, professional bowlers would probably scoff at these lanes. The balls were chipped, the pins all scuffed, and I swear to god the lanes were tilted! Why else would I not be able to throw a strike in the entire time we were there?! No, the magic of these lanes is the history that comes with them. Not everyone gets to bowl at the West Wing. We joined a small group of people, most of which include Presidents and employees of the White House, when we threw the chipped balls down the tilted lanes of Truman Alley, and oh what a thrill and an honor it was!