It is through the Entrance Hall that guests approach the large reception rooms, and this space, designed by Edward Vason Jones, sets the stage. It is also a handsome space on its own, as a composite of design ideas from 18th-century mansions in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
The paneling on the walls is modeled after that in Carter’s Grove and Westover, two great Georgian plantation houses on the James River in Virginia. The design in the 13-foot ceiling comes from the Powel House in Philadelphia, where molds were taken of the decorative plasterwork in a second-floor chamber. In addition to floral designs, the plasterwork features a motif of musical instruments. Additional elements of the ceiling ornamentation come from the Andrew Low House in Savannah. Jones masterfully blended elements from America’s finest colonial homes to create this space.
Some of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms’ most historically significant furniture lines the walls of this hall. One is a desk and bookcase by Benjamin Frothingham, a cabinetmaker who worked near Boston and served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Across the hall is a breakfront bookcase made before the Revolution by the personal cabinetmakers to King George III.
Displayed on another desk is a bisque porcelain statue portraying King Louis XVI of France handing two treaties to Benjamin Franklin. These are the treaties Franklin negotiated to secure French friendship and military aid during the Revolution, support that ensured the war’s success. France was the first nation to recognize American independence from Great Britain, and these were the first treaties with a European nation that a representative of the United States nation signed. It was a critical moment in the history of American diplomacy.
The family of Francis Scott Key, the author of the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner,” is also honored in this hall, with a painting of the family home. Six Chippendale chairs that once belonged to the Keys are placed along the hall, and on display are Chinese export porcelain soup plates also from this prominent Maryland political family.
- A drawing for the Entrance Hall by architect Edward Vason Jones. The paneled walls were modeled after Carter’s Grove and Westover.
- The side chairs in this room descended through the family of Francis Scott Key, who famously witnessed the stunning naval bombardment on Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 – a sight that inspired the poem that became our national anthem.
- This Room from the Powel House – reconstructed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art – served as inspiration for the plasterwork ceiling of the Entrance Hall.