You don’t have to be an American to know the oval office. Located in the West Wing of the White House, this famous room is the main office of the US President since 1909.
But have you ever wondered why it’s an oval? I mean, why not have a rectangular shaped office, like most presidents do?
Well, wonder no more, because we have the answer. Here’s how it goes. (the article continues after the ad)
After his inauguration in 1909, President Taft held a competition to renovate and enlarge the West Wing of the White House. The winner was an architect named Nathan C. Wyeth, who designed a new office for the President. The shape of this new office was oval and it was inspired by the original oval-shaped Blue Room of the White House. So, why the original Blue Room was oval?
The Blue Room was almost always used for receptions and sometimes, small dinners. One of the most notable receptions at the time, was the so called “levee” – a tradition that was borrowed from the English court.
Simply said, the levee, allowed men of prominence to meet the nation’s President. The guests entered the room, and walked up to the President who was standing near the fireplace. They bowed while an assistant called their names. The visitor then walked back and the whole group was assembled in a circle. The doors then closed and the President would walk around the circle, standing in front of each person and addressing him with his name from memory. When he had rounded the circle, he went back to the fireplace and all the guests, one by one, went to him, and bowed without shaking hands or saying anything, before exiting the room.
Because this was a very formal reception, George Washington ordered that the Blue Room, which previously had straight rear walls, be redesigned into a semi-circular form – thus creating an oval shape. According to Washington, this was a much suitable space for the levee. And this is why, since it was inspired by the Blue Room, the US President’s Oval office is oval.
The tradition of holding levees was ended by President Thomas Jefferson who simply replaced the ritualized greeting it with a… simple handshake.