Sunday, November 29, 2009

White House Kitchen

Today's picture was taken in the 1920's and shows the kitchen in the White House. Amazing how simple and practical it was. I would imagine things would be quite different today.


  1. What, no granite counter tops?
    But it's kind of cool to imagine all the incredibly good food that came out of that kitchen, along with the occasional late night grilled cheese sandwich.

  2. Re: "I would imagine things are quite different today."

    Where should we begin? No doubt the White House has quite the modern kitchen. Everything from equipment, to cookware, to design.

    I wonder how many cooks stir the broth today.

    And, Chad, I wonder what is the favorite late-night snack nowadays in the White House.

  3. What are some of the things in this picture. Is that a coffee grinder, and what are those 2 large tanks that look like water heaters. Did they have water heaters in the 20's?

  4. Dan, you are correct - that is a coffee grinder. The large tank is absolutely a water heater, but I'm not sure what the smaller one might be. They did have water heaters as far back as before the turn of the last century, generally attached in some way to the kitchen stove. We toured a house built before the American Civil War where the water pipes ran behind the fireplace to provide hot water for the family. (Can you imagine having to wash all the dishes for a State Banquet by hand! Yeesh!)

  5. Loved your picture today! I got curious, so I surfed around and found a site that has a series of pictures of the White House kitchen. They begin in current times, and go back to just over a hundred years ago. Thought it was worthy of sharing with everyone, so here it is...

  6. This looks exactly like the kitchen in “The Breakers,” the famous Newport RI mansion that was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1893.

    The Newport Preservation Society owns a number of these historic “summer cottages” that are icons of the Gilded Age. Most are open to the public, and it’s always fun to imagine what life was like during the days of the great industrial robber barons and before income tax!!

  7. I think the tank on the left is the actual hot water tank (storage) and the one on the right is the actual boiler for it.

    I'm not sure about the "good meals" part though. Mrs Nesbitt, the housekeeper in charge of the cooking during the Roosevelt years gave the White House a reputation of having consistently bad fare. FDR's quarrels with her actual made the front page of the NY Times.

    Bess Truman sent her packing.

    It's also interesting Truman was the first President to give the staff Christmas day off. Prior to Truman, it was just another work day..

  8. Why would the residents of the White House keep a bad cook? Maybe it was bad PR to fire a bad cook during the depression?

  9. She was a favorite of Eleanor's. That went a long way to ensuring continued employment.

    (Doris Kearnes Goodwin and David McCullough both mention Mrs Nesbitt in their books on FDR/Eleanor and Truman, respectively)

    FDR and Anna used to sneak out of dinners and head to his room and make eggs sandwiches, preferring them to her overcooked, bland, fare.