HISTORICAL OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
There are a total of four elaborate office suites in the OEOB - one for each Secretary of the State War and Navy Departments and their immediate staff (the War Department had two). Only two of the rooms have been restored to date - both in the former Navy Secretary's suite. One is the office of the former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the other is the Navy Secretary's Office.
Sixteen secretaries of the Navy occupied the office from 1879 until 1921. From 1921 until 1947 General John Pershing occupied the room as Army Chief of Staff and as Chairman of the Battle Monuments Commission. Pershing's occupancy of the office was interrupted only once during these 26 years, when President Hoover was forced to relocate his offices following a Christmas Eve fire in the West Wing of the White House in 1929. Since 1960 it has been occupied by every Vice President from Lyndon B. Johnson to Albert Gore, Jr. (with the exception of Hubert Humphrey, who used Room 175 located directly below). Since its restoration in the 1980s, it has been considered a "ceremonial" office, and is used for meetings, press interviews as well as other important events.
The room was designed by William McPherson, a well-known Boston painter and decorator. The walls and ceiling were decorated with ornamental stencilling and allegorical symbols of the Navy Department, hand painted in typical Victorian colors. These designs have been restored on part of one wall (two places between the hall way entrance doors) and replicated on canvas throughout the rest of the room. The reason for replication on canvas is two-fold: first, large areas of the original designs were damaged and a large amount of in-painting would have been necessary; second, the replicated designs on canvas preserve the original design underneath. The floor is very delicate, being of mahogany, white maple and cherry. The two fireplaces are original Belgian black marble; the overmantles regilded during the restoration. The original Minton tile hearths were removed and replaced with green marble.
The chandeliers are replicas of the circa 1900 gasoliers, which had been removed and could not be located. The historic fixtures, as viewed in photographs, were equipped for both gas and electric power, the gas globes being on top, the electric lights below.
There are several items of note in the room, but he most interesting may be the
Vice-President's Desk. This desk is part of the White House collection and was first used by Theodore Roosevelt in the Oval Office in 1902. Several important figures have chosen to use this desk - including Presidents Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Eisenhower. It was placed in storage from December of 1929 until 1945, when it was then used by President Truman. Vice President Johnson and all subsequent Vice Presidents have used the desk. The inside of the top drawer has been signed by the various users since the 1940s.
Another item of note is the Bust of Christopher Columbus. One of the few items on display that were original to the building, it was removed from the Spanish Cruiser Christabal Colom by the crew of the USS Montgomery after the battle of Santiago in July 1898. It was exhibited here in the Secretary's office between 1898-1924.