Memoirs of Decorating The White House with Frank Lazzaro
This online book is free and open for viewers around the world for reading pleasure only. Frank Lazzaro receives no financial gain with this online book. It is written by Frank Lazzaro for viewing of The White House and the many years of freelance floral and holiday decorating in photographs created by Frank Lazzaro at the White House many years ago. His only fame in life is the enjoyment he gets from his online viewers around the world reading about this unique lifestyle of his service to The White House. It is also to learn some of Frank's "achievement tips" for greater success in life, and hoping that someone will profit a little more knowledge of The President's House at the completion of viewing his online book. He was truly blessed.
"You can have anything you want, if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish, if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose". Abraham Lincoln
This E-book Article rating: 4 our of 5 stars - The below rating is taken from Google's Knol, a website blog for people with unique and interesting lifestyles. This e-book is also on Google Knol Blog and was awarded one of the "Top Viewed" and "Top Picked" awards from viewers around the world on Google Knol.
In memory of E. Rusty Young, Chief White House Florist. Who gave me the greatest opportunity in my life as a White House Freelance Decorator. He opened the door to the great success I have been blessed with in my life. May he rest in peace.
In memory of Nancy Clarke, who was a dear friend of mine during the Carter and Reagan Administration. Nancy was appointed by Mrs. Reagan to be the new Chief Floral Designer at The White House and remained there serving under six Presidents. As the chief floral designer to the White House, the late Nancy Clarke spent three decades lending her innate sense of color and style to the stately home of the presidents and working closely with the first ladies. Here, she arranges flowers for a visit from Queen Elizabeth II in 2007.
Formal Portrait of Frank Lazzaro in The Green Room at The White House after the Christmas Decorating of 1979 was completed. Carter Administration
He is the former White House Holiday and State Dinner "Freelance" Floral Decorator during The Ford, Carter and Reagan Administrations. His floral designs graced the dinner tables at The White House for three Presidents, The Queen of England, the Governors of the United States, an Emperior and a few Heads of State all attending one time or another, a White House State Dinner. His over-night success came quickly at the youthful age of twenty-four, (the youngest American Italian floral designer ever to hold a major position, for so many years, as a White House decorator) and remained in the presence of this elegant lifestyle career for twelve years. This e-book will introduce to you the story of former United States Army Sergeant Frank Lazzaro, from Long Island, New York turned Florist Entrepreneur for twelve years freelancing at The White House decorating the many rooms and Christmas trees for three administrations. Among his floral design credits were two State Dinners and one Formal White House Dinner for the fifty Governors of the United States, all during the Ford Administration. One of the nation's most famous and historic State Dinners was Frank's professional contribution for decorating a "White House Rose Garden Tent Reception" for The Queen of England during our country's bi-centennial celebration honoring Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip on July 7th,1976. The second State Dinner that Frank contributed with his professional assistance was The State Dinner for The Emperior of Japan at The White House given by The President and Mrs. Ford on October 2, 1975. The last of the "Big Three" dinners that Frank assisted in his position as a freelancer was the formal White House Black Tie Annual Governor's Dinner held every year in the State Dining Room at The White House in February. In the mid 1970's Frank received national recognition with a television appearance creating a holiday arrangement that he designed for one of the White House interior rooms. Viewers nationwide watched his designing techiques and creation of a duplicate White House floral design on NBC channel 4. This online book will demonstrate and display the masterpieces created at the White House more than thirty years ago by Frank Lazzaro. Enjoy this 4-star rated historic e-book from Google's Knol, a Blog for interesting stories from publishers around the world. So let's go back in time and view Frank's online book in elegant decorating from an era long gone, and lets decorate The White House again with Frank Lazzaro.
The White House Christmas decorating team in the East Room with the First Lady's Interior Designer Ted Graber, second from left, during the Reagan Administration - Frank Lazzaro is the end person on the right
The White House decorating team during the Carter Administration - Frank Lazzaro is in center next to First Lady Rosalynn Carter in the dark suit and tie.
The White House has been decking the halls for Christmas since the mid 1850s, when President Franklin Pierce first brought a tree indoors for the holidays. In the 1890s, first lady Caroline Harrison helped decorate that year's tree, and a tradition was born.
The White House Christmas tree (in spite of the rumors, there are no generic "holiday day trees" here. became official in 1929, during the Hoover administration, but it wasn't until the Kennedy administration that first ladies were charged with choosing an official decorating theme. There's been a bit of controversy to go with all of the celebration: In 1899, Americans criticized President William McKinley for even having a tree, saying that it was "un-American" given the tradition's German origins. (The Chicago Daily Tribune reported that the letters protesting the government's "Christmas tree habit" also called it "arboreal infanticide.") In 1972, President Richard Nixon fanned the flames by using the atomic symbol of peace as a tree topper instead of a traditional star. And there's the nearly annual debate about whether the White House should stick with tradition, emphasize religion, or avoid religion altogether.
Official themes have ranged from the traditional (like the "Early American" decorations that Lady Bird Johnson chose three years in a row) to the trendy (Nancy Reagan's 1982 tree, which was covered in foil-paper cones and metallic snowflakes). Jacqueline Kennedy, Barbara Bush, and Hillary Clinton all had trees featuring "The Nutcracker Suite."
A Christmas Arrangement designed by Frank Lazzaro for the Red Room in the White House. Christmas in the Reagan Administration.
Frank Lazzaro preparing the Christmas Decoration in The Blue Room.
Frank Lazzaro decorating the Christmas Tree in the Blue Room at The White House. Carter Administration
Frank Lazzaro decorating a mantle in the Green Room at The White House.
Frank Lazzaro preparing a table for a centerpiece display in the East Room at The White House. - Carter Administration.
In the fall of 1974 the Viet Nam war was slowly coming to an end. Soldiers became Veterans looking for work, but there was very little in employment findings. A new kind of dance music called "Disco" was born, and it became the era of white suits and looking cool for guys. The "Hippie" generation was slowly fading out from the old Woodstock era! The President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, resigned from the most powerful office on the planet just that past summer. Vice President Gerald Ford took over the reigns in the Oval Office, and the country changed its course forever. It was the early seventies! The decade that would let Americans get a breath of fresh air. The dirty smell of The Viet Nam War in the air was fading away from us. The horrors of watching the six o'clock news every night of body bags leaving a U.S. military aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base was enough to make the toughest of toughest soldiers in the country shed tears. I was justdischarged from Fort Bragg and became a very active, youthful looking twenty-four year old college student, now under the G.I. bill of rights and working part time as a movie usher ( I watched the movie "2001 Space Odyssey" 720 times on the job and almost went nuts! ). I was trying to make ends meet day by day adjusting back to civilian life and just supporting my Betsy, Betsy was my light blue, flower power, daisy "peace" decal, Volkswagon Beatle Bug. She was all I had. I owned nothing else in the world. I use to say a decade of the Rosary that she will start up on those cold winter mornings, and another decade if she made it back to Richmond Hill, the place that I called "Home Sweet Home". It worked all the time! I came out of Fort Bragg flat broke and jobless, ( my old job went belly-up! ) and nothing was worst than having both these perils at once, nobody wanted to know me! My Brother Richie use to say, "Mr. Fortune has a lady friend that will visit you more offen called Misfortune!" Thank God, be it ever so humble, there was no place like home to go to after Army discharged. The Army must have forgotten to inform me about unemployment benefits for returning G. I's, if their place of work went bankrupted after your military discharged. Just like thousands of other GI's in those days, we all just loved to party with the bucks on payday. And payday was once a month! On weekends after military discharged, I'll be selling artifical floral designs out of the front trunk of my Betsy (because the engine was in the rear, remember?) at the old Valley Stream Drive In Theater Weekend Fea Market and the Commack Arena, in Commack Long Island, N.Y. Thank you Mother Cabrini, for me living home, my parents were my landlords and my rent was dirt cheap, otherwise, I would be bunking my bed back at Fort Bragg for another three years of service. My Mother had a policy, on rent day, she would just put her open hand out to me, kept silent, and I would place in her hand whatever funds I could afford that month. I loved this policy very much and always tried to make a great effort to place in her hands as much money as possible! Sometimes there will be just a note saying, "Be an angel and hold this check"! Back home on the block, I had miss the Army and my Army buddies a great deal. Back in Richmond Hill, the gang I hung out with in high school and some from my teenage years were no more in sight. The drugs of the late 60's took many of them to the pearly gates way before their time. Some also were "serving time". Smokey Park looked more like a memorial when I made an inspection of the neighborhood's "Old hangout" handball court upon returning home. Only a handful rose to the ranks of great success in their lives. I also took a good path in life, the straight path, "The Narrow Gate". I remember that from the Gospel of The Sermon on the Mount. Anyone can just enter through the wide gate, that is the easy way, it's the narrow gate that is hard to enter. You must work at it.
Sergeant Frank Lazzaro's first airborne jump. Fort Bragg, N.C. 1970.
HOW MANY ROOMS ARE THERE IN THE WHITE HOUSE? There is a total of 132 rooms in the White House. Of these, thirty-five are bathrooms; eleven are bedrooms; three kitchens; three dining rooms; one library; one bowling alley; and one movie theater. Twenty-eight rooms have fireplaces.
"I have been truly blessed to arrive here, at such a youthful age." Frank Lazzaro's statement to Pia Lindstrom, reporter for Channel 4 Newsroom, during a television interview. Christmas Eve 1974.
Frank adding the finishing touches to an antique Victorian doll house under the White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room - Reagan Administration.
When The White House called my home on that beautiful September Fall morning back in 1974, my Mother answered the phone and had no idea that I submitted a letter to the First Lady stating my opinion of how I think the White House should be decorated at Christmastime. I was in charge of getting a Christmas Tree in the barracks and decorating it at Fort Bragg - so the guys named me the "Official" Christmas tree decorator of Fort Bragg Headquarters and Headquarters Company 2nd Batallion. They even nominated me to ask The General of Fort Bragg if I could decorate his tree. I always said, "If it majority of the soldiers agreed upon something, it was government official!" ( Not a bad idea - but I aimed a bit higher ) That was the only experience I had, and I put that in the letter to the First Lady. Never lied about your background experience, it will come back and haunt you someday. Of course I had help from my bunkmates decorating that four foot live blue spruce tree with our army green socks and beer cans in the barracks. It was the perfect touch coming from a group of military air-borne troopers, I wish Youtube was around in those days. Well, getting back to the phone call, when Mom pick up the phone that autumn morning, and the voice said "Im calling from The White House", she though it was the "white house" down the block with the dog barking in the front yard. What do you expect from an old-fashioned, home loving Italian Mom who never traveled pass Jersey City in her whole life? The voice said "No, not that house," in a slow southern tone! She immediately said, "Oh, then the white house on the corner, the McCourt and Trudden Funeral Home?" - The voice on the telephone replied back, "No, not that house, either". She was about to hang up, but took the man's number and said "my son will call you back, they are the only two white houses we have around here", she said it rapidly thinking it was a hoax with one of my friends. They always played jokes on the telephone to me and my family when I was a teenager growing up. After I was informed by my Mother about this telephone call, and what she said on the telephone to the White House representative, I almost went into a state of shock! A few minutes later, I regained my balance, told her about the letter I mailed to the First Lady, and made the call back immediately! It was Mr. Rusty "Elmer" Young, The Chief White House Floral Decorator, a very well liked man that was known nationwide. A professional gentleman that I own so much to! He was the Landscaper for the grounds when Harry Truman was President, and then became the very first White House Chief Floral Designer during the Kennedy Administration. He was a real southern Gentleman that I held the greatest respect for in those days. Before that position was open, Mr. Young once told me that they use to travel to the florist every morning to get the flowers for the White House or have them delivered everyday from the surrounding flower wholesalers in the Washington D.C area. Rusty once told me a short story thirty years ago when we were having a lunch break in The White House Dining Room. He said one day he was placing fresh flowers in a vase in the family quarters on the second floor during the Truman Administration. He was standing in the Hallway outside the Truman's bedroom. He notice the President coming down the hallway and started to sweep up quickly some of the cut green foliages that dropped on the elegant red carpet. President Truman looked at him, smiled, turned to Rusty and with a low voice told him to "Just sweep it under the carpet, The First Lady will never see it there".
A Victorian Christmas Tree - In this photo above, the tree was decorated by a freelance group that supplied all the decorations from the Victorian era. Frank's contribution in this tree was to assist this group with decorating the tree upon their request when needed. The credit for decorating this Victorian Tree belongs to the group called upon from the White House to decorate that Blue Room Christmas Tree in the Carter Administration. The lower bottom right insert is the First Lady trying on a Victorian Hat decoration.
Frank decorating the Blue Room Christmas Tree - Carter Administration
The Chief Florist informed me on the telephone that the First Lady had received my letter and was very please she did. She wanted me to be part of the decorating for the White House Christmas Tree that year, and the rest is history. After an intensed interview, secret service investigations, security investigations, and family checked backgrounds on every member of my family, I was requested by The White House to decorate The Christmas Tree, I stayed on for 12 years as The White House Freelance Christmas Decorator. This was a non salaried position, but the rewards I received from major newspapers, national magazine articles and television appearances of requesting me for interviews and photographs was worth their weight in gold for my personal life resume and florist shoppe business in advertising. The request for me to appear as a guest speaker for organizations and clubs around the nation and on Long Island was in very high demand. Almost over-night, my little one man florist business out of my volkswagon trunk at the fea market grew to a 300 square foot flower shop and into a three store chain, with locations in Floral Park, Franklin Square and Mineola Long island. With over fifth-teen employees, five trucks and weddings every weekend, we were one of the most popular florist in the state. I received "very nice competsation" for my lectures in many clubs and school organizations. It was only during the Christmas holidays and special state dinners that I was summons to The White House for my professional skills. In this book I will explain the floral designs that I have created during those years at The White House and will explain the components involved so you can also create something very similar for your own cozy little mansion.
Army Photos of Frank Lazzaro - Top left: First Airborne Jump at Fort Bragg, Top right: SGT Frank Lazzaro at Fort Bragg. Bottom left: in Army fatigues, Bottom right: Jungle Training at Ft. Polk, La.
It is with great pleasure and honor to present to the people of the United States, my memoirs and most cherished photographs taken many years ago of my floral and decorating designs created at The White House during the Ford, Carter and Reagan Administrations and to share them with all Americans in this e-book. I have selected a beautiful collection of my personal photographs from the many hundreds, taken over those years, in my home library and wall of Official White House photographs of the wonderful years when I was associated with the staff as The White House Freelance Christmas Floral Decorator. With my highest respect to the Office of The President Of The United States, I have declined to place any Presidential photographs of myself with any of The Presidents and to remain those images to be in my private home library collection for my own personal gratification. Also, my peers, all the professional florist and decorators with whom I had the great pleasure and honor of working with side by side at The White House for those twelve years. ( I hope you didn't think for a minute I did this job all alone? ) With all my respect to their privacy, I have refrained from placing any photo images from my home photo library of these talented people with me or by themselves in White House photographs on this e-book. All but three! I have selected just three public official White House Photographs, from my home library, of myself and First Lady Rosalynn Carter, First Lady Betty Ford, and First Lady Nancy Reagan. They presented in this e-book as an official testimony to the world of my true credentials as a White House Decorator. Also a White House photograph of the State Dinner for the Queen of England and Prince Phillip, July 7, 1976. I was present there on that lovely historic morning in The White House. I saw it all, and witnessed history being made on that day at 11:45am when the Queen of England and Prince Phillip decended from the Presidential hellicopter on the great South Lawn of The White House. I was watching the whole welcoming reception inside through a White House window on the State Floor, along with my peers. I also acknowledge that these facts I am writing about in my e-book are all true statements and White House photographs and all the images on this website is of me, Frank Lazzaro, from twenty four through thirty six years of age, and taken at The White House during those years of my service in my profession as a florist.
Frank decorating a Christmas tree with garland and lights in the Cross Hall at The White House.
Frank Lazzaro with First Lady Rosalynn Carter on the State Floor (The Cross Hall) at The White House during the Carter Administration.
The photograph with Mrs. Carter, which is on this website, was taken during my working hours as a professional decorator in The Cross Hall (the very large center hallway connecting all the rooms on the main floor of the White House). It is an image of myself in working attire, with sleeves up, during my laboring skills by the side of The First Lady of the United States. A photograph taken by The White House photographer and given to me many years ago and one that I am so very proud of, and is held very close to my heart. It will appear on this e-book as you read on. A photograph of Mrs. Ford is also on this website inspecting the floral arrangements for the State Dinner Tent Reception in The White House Rose Garden for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. These are the only official White House Photographs with The First Ladies that I will display for public viewing. This online book is about "Frank Lazzaro", and the memoirs of my professional background designing floral arrangements and decorations in The White House during the Christmas season for three administrations. I favor no public office, official or party in this e-book. The topics in this e-book will always be on Christmas decorating during the Ford, Carter and Reagan Administrations, the State Dinner floral designs, the room decor and history of each room that my floral arrangements graced at The White House. Each room will be shown with myself in it decorating or placing a floral arrangement on a mantle, table or fixture. A brief detail description and video of each room that I have participated in the decorating has been included in each chapter so that you may endure a visualization of the interior background involved with the floral decor..... All the photographs on this website have been taken at The White House many years ago and is the sole property and ownership of Frank Lazzaro, and no copies of these images may be made for public viewing without the owner's permission. Please respect this e-book and my request to keep this within the e-book and website of Frank Lazzaro.com. On the final chapter of this e-book is the conclusion of this story of my twelve years experience decorating The White House for Christmas. In the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy some White House photographs, and some "very interesting" history that I know of, and a part of my life that is now just a "golden memory" that will be with me until my death. (The first photo above on this webpage was taken of me after the holiday arrangements were all completed in The Green Room during the Carter Administration). This e-book is dedicated to the many wonderful people in my life that changed my world completely and made this e-book possible. My beloved Mother and Father, may they both rest in peace, and also to Mr. E. "Rusty" Young, the Chief White House Florist in that era and all my wonderful peers back in that time. The great professional florists and decorators that labored with me side by side for those twelve years decorating The White House, sometimes working in the middle of the night on a State Dinner for the next evening. I have endured such great knowledge and talented skills in this profession from all of them. I was the youngest and the "new kid on the block" in those first years, and the staff welcomed me with open arms. Some of the "old timers" that I teamed up with called me "The Kid". I worked there with one senior florist that was up there in age. He was a florist with over 50 years experience. We had such a good relationship together working hard side by side and sometimes sharing a laugh or two while decorating the tree. He use to call me a young "whipper snapper"! He did magic as a hobby in his flower shop and performed to his customers, he use to tell me so many stories about that. I use to tease him and one day I said to him, "Rex, tell me about your first wedding centerpiece? How did it look on the table at the Wedding of Cana?" All but one, at this writing, have retired from The White House now. Many have passed on. For security reasons and to respect her privacy, I refrain from giving any additional information on this very talanted designer who is still active at The White House. All I know is that I had the great pleasure of working with her in those days, and had the highest respect for her professional skills. These fond memories of all those great people are engraved in my heart forever! Also, for security reasons, I am withholding any detailed locations and descriptions of the florist room and any other department that I have used in order to accomplish my designing skills in floral arrangements and table displays at The White House. Only the public viewing main floor of the Blue Room, Red Room, Green Room, East Room, State Dining Room and Cross Hall, will be the only major rooms I will describe to you in detail in this e-book. these are all the major rooms that I have labored in with my professional floral skills during the three administrations.
A brief statement about Military Service. There is no greater experience in life a man can receive than being a soldier in the United States Army. My greatest glory in life was there. My infantry training at Fort Polk, combat training at Fort Jackson, Medical Supply Training at Fort Sam Houston, private airborne training while stationed in Fort Bragg and just being a good soldier, made me a very proud American. If I can turn the clock back to those days again, and if I had a choice between my fame and success at The White House or serving my country in the Military, I would select the military over my White House decorating years with all my national recognition for those twelve years. I shall always remember my military years, and will carry those fond memories of once being a good soldier throughout my lifetime. I loved it so.
The North Side of The White House
One of the many White House Recognition Letters from The First Lady sent to Frank Lazzaro
A White House Christmas Party Invitation sent to Frank Lazzaro
Frank with First Lady Rosalynn Carter at a White House Christmas Party. The East Room - Carter Administration
Frank with First Lady Betty Ford at a White House Afternoon Christmas Party in The East Room. Ford Administration
A bit of humor is shared between Frank Lazzaro and First Lady Rosalynn Carter at a White House Christmas Party.
Frank on a ladder decorating the large Christmas Tree in the East Room.
NOTE: Frank also attended one Christmas party given by Mrs. Reagan during the 1980's, but due to a large attendance of guest, photographs were not permitted for this gala event, as requested by the White House Chief Usher.
Frank Lazzaro with The President and Mrs. Carter on the State Floor in The White House during the Christmas Decorating of 1979.
Frank Lazzaro with The President and Mrs. Carter at The White House - Christmas 1979
The South Side of The White House "The Great Lawn"
Frank Lazzaro with Dorothy Temple, Chief White House Floral Decorator during the Reagan Administration - The East Room
There were two very important and wonderful people that I have had the great honor and pleasure of working under at The White House during those years. The first is Mr. Rusty Young, The Chief White House Floral Designer, a man that started as a landscape designer in the Truman Administration, he once informed me. A real "Southern Gentleman", a person that treated me as if I was a member of the First Family. So respectful and polite to everyone who worked around him. He was a dear friend to me, I miss his friendship very much so. The second is Ms. Dorothy "Dottie" Temple, a very dear friend of mine back in those days, a very elegant, charming lady and a true professional floral designer, who was so highly respected by all in The Mansion and in the florist industry on a national level and who later became The Chief White House Floral Designer. For my twelve years at The White House, I had the great pleasure of working side by side with these two great professionals during the holidays and on State Dinners, and learned the art of true elegant White House designing with being in their presence. It was a great honor for me when this photo was taken of myself and Dottie back in the Reagan Administration. I will never forget that afternoon on a beautiful December day in Washington. ............There were also other wonderful people in the floral business that I had the honor of working side by side with for many years at The White House, and became good friends with them. I had the great pleasure of working with Ms. Nancy Clarke, who later became Chief White House Florist after Dotty Temple resigned. Nancy and I started almost the same time, she remained on for thirty years as the head of the department. I take my hat off to Nancy, a very professional and talanted florist. Also, another dear friend of mine, Ms. "Frankie" Shelton of Houston -Texas, a very elegant professional florist instructor with excellent floral designing, warm personality and a smile to match. Always a pleasure to be in her company. Then there was Ms. Grace Rymer, a famous southern writer and professional floral designer who wrote many books and articles about the floral industry. Also in this class of friends I can never forget my dear friend and co-worker, Dick Salo, who together him and I labored at The White House for many days and nights during the holidays in the Ford Administration. Dick is gone now, but the memories of our working together will always be with me. May his soul rest in peace. So many wonderful, talented people that have come into my life being here. .............Let me sum this up in a few good words about my wonderful years at The White House. These golden twelve Christmases at The White House is now a beautiful memory. It will never come to past again. Those historic and happy years will be with me always, what is left, is the enjoyment I receive when sharing them with others. The lectures at clubs and schools during those years, How I loved it so! If only I could turn back time to this era once again. Notice in this photograph the very elegant large red candles on the mantle inserted in crystal clear large glass cylinders graced with assorted holiday greenery and big red velvet bows. This was one of the most beautiful Christmas mantles that we have ever designed in the White House. It truly was a masterpiece display when completed. I could glance at this beautiful mantle display all day and imagine Christmases of the past in this room at The White House, and how it was back then.
President Kennedy's Portrait in the Cross Hall at Christmastime
A very special thank you to the three Chief White House Floral Decorators that I had the great honor of working as a team player under their great leadership and supervision. I have been blessed by Their excellent professionalist in this industry. Mr. E. "Rusty" Young, Ms. Dorothy Temple and Ms. Nancy Clarke.
Frank Lazzaro's first Christmas at The White House. Decorating a table display with red poinsettias in The Cross Hall - Ford Administration
"It was God's plan that I should be here at The White House, in this era of time - laboring my craft with all my heart, I shall always remember these days, it was my greatest joy in life". Frank Lazzaro's statement to The New York Times during a holiday interview - Christmas in the Ford Administration
"I prayed to the Angels in Heaven many nights for great success to arrive, never did I expect this blessing from God, so quickly". Frank in an interview statement with Walter Kaner, Reporter, The Long Island Press. The First Christmas Decorating in 1974 - Ford Administration.
This article was written in the last year of the Carter Presidency during the Christmas season of 1979 in The New York Daily News. The photo of myself, an aid and the President and Mrs. Carter was taken in The Cross Hall. My father was on his death bed in Jamaica Hospital when I delivered this photograph for him to see it. He smiled and was filled with great pride in his son, the next day my father died. I will never forget this event.
During the early republic, the White House used flowers sparingly, at first only in the summer months when in season. Wax fruit as well as wax, silk and paste porcelain flowers were displayed in the French porcelain and gilt bronze vases purchased by President James Monroe for the White House in 1815. By the mid-1830s, a series of greenhouses were begun on the west side of the White House above the West Colonnade; they continued to be added to on the west, occupying much of the space of the present West Wing. The greenhouses allowed year-round use of potted plants and cut flowers in the White House. At their zenith, the White House greenhouses supplied thousands of potted plants to the White House.
The 1902 renovations of the White House removed the greenhouses, and constructed the West Wing and East Wing. Flowers were brought from nearby government greenhouses. With the advent of plane transportation, flowers began to arrive from distant destinations: Florida, Colorado for First Lady Mamie Eisenhower's favored pink carnations, and southern California.
Until the administration of John F. Kennedy, floral arrangements at the White House had been extremely formal in style. Guided by advice from her horticulturalist friend Rachel Lambert Mellon First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began to use looser and more relaxed arrangements, many based upon 16th-century Flemish floral and fruit still life China dishes from previous administrations were used as vases, including two 18th-century dessert coolers used by the Madisons. The White House collection of vermeil tableware, previously only on display in the Vermeil Room, was also utilised for arrangements. The position of Chief Floral Designer was established, and Rusty Young was the first to occupy the position, continuing to work into the Johnson and Nixon administrations.
In addition to the ongoing production of fresh-cut floral displays for the White House, the Chief Floral Designer oversees the annual holiday decoration of the house.
First Lady Betty Ford inspecting The White House Christmas Tree in The Blue Room, decorated with the assistance of Frank Lazzaro and a crew of about ten decorators.
Frank Lazzaro decorating his "First" Christmas Tree in the Blue Room at The White House, Dec. 5th, 1974 at age 24 years old. Tree was cut down and donated from a landowner in Michigan. Ornaments made by Appalachian women and senior citizens groups. (Photo shown above right is First Lady Betty Ford inspecting Frank's completed decorating task.
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