The Four Classicists
Clem Conger believed that a setting reflective of America’s history and founding values would make an important contribution to diplomacy. Central to his Americana Project was the architectural transformation of the rooms into period-style settings befitting their collection and purpose.
First among the architects enlisted was Edward Vason Jones (1909–1980), who volunteered his services to the Department of State from 1965 to 1980 as a public servant to his country. Jones turned to great American homes such as Monticello, Cliveden, the Powel House, Carter’s Grove, and Westover as architectural inspiration. A master of Classicism, he composed his vision for the Diplomatic Reception Rooms’ seven primary spaces from countless historical sources, working sketches, and drawings.
Contributing architects completed the suite of rooms that Jones began. Among them were Walter M. Macomber, who designed several small-scale reception and dining rooms; John Blatteau, who designed the monumental Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room; and Allan Greenberg, who designed the Treaty Room Suite.
Together these architects and the teams of talented craftsmen they hired transformed the Diplomatic Reception Rooms into authentic tableaus showcasing the outstanding collection of early American fine and decorative arts. Their work was completed by 1985.
Today, the architecture of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms — from their mahogany floors to their ornamental ceilings — make the rooms a natural extension of the historic collection that they hold. They look to the past in their design in the fervent belief that understanding, sharing, and celebrating history are fundamental to creating a successful future. In this regard, they are true architectural masterpieces, unique expressions of the American identity, and a fitting setting for the crucial work conducted within.