Diplomatic Reception Rooms

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John BlatteauAllan Greenberg

A Scholar of History

A master of classicism in architecture, Edward Vason Jones (1909–1980) derived his vision for the Diplomatic Reception Rooms from a lifetime of study of historical sources. The craftsmen Jones personally trained and employed in his projects were highly skilled in their trades of traditional wood carving and plasterwork. The Diplomatic Reception Rooms reflect and honor authentic early American interiors thanks to his extensive research and tireless dedication.

The memory of Edward Vason Jones and his contributions are memorialized in the hall that bears his name.

Jones was not always an architect. Born in Albany, Georgia, he studied dentistry in Chicago but soon turned to a restoration project of a plantation near his hometown. Fascinated, he taught himself architecture and joined an Atlanta firm before a World War II assignment had him designing warships for the U.S. Navy. After the war he established his own practice and was soon a nationally recognized authority on period restorations in the neoclassical style. He oversaw the restoration of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art hired him to re-create its 19th-century rooms.

In the 1960s Jones volunteered his architectural and interior design services to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, where a growing collection of fine and decorative arts called for more elegant settings. After visiting the rooms at the State Department, President Richard M. Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon asked for Jones’s assistance at the White House. Again he volunteered his services. His period rooms were praised by four presidents and first ladies, four secretaries of state, and curators, historians, and fellow architects across the country.

The Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room, U.S. Department of State
When the Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room reopened after its transformation by Edward Vason Jones, the New York Times called it “the finest Palladian room in North America.” It was considered by Jones himself to be the triumph of his career.

In 1979 Edward Vason Jones was awarded the Department of State’s Certificate of Appreciation for Public Service. Soon after his death, the arrival hall in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms was named in his honor. His plans for the rest of rooms were carried forward by other architects, one of whom said that Jones was “able to enter into the mind and almost become the hand of an eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century architect.” That is what makes his work “so special.”1Allan Greenberg, quoted in Jonathan L. Fairbanks, introduction to Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State (New York: Rizzoli, 2003), 29–30.

“Thomas Jefferson set the stage and standards for the architecture in the City of Washington as the ‘new Rome’ on the Potomac, and James Hoban and Benjamin Latrobe created the President’s House in 1792. Since then, many fine architects and designers have worked on this American landmark, but Edward Vason Jones’s contributions were exceptional, and in the twentieth century, when classicism has been sadly neglected, he was an inspiration.”
Clem Conger — Founding Curator


Rooms By This Architect

The Dolley Madison Powder Room

The Entrance Hall

The Edward Vason Jones Memorial Hall

The Gallery

The John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room

The Martha Washington Ladies Lounge

The Passageway

The Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room

The Dolley Madison Powder Room
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The Entrance Hall
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The Edward Vason Jones Memorial Hall
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The Gallery
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The John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room
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The Martha Washington Ladies Lounge
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The Passageway
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The Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room
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