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.
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.
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.
- The carved fireplace mantel in the John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room designed by architect Edward Vason Jones.
- Carved Mantel Drawing, Edward V. Jones & Associates Architects, Albany, Georgia, ca. 1972.
- A drawing of a carved floral swag for the Adams Room mantel. Edward V. Jones & Associates Architects, Albany, Georgia, 1972.