Diplomatic Reception Rooms

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State

The Secretaries of State TerraceThe James Madison State Dining Room
The James Monroe Room was designed by Walter Macomber, a renowned architect who supervised the historic preservation of both Colonial Williamsburg and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Architectural Tradition

In 1983, the architect Walter M. Macomber designed the James Monroe State Reception Room, together with the James Madison State Dining Room, to form a suite of rooms that might be used for small receptions and dinners. Both Madison and Monroe had been secretaries of state before they were presidents. Both were from Virginia, and the architecture of this room is modeled in the Federal style of Virginia’s plantation mansions that would have been familiar to them.

The James Monroe State Reception Room before and after its architectural transformation

The fireplace mantel in the Monroe Room is from the early 19th century. It sits in a recess that is framed by paired Doric columns. Above the fireplace, in the place of honor, is a framed oil portrait of Monroe, painted from life by Thomas Sully in 1829. Another Monroe piece in the room is a mahogany box with four lead-glass decanters; Monroe’s name is inscribed in the attached brass plaque.

The James Monroe State Reception Room elevation The James Monroe State Reception Room

Walter Macomber’s vision for the south elevation of this room from drawing to full architectural realization.

Eagle Motif

A special feature of this room is the motif of the American eagle, which can be seen in cabinet work, decorative arts, and the Chinese export porcelain on display. The American bald eagle has been a symbol of the nation since 1782, when it was selected as the central image in the Great Seal of the United States adopted by Congress. The eagle signifies power and authority, with arrows of war in its left talons and the olive branch of peace in its right talons. Because of its association with the Great Seal, the American eagle was a popular patriotic symbol during the Federal period, the years when Monroe was secretary of state and president. Altogether, about 250 eagles can be seen in the furnishings of the James Monroe State Reception Room.

Virtual Tour

The James Monroe State Reception Room
Tour this Room

The Architect

Walter Macomber
Walter Mayo Macomber was one of the deans of restoration architecture and built a national reputation for his renovations of some of the nation’s most treasured historic properties.
The Work of Walter Macomber

Named in Honor of

James Monroe
James Monroe served as Secretary of State during the War of 1812, and in 1817 became President, ushering in the “Era of Good Feelings” with his leadership.
Read the Biography
Portrait of James Monroe
Portrait of James Monroe
Casimir Gregory Stapko after John Vanderlyn, 1949

Objects in This Room

Federal Inlaid Mahogany Secretary Bookcase

Federal Inlaid Mahogany Secretary Bookcase

Appleton, [?]
ca. 1795-1810
wood; mahogany; eastern white pine
Federal Inlaid and Figured Mahogany Linen Press

Federal Inlaid and Figured Mahogany Linen Press

Allison, Michael
ca. 1800-1810
wood; mahogany; mahogany veneer; eastern white pine; yellow-poplar; satinwood veneer
Federal Inlaid Mahogany Sideboard

Federal Inlaid Mahogany Sideboard

Bankson, John
ca. 1785
wood; mahogany; mahogany veneers; satinwood; yellow-poplar; white oak
Portrait Bust of James Monroe

Portrait Bust of James Monroe

Sully, Thomas
1829
oil on canvas mounted on board, in the original gilt frame
Federal Carved Mahogany Pembroke Table

Federal Carved Mahogany Pembroke Table

Moses, Stephen
ca. 1808-1818
wood; mahogany; mahogany veneer; soft maple; eastern white pine; yellow-poplar
Chinese Export Porcelain Orange Fitzhugh Eagle-Decorated Hot Water Dish

Chinese Export Porcelain Orange Fitzhugh Eagle-Decorated Hot Water Dish

Unknown
ca. 1815
ceramic; porcelain with overglaze polychrome enamels
Ten Chinese Export Porcelain Orange Fitzhugh Eagle-Decorated Dinner Wares

Ten Chinese Export Porcelain Orange Fitzhugh Eagle-Decorated Dinner Wares

Unknown
ca. 1815
ceramic; porcelain
Federal Eglomise and Giltwood Looking Glass

Federal Eglomise and Giltwood Looking Glass

Unknown
ca. 1800-1815
wood; eastern white pine; glass
Chinese Export Porcelain Teabowl Made for the American Market

Chinese Export Porcelain Teabowl Made for the American Market

Unknown
ca. 1790
ceramic; porcelain
Federal Inlaid and Figured Mahogany Secretary Bookcase

Federal Inlaid and Figured Mahogany Secretary Bookcase

Allison, Michael
ca. 1805-1810
wood; cherry; mahogany veneers; satinwood; basswood; eastern white pine; southern yellow pine
American Classical Figured Mahogany Sofa Table

American Classical Figured Mahogany Sofa Table

Seymour, Thomas
ca. 1810-1825
wood; mahogany; mahogany veneer; soft maple; eastern white pine
Late 18th Century Turned Horn Cup

James Madison's Turned Horn Drinking Cup

Unknown
ca. 1780-1800
bone; horn
French Porcelain Coffee Cup and Saucer from Dolley Madison's Service

French Porcelain Coffee Cup and Saucer from Dolley Madison's Service

Blancheron, Etienne Jean Louis
ca. 1792-1807
ceramic; porcelain, gilt
Portrait of Marquis de Lafayette

Portrait of Marquis de Lafayette

Phalipon, Adolphe
1825
oil on canvas
Assembled Pair of Chinese Export Porcelain Pistol-Handled Urns and Covers

One from an Assembled Pair of Chinese Export Porcelain Pistol-Handled Urns and Covers

Unknown
ca. 1815-1820
ceramic; porcelain