A Setting for Diplomacy
The John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room was designed to resemble a Philadelphia drawing room at the time of the Continental Congress, which began meeting in 1774 and two years later would declare independence from Great Britain. Its furnishings are representative of the colonies at that time, showcasing the exceptional decorative arts that would have been familiar to the delegates in their own homes.
Many objects in this room were selected for their associations with the men who served the nation in Congress and abroad during the 1770s and 1780s, as statesmen and as diplomats. This reception room welcomes guests with its colorful elegance, comfortable seating, and spaces for conversation. It is named for John Quincy Adams, minister to four nations in Europe, secretary of state during the administration of James Monroe, and successor to Monroe as the nation’s sixth president.
The room’s hand-carved woodwork, wall paneling, fireplace mantel, and architectural details were designed by Edward Vason Jones. A classical architect, Jones was inspired by two 18th-century Georgian mansions in Philadelphia that members of the Continental Congress might have visited. Mount Pleasant, high above the Schuylkill River, was said by John Adams—the father of John Quincy Adams—to be “the most elegant seat in Pennsylvania.”1Quoted in Mount Pleasant website, parkcharms.com/mount-pleasant/#interior (accessed March 14, 2020). Adams visited in 1775. Cliveden, a stone masonry mansion in Germantown, was at the time a summer retreat for the Chew family.
The room holds a great concentration of objects associated with the famous men who shaped the new nation in the revolutionary era. On display are a silver coffeepot made for President John Adams by Paul Revere, George Washington’s Chinese export porcelain, and Thomas Jefferson’s architect’s table. Prominently displayed are portraits of John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa Catherine Adams, that descended in the Adams family and were gifted to preside over this room in 1975. Other portraits include those of George Washington and Martha Washington, attributed to the Philadelphia artist Rembrandt Peale, and a large portrait by Gilbert Stuart of John Jay, one of the representatives in Paris who negotiated the 1783 treaty that ended the Revolution and secured American independence from Great Britain.
This Treaty of Paris is, in fact, a central theme of the room. The very desk on which it was signed is one of this room’s great treasures. Another is an unfinished painting, after Benjamin West, of the American peace commissioners who negotiated the treaty, including John Jay, John Adams, Henry Laurens, Benjamin Franklin, and his grandson, William Temple Franklin. This painting is centered above the fireplace mantel, amid carvings designed specially to frame it.