The Passageway was designed by the architect Edward Vason Jones to lead visitors into the Gallery of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Its architecture was inspired by Woodford, a fine mid-18th-century mansion in Philadelphia. The home, once a summer residence, is notable for the proportion and balance that are characteristic of the architectural style called Georgian, after the kings of England. In the passageway, the detailed carvings on the ceiling and pilasters recall the classical architecture of Greece and Rome on which the Georgian style was modeled.
The Passageway is lined with paintings that portray historic New England, beginning with the landing of the Pilgrims and including views of Connecticut and Niagara Falls. A tall case clock from Connecticut, made in the year of American independence, 1776, plays six different popular tunes from that time.
Adjacent to the clock is a large library bookcase from Charleston, South Carolina, that displays early silver produced by the silversmiths of Baltimore and Washington. Most notable among them is a small silver box featuring the Great Seal of the United States on its cover. This is a skippet, a box made specially to protect the wax seal on important official documents and international treaties. Also on display is a silver coffee urn that was presented by James Monroe to the sea captain who transported him across the Atlantic to Norfolk, Virginia, in late 1807. Monroe had been serving as U.S. minister in London and was shortly to be named secretary of state. A pitcher in the bookcase is associated with another secretary of state, Daniel Webster, who concluded an important treaty with Great Britain in 1842. Finally, an urn and salver by the well-known silversmith Samuel Kirk & Son showcase a decorative technique called repoussé, in which the silver is hammered on the reverse to create raised designs.
- The Passageway demonstrates the architectural proportions and balance typical of the Georgian style.
- A rendering of the key block in the Passageway arch by architect Edward Vason Jones.
- The east wall of the Passageway by Edward Vason Jones.