On May 7, 2007, archaeologists uncovered the partial foundations of the bow window that George Washington added to the south side of the State Dining Room in 1790. Today, when we see the President deliver a speech from his desk in the Oval Office, we are seeing a cultural echo of this three-windowed bow from the President's House in Philadelphia.
Partial foundation of the bow window, with an artist's overlay of the whole, and the Great Seal of the United States in the approximate location in which George Washington and John Adams each stood as President to receive visitors. Because of this archaeology, we know that Washington's bow had a curved exterior, and was the full width of the State Dining Room — about 21 feet. Laying two stories of brick in a curve would have been a tour de force for the mason, Mr. Wallace.
Washington added the bow window to the south end of the State Dining Room to create a formal ceremonial space in which the public would meet the President.
Lansdowne portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1796
For his Tuesday afternoon levees (audiences) and when meeting foreign dignitaries, Washington dressed as he is shown here. The background in this portrait is imaginary and is not related to the President's House. As President, John Adams continued the levees in Philadelphia, and brought the tradition to the White House.
The Philadelphia bow is echoed in the Oval Office at the White House.