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Feature Story - November 2004

East Meets West

East Room Replica Added to Nixon Museum

Matt Construction has completed a $15 million addition to the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda. The new 47,300-sq.-ft. wing--called the Katherine B. Loker Center--doubles the size of the original museum. In addition to the new East Room replica, the enlarged museum includes additional meeting rooms and more office and library space.

By Kathy Lee Scott

The East Room of the White House has moved to Orange County.

Well, a replica of it, at least.

 
Photos by Kathy Lee Scott.
   

The room is the centerpiece of a recently completed 47,300-sq.-ft. addition to the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda. The $15 million wing-called the Katherine B. Loker Center-doubled the size of the 9-acre presidential archive and exhibit to 97,800 sq. ft.

The wing is named after Katherine B. Loker, a major museum donor honoring the 37th U.S. president, who served from 1968-74 and died in 1994.

The 4,860-sq.-ft. flat-roofed East Room was the focal point of the grand opening during the summer. One of the late president's daughters, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, flew in from Pennsylvania to help Loker with the ribbon cutting. Nixon's other daughter, Tricia Nixon Cox, was unable to attend. Richard Nixon's widow, Pat, died in 1993.

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"It's more beautiful than I expected" Nixon Eisenhower said. "It was fun to look out the window and see palm trees." Nixon Eisenhower and her sister, Tricia Nixon Cox, lived in the White House during their father's years as president.

Tricia hosted her wedding reception in the room in 1971, and it was where Julie first met her future husband, David Eisenhower, during his grandfather's and her father's inauguration ceremony in 1957. The East Room has been called "America's grand ballroom" by some historians and authors.

Trent Anderson of Sante Fe Springs-based Matt Construction served as project manager on the structure. "We completed it on schedule to a high- quality level," he said.

Anderson said it took "attention to details to match the stones and paint of the existing building."

The East Room replica sits at the end of a new 184-ft.-long corridor designed by architect J. Patrick Allen of the Irvine office of Langdon Wilson. Allen conferred with a curator from the White House in Washington and said, "We were fortunate to get detailed drawings."

The room includes reproductions of four Rosso Collemandina marble fireplaces, three 70-light Bohemian crystal chandeliers and the hanging portraits of William McKinley, George and Martha Washington and Theodore Roosevelt. The molding along the ceiling and friezes on the panels and ceiling depict the Federalist style from the source.

The delicate, rose-colored marble is still quarried in Italy. "We could pick and choose among the available pieces for the fireplaces," Anderson said. "We chose those with the same veining and richness as the originals.

Preciosa International Inc. in the Czech Republic manufactured the chandeliers to match those hanging in the White House's East Room.

Joseph Soter, the facility manager for the Nixon Library and Birthplace, said that the illumination in the library's East Room is adjustable for energy conservation and is "better than the White House's."

The room also contains two retractable projection screens for presentations. Removable panels between its two west-side fireplaces allow the new room to be combined with the adjacent 934-sq.-ft. meeting room.

The recent expansion gives the library 7,243 -sq.-ft. of subterranean office space, 9,117- sq.- ft. of archive storage areas and a 4,460-sq.-ft. research library. Visitors enter the facility via the new 3,985-sq.-ft., sky-lit Annenberg Court pavilion, walking over an embedded facsimile of the presidential seal en route to the enlarged 1,350-sq.-ft. store/café/museum entrance. This part of the museum is named after Leonore Annenberg, widow of Nixon's ambassador of the Court of St. James, Walter Annenberg.

The new glass-lined corridor gives guests a view of the existing Tricia Nixon Rose Garden and a large reflecting pool. Emerging from this hallway are two 934-sq.-ft. meeting rooms and a 5,600-sq.-ft. exhibit hall. Three embedded display cases hold items from both the resident collection and traveling ones.

A new 932-sq.-ft. catering kitchen occupies space behind the public areas.

"After 14 years and two million visitors, this is the completion of the vision," John H. Taylor, executive director of the library foundation, said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Taylor credited Kevin Cartwright, the museum's director of institutional programming, with the idea of recreating the East Room at the library to serve as both an events venue and meeting area. He said that before the expansion, "they were opening the (former) lobby for special functions."

While retaining the appearance of the White House room, architect Allen said he used modern materials to reproduce such items as the draperies. Instead of Belgium silk for the golden-green curtains, he opted to use a synthetic material, "which lasts longer and is less expensive."

Additionally, the plans included a weatherproof, hard-wired, audio-visual box for broadcasters to plug into "instead of laying a bunch of cable," Soter said.

Outside, Allen continued the same columnar design of the existing single-story building, which is reminiscent of early California architecture, except for the exterior of the East Room, which is patterned after the White House's veneer.

 

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