Why do so many White House rooms have an elliptical 'oval' shape?

The Oval shape of rooms in the White House was chosen to accommodate a formal greeting ceremony known as a "Levee." The ceremony has its roots in the royal courts of England and particularly France.

Louis the XIVth’s Levee ceremony.

The White House Historical Association explains how it worked in America.

The levee, a tradition borrowed from the English court, was a formal occasion to allow men of prominence to meet the president. Replete with formal dress, silver buckles, and powdered hair, the event was a stiff public ceremony almost military in its starkness. Invited guests entered the room and walked over to the president standing before the fireplace and bowed as a presidential aide made a low announcement of their names. The visitor then stepped back to his place. After fifteen minutes the doors were closed and the group would have assembled in a circle. The president would then walk around the circle, addressing each man by his name from memory with some pleasantry or studied remark of congratulation, which might have a political connotation. He bowed, but never shook hands. When he had rounded the circle, the president returned to his place before the mantel and stood until, at a signal from an aide, the guests went to him, one by one, bowed without saying anything, and left the room.

George Washington ordered the bowed walls that charecterize the three oval shaped rooms on the South side of the White House residence: the Diplomatic Reception Room, the Blue Oval room on the State Floor and the Yellow Oval Room on the third floor expressly for the Levee.

But, the ceremony was only briefly used. The practice was not loved by John Adams, the White House’s first resident. While Adams accepted the reasoning behind the Levee, an efficient way to grant wider access to the President in a manner consistent with his station, he didn't disguise his personal distaste for it. In a letter to his wife Abigail, Adams said simply:

I hate Levees…

The Levee was promptly abolished by Thomas Jefferson, who saw the ritualized grander of the ceremony as uncomfortably close to the trappings of monarchy from which the young nation had just fought a revolution to divorce itself. The oval shape nevertheless was reprised in the design of the iconic President’s office when the West Wing was built in 1909. The shape of the Oval Office serves no formal purpose except as a homage to the oval rooms of the White House residence, reinforcing the sense of awe for the power wielded within its cornerless walls.

This information was taken from Quora. Click here to view the original post.

Have you ever wondered about this? Was the answer surprising or not?

#History #Quora


What are your thoughts on this subject?
Roberta Hall
I always thought it was because the government can’t cut corners!!!
Jul 10, 2018 4:50PM
Steven Aldrich
I thought it was to drive the president nuts. When he misbehaves you tell him to stand in the corner for 5 minutes
Aug 4, 2018 5:59PM
Geraldine Frances Thibeault
You can't back the president into a corner in an oval room
Aug 30, 2018 8:53PM
It’s oval because the government can cut corners!
Sep 20, 2021 9:29PM
Roberta Hall, good comment! 😂😂😂
Jun 4, 2021 7:28PM
To be truthful, I never gave it a thought! 😊👍
Jun 4, 2021 7:28PM
Ziggy Sigouin
Rooms in oval shape so the politicians run circles around us.
Dec 28, 2020 11:26PM
Sabine Dauzier
(continues) As per the intent of the Founding Fathers that every citizen be equal to all others, the oval shape precludes the formation of such knots, keeping all present on the same line all around (literally) the room, and thus equally visible to the president.
Oct 11, 2020 6:29AM
Sabine Dauzier
Hazelyn Dillon, I'll hazard a guess. Washington requested the rooms be made oval expressly for the Levee ceremony, during which the guest all stand in a circle. Corners would tend to create knots of people, pushing some behind the first line. (next)
Oct 11, 2020 6:24AM
James Stroud
good to know i f you want to be in the know....or no.
Jul 29, 2020 7:17AM
Gerald Fife
Geraldine Frances Thibeault, Exactly. That's what would drive him/her crazy.
May 28, 2019 7:52PM
Interesting story and the comments were hilarious.
Apr 24, 2019 5:03PM
karen twirly
Clever comments. I needed the laughs. Thanks!
Apr 21, 2019 5:16PM
very interesting
Apr 7, 2019 4:37PM
Interesting. Love all the funny comments💗
Apr 7, 2019 10:37AM
Cheryl McMeekin
Interesting, had no idea
Feb 24, 2019 10:44PM
Caroline Weis
Interesting information
Feb 15, 2019 12:15AM
Wally Forrester
Tony Sakalauskas, Krishna Mohan Mishra, so the crooks that live there can’t get cornered.
Dec 1, 2018 5:38PM

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