Furnishing the Building

Member office/tiles/non-collection/c/cannon-member-office-web.xml
Image courtesy of Library of Congress

Member's offices included furniture for meetings, storage, desk work and comfortable Turkish armchairs.


Combination closet/tiles/non-collection/c/combo closet.xml
Image courtesy of Library of Congress Combination closets accommodated a variety of storage needs, providing book shelves, file drawers, and hanging space for clothing.
Irvine Lenroot/tiles/non-collection/2/2008_062_002.xml
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Rep. Irvine Lenroot makes good use of his roll top Member's desk in this 1917 photograph. The leather upholstered, swiveling desk chair seen here was referred to as the Aldrich chair.
This new modern building called for practical modern furnishings. But Congress also stipulated that the furniture chosen for the office building was to reflect the stately nature of the House. These demands were balanced in simply designed and well-constructed pieces, made with high quality materials. The project’s specifications included that the furniture must be constructed of the “very best quality Cuban or Mexican mahogany, specifically selected for even texture and for uniformity of color and figure” and that the upholstery must be “French finished, hand-buffed leather or its equal.” Machined details were also out of the question. All carving was to be done by hand, “executed with spirit and care and left so as to show the tool marks.” Details on the joints and construction were also included, and it was expected, overall, that “all construction be of the very best cabinet workmanship throughout.”

With more than 400 rooms to be fitted, several cabinet makers were engaged for the project. Gimbel Brothers of New York made the conference tables, which were embellished only with fluted legs and a glossy French-polished surface. John Wanamaker and Co. was chosen to supply, among other elements, the Arts and Crafts style rolltop Member’s desks, various chairs, and the “combination cabinets,” essentially a portable closet that could accommodate books, clothing, and papers. The “Turkish” chairs—easy chairs with decoratively tufted and pleated leather upholstery—were supplied by the Julius Lansburgh Company of Washington, D.C. After more than 100 years, some of these desks, office chairs, tables, and Turkish chairs continue to furnish congressional offices.

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