AUGUST 31, 1944
WASHINGTON, Wednesday—Monday I left Hyde Park in the early morning to go down to New York City and straight on to Washington. I am only here for one day, and have come because I find that there are certain things it is wise to talk over with the housekeeper before the actual winter season begins. There has been no time this year when someone hasn't been living in the White House, and so the difficulties of cleaning and renovating an old house tax all the staff here in spite of their long experience.
I had a most interesting talk with Lorenzo S. Winslow, the White House architect, today. I learned from him the reason why it was necessary to have the White House painted white. I had always heard that the sandstone out of which it was built had become so blackened by smoke, in the War of 1812, that it was decided to paint over the smoke. I did not realize, however, that sandstone is porous enough for the smoke to have penetrated to any great depth. Mr. Winslow says he has found, in doing certain renovating on the outside, that the stone was blackened to a depth of some two inches. Naturally, painting it was the only possible thing to do.
It is a pleasure to talk to someone with Mr. Winslow's feeling for restoring whatever he can which has historical interest in the White House. His desire is to do whatever is done now in a way that will increase the historical value for the future. This is a point of view which my husband and I deeply appreciate.
It is wonderfully cool here for this season, and I am lucky to have come when the weather is so kind. In spite of the heat this summer, William Reeves, the florist, has managed to keep the little garden near the house looking very lovely. I enjoyed looking out this morning on the rose garden, and for the first time the garden by the new office wing is fully planted and looks finished again. The flower beds on the lawn down by the tennis courts are not quite so well kept as usual, since labor is hard to find. But on the whole I think the grounds are a joy to see.
The thing which pleased me most, as I came out of the gate this morning, was to find the barriers down and people walking on the side of the street nearest the White House. I think people like to get a close view of the grounds, and these barriers have prevented them for many months from doing so. Before very long, perhaps, the gates will be open again, and people can wonder around even under the porte cochere and view closely the house which belongs to all American citizens.