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Built in 1824 as a residence for the first surgeon general of the U.S. Army, the elegant Blair House takes its name from Francis Preston Blair, a newspaper publisher and advisor to Andrew Jackson whose family owned the property for more than a century. Since 1942, it has been an elegant retreat for foreign heads of state and other visiting dignitaries, served as a temporary White House for Harry Truman, and is often the accommodation for presidents-elect the night before inauguration.
Now a complex of four connected townhouses, its museum-quality collection of fine and decorative arts includes furnishings that reflect American Federal, English Regency, and Victorian tastes; paintings by American masters including Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, Thomas Moran, and John Singer Sargent; 18th- and 19th-century English and Chinese export porcelain; and important American glass and silver.
Candace Shireman, Blair House’s curator, recounts the intriguing history of the house on Lafayette Square as she offers an armchair tour of this impressive setting for important social and ceremonial aspects of American diplomacy.