The 1600 Sessions

The White House Historical Association

The White House Historical Association presents The 1600 Sessions, a podcast that shares the stories behind America’s most iconic residence and office, the White House. Through conversations with historians and eyewitnesses to history, we open the doors to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - because it’s not only the President’s House, it’s the People’s House.

All Episodes

Since November 3, 1961, the White House Historical Association has served as the private partner to the White House to enrich, enhance, and promote the history of the Executive Mansion. The Association hosted a gala at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in November 2021 to celebrate our 60 year history. In this episode, White House Historical Association president Stewart McLaurin reflects on moments from the Association’s 60th Anniversary Gala with segments from the evening’s program.

Nov 23

38 min 57 sec

Thousands of people traverse historic Lafayette Park every day to get a glimpse of the White House. The park, right in the heart of the President’s Neighborhood, has a long and storied history that is largely unknown to visitors of this historic space. In this episode of the 1600 Sessions podcast, Stewart McLaurin is joined by Hilary West and Royce L. Dickerson, the narrators of the newly installed wayside exhibit markers created by the White House Historical Association in partnership with the National Park Service. West is the Executive Director for Federal Government Relations at JPMorgan Chase and Dickerson is an MBA Candidate at the University of Alabama’s Manderson Graduate School of Business.

Oct 7

26 min 35 sec

The White House is a ceremonial stage upon which our nation welcomes our most important visitors, including foreign heads of state. These State Visits often begin with an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, and the US Army Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps is a staple of those ceremonies. In this episode, Stewart McLaurin talks SGM J. Mark Reilly, Senior Enlisted Band Leader, and SGM(R) Billy White, Former Operations Sergeant Major, about the history and global work of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.

Sep 23

34 min 22 sec

On February 23, 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy launched the most historic and celebrated redesign of the White House in its history. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews the authors of “Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration and its Legacy,” James Archer Abbott and Elaine Rice Bachmann about the legacy and making of one of the most influential interior design projects in American history. 

Aug 5

43 min 55 sec

Although visitors from around the world have the opportunity to visit the White House every year, few kids have the opportunity to have the experience of their parents working in the White House. Children of White House staff get a special look at the inner workings of the Executive Mansion and some even get to know the President and First Family on a personal level. In this episode, Stewart McLaurin interviews author Giovanna McBride about her new book published by the White House Historical Association titled Gigi at the White House.

Jun 10

21 min 19 sec

Nancy Reagan was an iconic First Lady who helped shape the legacy of one of the most consequential presidencies of the 20th century. She was known for the tremendous grace, intelligence, and style that she brought to her role as First Lady and as President Reagan’s most steadfast supporter and admirer. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks with Washington Post Columnist Karen Tumulty about Nancy Reagan’s legacy and her new book The Triumph of Nancy Reagan.

May 20

1 hr 5 min

Since the laying of the cornerstone in 1792, Freemasons have played an important role in the construction and the history of the White House, with members including Irish architect James Hoban and many presidents from George Washington to Gerald Ford. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews Jason Van Dyke, Director of Communications of the Grand Lodge of Washington, DC, and Chris Ruli, the DC Grand Lodge’s Historian & Librarian, about Freemasonry and the White House.

Apr 28

51 min 53 sec

James Hoban came from humble beginnings as a young carpenter and architect in Ireland, and went on to collaborate with George Washington on the design and construction of one of the most iconic buildings in the world. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews three contributors to the Association’s new book, “James Hoban: Designer and Builder of the White House” - Dr. Christopher Moran, Merlo Kelly and Andrew McCarthy - about the architecture that inspired Hoban’s most famous work.

Mar 18

1 hr 15 min

The first White House guidebook was published in 1962 as collaboration between First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy, the new White House Historical Association, and the National Geographic Society. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks to National Geographic Society’s Senior Director of Library and Archives Renee Braden, who shares an oral history about the first guidebook, recorded with one of the people who was instrumental in its creation, Bob Breeden.

Mar 11

37 min 22 sec

In this first episode of 2021, White House Historical Association President Stewart D. McLaurin introduces the Association’s popular virtual program History Happy Hour, and shares conversations with historians, first family members, and other presidential staff about the lives of presidents and first ladies throughout American history.

Jan 29

31 min 55 sec

In this final episode of 2020, White House Historical Association President Stewart D. McLaurin has a conversation with presidential historian Michael Beschloss. They discuss the 220 years of White House history and the Association’s work over the past 60 years to support conservation, preservation, and acquisitions and to make the White House accessible and relatable to Americans today.

Dec 2020

45 min 41 sec

Since the James Madison presidency, St. John’s Church has been an important part of the life of Lafayette Square and of the nation at large. In this special Thanksgiving episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart D. McLaurin interviews the Rector of St. John’s Church, Rev. Rob Fisher, about the many historic ties that it shares with the White House, and how its congregation approaches both its history and its contemporary mission.

Nov 2020

36 min 1 sec

For the past four years, the monthly 1600 Sessions podcast has told the story of the White House through conversations with historians and eyewitnesses to the history at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In this 50th episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin reflects back on some of his favorite moments from the first 49 episodes.

Nov 2020

37 min 59 sec

Wine has a long and important history in the White House, playing a unique role in entertaining, public ceremonies, and even global diplomacy. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart D. McLaurin interviews Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., about his new book published with the Association, “Wine and the White House: A History,” providing a comprehensive look at each president’s experiences with wine.

Oct 2020

47 min 58 sec

The transfer of power from one administration to the next is a hallmark of American democracy, but it hasn’t always been an orderly experience. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews Dr. Martha Kumar, Director or the White House Transition Project, and Tina Tchen, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and former Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, about the history and evolution of presidential transitions.

Sep 2020

53 min 49 sec

Every administration brings their own personality to the White House, particularly when it comes to the look and feel of the upstairs family quarters. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews Michael S. Smith, the “Decorator-in-Chief” for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, about his new book, “Designing History, the Extraordinary Art and Style of the Obama White House.”

Sep 2020

52 min 5 sec

Each year, the National History Day Contest encourages more than half a million students around the world to conduct historical research on a topic of their choice. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin speaks to student Jack Ghormley of Conway Junior High School in Arkansas, winner of the White House History award at the 2020 National History Day Contest, about his winning documentary, “The Fireside Chats: FDR Breaking Barriers in Presidential Communication,” and why he thinks history matters.

Aug 2020

13 min 46 sec

When you’re cooking for the president and first family, your meals and recipes become a part of history. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews Matthew Wendel about his book, “Recipes From the President's Ranch: Food People Like to Eat,” a first-hand account of his time serving as personal chef for President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush and their family and world leaders at Camp David and their Texas home, Prairie Chapel Ranch.

Aug 2020

37 min 16 sec

This year marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, the culmination of the suffragists' fight to secure the right to vote for women. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks to authors and historians Rebecca Roberts, Elaine Weiss and Colleen Shogan about the longest social movement in American history, and the story of how suffragists lobbied presidents and became the first protesters to picket at the gates of the White House.

Jul 2020

1 hr 1 min

Every year, the White House Fellows program gives young, talented Americans the opportunity to work in the White House alongside White House staff, cabinet members and senior officials. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin speaks with Elizabeth Pinkerton, Director of the President’s Commission on White House Fellows, Stephanie Ferguson, President of the White House Fellows Alumni Association, and Andy Ku, a recent White House Fellow, about their experience with the program and how its members shape the history of the White House and our country.

Jun 2020

49 min 43 sec

In this special episode of The 1600 Sessions, financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein interviews White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin to discuss the work of the Association during the recent period of the COVID-19 pandemic and protests in Lafayette Square, and how the history of “The People’s House” provides context to the challenges of the present day.

Jun 2020

48 min 7 sec

George Washington might not have become the Founding Father we know today if not for the influence of his mother. For Mother’s Day, Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews Craig Shirley, author of “Mary Ball Washington: The Untold Story of Washington’s Mother,” about how our first president’s life and personality was shaped by the unique character of his mother.

May 2020

42 min 23 sec

Throughout our history, presidents have faced crises that have gripped both the nation and the world. In this episode, Association President Stewart McLaurin speaks to Paul Sparrow, Director of the FDR Library and Museum, and Mark Updegrove, President & CEO of the LBJ Foundation, about the unique challenges these two presidents faced, and the leadership skills that helped them navigate these challenges.

Apr 2020

57 min 26 sec

The White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy, but from its very conception it had a paradoxical relationship with the institution of slavery. In this episode, Association President Stewart McLaurin speaks to Association historians Matthew Costello, Lindsay Chervinsky, and Lina Mann about their groundbreaking work researching and telling the stories of the enslaved individuals that built, worked at, and lived in or near the White House. To Learn more about our Slavery in the President’s Neighborhood initiative, visit our landing page. 

Mar 2020

47 min 21 sec

The institution of slavery and the stories of enslaved people have always been a part of the fabric of White House history. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin introduces a conversation between financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein and the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Lonnie G. Bunch III, about the history and legacy of slavery in the nation’s capital, held at St. John’s Church on February 5, 2020.

Feb 2020

56 min 17 sec

After President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wanted her husband to be remembered through a national cultural center that would serve as a living memorial. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks to Deborah Rutter, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, about the origins of the Kennedy Center, its mission to honor President Kennedy's legacy through support of the arts, and how it has had a relationship with the White House over time.

Jan 2020

38 min 16 sec

The White House is known for its creative confections and desserts, particularly during the holiday season. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin speaks to Chef Roland Mesnier about his experiences serving as White House Pastry Chef for five presidential administrations, detailed in his new book, Creating the Sweet World of White House Desserts: A Pastry Chef’s Secrets, co-written with his former pastry assistant Mark Ramsdell.

Dec 2019

30 min 2 sec

From diplomatic dinners to holiday gatherings, the White House has always played a central role in the nation’s official entertainment. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin speaks to historian and author Jennifer Pickens about her new book, Entertaining at the White House: Decades of Presidential Traditions, and the entertainment styles of recent Presidents and First Ladies.

Dec 2019

42 min 10 sec

For more than 60 years, the President of the United States has flown in a helicopter for domestic and international travel. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin speaks to two former Marine One pilots, Colonel Steve Taylor and Colonel Kevin Wild, and the president of Sikorsky Dan Schultz about the role of Sikorsky helicopters in the history of presidential travel. Learn more about the Official 2019 White House Christmas Ornament, honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s commitment to innovation as the first sitting president to use regular helicopter transportation, here.

Nov 2019

50 min 37 sec

George Washington never lived in the White House, but played a major role in its design, as well as the design of the capital city that bears his name. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks to Association Historian Dr Matthew R. Costello, author of “The Property of the Nation: George Washington's Tomb, Mount Vernon, and the Memory of the First President” about George Washington’s legacy and the important precedents he set, including how the nation remembers and memorializes our presidents.

Oct 2019

44 min 3 sec

When heads of state visit the United States and the White House, the United States Chief of Protocol is on point and the official President’s guest residence, Blair House, may be where the head of state stays. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks to three former Chiefs of Protocol - Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, Lloyd Hand and Capricia Marshall - about their experiences in that role and the importance of Blair House in American diplomacy.

Sep 2019

58 min 6 sec

In this episode, we turn the tables on the podcast’s usual format. Financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein interviews White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin, posing more than fifty questions on White House trivia. It’s the perfect way to brush up on White House knowledge, covering all the basics as well as little known facts about the Executive Mansion.

Aug 2019

36 min 30 sec

Camp David has provided presidents and their families with a recreational retreat from the White House, as well as a place for presidential diplomacy since the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin joins a panel discussion hosted at The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas to discuss recollections and stories of life at Camp David.

Jul 2019

35 min 34 sec

First Lady Barbara Bush was admired for her authenticity, as well as her advocacy on issues such as preserving the White House, family literacy, and diplomatic relations during the closing days of the Cold War. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks with USA Today Bureau Chief Susan Page about Barbara Bush’s legacy and her new book, The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty.

Jun 2019

37 min 43 sec

For more than two hundred years, Lafayette Square has been home to a wide variety of historical figures, from diplomats and naval heroes to future presidents and even former First Ladies. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews author and historian William Seale about his new book, To Live on Lafayette Square: Society and Politics in the President's Neighborhood.

May 2019

34 min 28 sec

The White House includes 18 acres of historic grounds and gardens that have been cultivated for more than two hundred years by presidents and their gardeners. This spring, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews Jonathan Pliska, author of A Garden for the President, and Linda Jane Holden, author of The Gardens of Bunny Mellon, about the evolution of the White House gardens.

Apr 2019

1 hr

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Patricia Nixon entering the White House as First Lady. Through hard work and a personal touch, she had a remarkable influence on not only the White House, including its collection and preservation, but also on the role of First Lady. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks to Anita McBride, Former Chief of Staff to Laura Bush, Bob Bostock, Special Assistant to Former President Nixon, and Melanie Eisenhower, Granddaughter of Richard and Pat Nixon and Great-Granddaughter of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, about the life and legacy of First Lady Pat Nixon.

Mar 2019

1 hr 8 min

President Eisenhower’s White House helped set the tone for an era of peace, economic prosperity, and technological advancement in America. For this year’s Presidents Day, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews Dr. William Hitchcock, professor of history at the University of Virginia, about his book, “The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s.”

Feb 2019

37 min 42 sec

Military Social Aides perform a vital role for White House events, assisting the Social Secretary and representing the President and First Lady. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews former Social Secretary Ann Stock, as well as three former Military Social Aides about their experiences at the White House, including former Governor and Senator Charles “Chuck” Robb, founder of C-SPAN Brian Lamb, and Kenn Riordan, Jr., who leads The Society of White House Military Aides.

Jan 2019

52 min 7 sec

Throughout its history, the White House has hosted not only important ceremonies of state, but also more personal, family ceremonies, including weddings. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks to Lynda Johnson Robb, former First Lady of Virginia, about her historic White House wedding in December 1967, and her memories of her time living in the White House

Dec 2018

32 min

Fearless leaders have walked the halls of White House for centuries. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks to Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation and a member of the Association's Board, about what it takes to exhibit fearless leadership, and how Presidents and First Ladies have inspired the nation throughout our history.

Nov 2018

38 min 34 sec

The Bellangé furniture, originally purchased by James Monroe, has adorned the Blue Room in the White House for decades. Thanks to ongoing efforts by the Curator’s Office, the furniture is now being restored as close as possible to when originally crafted. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews Lydia Tederick, Curator of the White House, and Melissa Naulin, Assistant Curator of the White House, to hear more about this restoration process, and the fascinating history of these iconic pieces.

Oct 2018

41 min 11 sec

The White House Historical Association is making history come alive in new and interesting ways. Stewart McLaurin hosts a roundtable discussion with Monica Logothetis, founder of DreamWakers; Janet Tran with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute; and Julie Teer of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, to discuss how the Association partners with these dynamic organizations to teach the relevance of White House history to today’s students across the country and around the world.

Sep 2018

44 min 54 sec

The National Archives has been collecting records of the United States since 1934. It holds billions of documents, photographs, and objects that tell the story of our country and our Presidents. White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin talks to David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, about the importance of record-keeping, and how presidential libraries tell the story of a president’s time in the White House.

Aug 2018

37 min 8 sec

Baseball has been known as our national pastime and tied to the presidency as far back as the Lincoln administration. In commemoration of the 2018 Major League All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., Stewart McLaurin talks to three experts on baseball and the presidency: former White House speechwriter and author Curt Smith, former sports reporter and author Fred Frommer, and sports lawyer and former PA announcer Phil Hochberg.

Jul 2018

52 min 3 sec

For two hundred years, Decatur House has stood as a near neighbor to the White House across Lafayette Square. Stewart McLaurin talks to Katherine Malone-France of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and antiques and fine arts expert Osborne Mackie about the rich history of the first private residence in the president’s neighborhood.

Jun 2018

1 hr 2 min

In 1792, Irish immigrant James Hoban won a contest to design the White House and created an enduring symbol for America and the world. Stewart McLaurin talks to Ed Lengel and Merlo Kelly about their forthcoming book on Hoban’s architectural legacy, and Scottish stonemason Charles Jones about recreating the historic stone carvings of the White House.

May 2018

45 min 27 sec

The history of the White House appears in unexpected places, from trivia questions at Major League Baseball games to archival photos and a tour of the White House on your smartphone. Stewart McLaurin hosts a roundtable discussion with Association partners Teresa Carlson of Worldwide Public Sector at Amazon Web Services, Valerie Camillo of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club and Margaret Talev of the White House Correspondents’ Association, about how twenty-first century partnerships help preserve and promote the history of the White House, and how history is relevant and alive to us today.

Apr 2018

32 min 15 sec

In 1963, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy helped arrange one of the most daring art exhibits in American history, bringing Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa painting from Paris to Washington, DC, and New York City. Stewart McLaurin talks to award-winning author Margaret Leslie Davis about her book ‘Mona Lisa in Camelot,” recalling the Mona Mania that gripped the country, and why this fascinating episode has been largely forgotten today.

Mar 2018

36 min 35 sec

No recent president has had more impact on the White House than Harry S. Truman, who both modernized the building and preserved it for future generations. Stewart McLaurin talks with President Truman’s grandson, Clifton Daniel, about the historic White House renovations during the Truman administration, and his memories of his grandparents during their long retirement from the presidency.

Feb 2018

34 min 5 sec