From Frost to Fragonard: Renovating the Poetry Room
A Virtual Tour of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress
Portraits of Consultants and Poets Laureate line the office, reminding visitors of the Center’s great history. The space is similarly outfitted with 19th century revival style furnishings, which hearken back to the country’s beginnings.The Poetry Room in the Thomas Jefferson Building is a small space in the northwest corner of the third floor that commands one of the best views of the city, overlooking the west front of the Capitol and beyond to the towers of Virginia. One of the last spaces in the building to be renovated, it is the home of the Library's Poetry and Literature Center, which includes an administrative office and a small working office for the resident Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, in addition to the elegant Poetry Room. This third (or "attic") floor of the Jefferson Building, which houses the Congressional Page School in addition to the Poetry and Literature Center, is now closed to the public.
The Poetry Room was formally dedicated on April 23, 1951, William Shakespeare's birthday. The guest of honor was Library benefactor Gertrude Clarke Whittall, who gave the funds for the development of a poetry center in December 1950. The Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry Fund was to be used to "promote the appreciation and understanding of poetry," primarily through a series of lectures on poetry and poetry readings. These funds also supported the original decoration and furnishing of the Poetry Room.
The Poetry Room recently underwent a complete renovation, including furnishings, lighting fixtures and window treatments. The furniture in the Poetry Room was donated by Whittall and includes pieces from the English Edwardian and American Colonial Revival periods, the majority in the Neo-Classical style. All of the furnishings were refurbished or treated, and structural repairs were made when needed. Reversible adhesives and coatings were used whenever possible to maintain the furnishings' integrity. In the case of a four-panel Edwardian screen, the original fabric was preserved by keeping it on the frame and covering the old fabric with new.