World War II

The complexity of the World War II Allied effort and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership brought extraordinary numbers of official visitors and heads of state to the White House. The custom of the day was for heads of state to spend the first night at the White House, then move to a hotel for the duration of their stay. However, space was limited, and Washington hotels were constantly booked.

In early 1942, Stanley Woodward, Chief of Protocol for the Roosevelt administration, initially arranged to rent Blair House before it was eventually purchased by the State Department later that year. In May, President Manuel Prado of Peru was the first guest. In 1943, when the number of guests increased beyond the capacity of Blair House, Lee House was purchased to provide additional space for foreign leaders visiting the White House.