Guests aplenty sleep in Lincoln bed

March 04, 1994|By Angie Cannon | Angie Cannon,Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- At the White House, they can't change the sheets fast enough in the Lincoln Bedroom.

One week, newly elected Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer bunked in the big rosewood bed. Another week, it was Georgia Gov. Zell Miller. This week, British Prime Minister John Major slept over.

Betty Monkman, a White House curator, said there's no doubt the Clintons invite guests to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom "more than some previous administrations."

"This reflects the Clintons' style of entertaining, welcoming people to their home," said Neel Lattimore, a spokesman for Hillary Rodham Clinton. "They enjoy having guests there. It's America's home."

Among those who have slept in the Lincoln Bedroom since the Clintons moved in: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter; the president's late mother, Virginia Kelley; former Chrysler chairman Lee Iaccoca; singer Judy Collins; Hawaii Gov. John Waihee and his wife; TriStar studio chief Michael Medavoy and his wife; Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell; movie producer Steven Spielberg; Hollywood producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who joked that she wanted to jump up and down on the bed.

Across the hall, in the Queen's Bedroom: Barbra Streisand, George Bush and Tom Hanks.

The Lincoln Bedroom, located on the second floor of the main residence, actually wasn't Mr. Lincoln's bedroom. It was his office and Cabinet room. The room was used as a presidential office until 1902, when the West Wing and the Oval Office were built, Ms. Monkman said.

The bed with a headboard of carved birds and vines actually wasn't Mr. Lincoln's bed, either. It was purchased by Mr. Lincoln's wife in 1861 and used in a guest room. Mr. Lincoln never slept in the bed, although Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson did sleep in it.

The bedroom does house Mr. Lincoln's desk, four Cabinet chairs and a signed copy of the Gettysburg Address, written in his hand.

And what of Mr. Lincoln's ghost?

"People have felt a presence in that room, a sense of history, a connection with Lincoln," Ms. Monkman said.

Patrick McManus, mayor of Lynn, Mass., suggested that "Clinton ought to let every member of Congress sleep over. He'd have no more problems.

"Anybody who sleeps in the Lincoln Bedroom is going to owe his soul to that president for the rest of his life, you know what I mean?" Mr. McManus said.

Guests may receive mementos of their visits: photos of the first family, tie clips, golf balls, cuff links or special boxes of M&Ms -- all bearing the presidential seal.

"No one steals towels or ashtrays," one White House aide insisted.

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