The largest room in the house, the East Room was designated by architect James Hoban as the "Public Audience Room.” It normally contains little furniture and traditionally is used for large gatherings, such as press conferences, bill-signing ceremonies, after-dinner entertaining, concerts, weddings, funerals, and award presentations. Five presidential daughters have been married in the room, most recently Lynda Johnson in 1967.
The East Room was the site of frequent activity during the Civil War. Union troops were quartered here for a period. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln held a large reception here in honor of General Ulysses S. Grant shortly before his appointment as head of all the Union forces. Following his assassination in 1865, Lincoln lay in state in the East Room, as have all of the presidents who died in office with the exception of President James A. Garfield, as the East Room was being renovated at the time of his assassination.
In recent history, the East Room has served as the site of many important events including the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford’s swearing in as President in 1974, and the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978. On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in this historic room.
The East Room of the White House, May 17, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)