Under the leadership of First Lady Pat Nixon, a record number of guests visited the White House.
According to the Associated Press, tens of thousands are expected to visit the White House this weekend to tour the estate’s gardens and experience a rare glimpse of the “fragrant roses, blue salvias and towering, decades-old trees that beautify the president’s back yard.” The tour includes the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the Rose Garden, the South Lawn, and the Children’s Garden — where visitors can see the handprints and footprints of Presidential grandchildren from Lyndon Baines Johnson to George H.W. Bush.
This semi-annual tradition was started by Pat Nixon in 1973:
Then-first lady Patricia Nixon started the tours in 1973. They are held twice a year, in spring (April) and fall (October).
The first few years saw between 10,000 and 12,000 guests. The White House expects double that number this weekend.
“They’ve been a success ever since,” Dale Haney, superintendent of the White House grounds, said of the tours. He has helped care for the grounds for more than 30 years and was present for the first garden and grounds tour.
It’s comes to no surprise that Mrs. Nixon was behind the White House Garden tours.
In his memoirs, RN said that Pat “stepped into the role of First Lady without breaking a stride,” was generous with visitors and “thought of imaginative ways to bring young people to the White House:”
Each of us loved the White House and looked for ways to share its history and beauty with others, but it was Pat who made it happen.
She had loudspeakers set up near the fence on the South Grounds so that while they were waiting people standing in line for the tour could hear about the history of the rooms they were about to see. She arranged special tours for the blind that allowed them for the first time to touch the historic objects in the different rooms. Pat also recorded an introduction for the first “talking history of the White House so that those who could not see it would nevertheless have a sense of sharing and belonging when they were there.
As Jimmy Bryon noted last week, under the leadership of the First Lady, the White House was restored to its “golden age.”
“She left us all breathless,” RN Said, “By our second year in the White House we had set a record of 50,000 guests.”
The White House Rose Garden is open to visitors in the Spring and Fall each year, a tradition started by First Lady Pat Nixon.