Following seven years of planning and design, an extensive rehabilitation of the White House Visitor Center in President's Park in Washington gets under way this week.
The project is a public private endeavor between the NPS and the White House Historical Association, a nonprofit NPS partner since 1961.
Funding for the entire project comes from public and private funding. This funding includes entrance fees collected at national parks around the nation, a $3 million donation by the WHHA of the project's planning and design, and an additional WHHA donation that will fund the exhibits and media portions of the rehabilitation.
The visitor center is expected to be closed for approximately 15 months while the rehabilitation takes place. This coming Saturday, July 28, a temporary visitor facility will open at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion near the corner of 15th and E Streets, N.W. and it will remain open until the rehabilitation project is completed.
"Visitors who tour the White House and those who view it from the surrounding area will soon have the opportunity to learn about the history of the White House like never before," Regional Director Stephen Whitesell said. "The National Park Service and the White House Historical Association are excited about making the story of one of our nation's most important icons accessible to all in new ways, especially to the young people and children who visit Washington, D.C. or call it home."
Improvements to the visitor center will include interactive exhibits and a model of the White House, as well as a new permanent museum gallery, a temporary exhibit area, an improved book sales area, visitor information facilities, and opportunities for children and families to connect to the history of the White House and President's Park in new ways. The WHHA has committed to establishing an endowment to fund the ongoing maintenance costs of the new technologies and exhibits in the visitor center.
"We are very pleased to continue our 50-year relationship with the National Park Service through creating an engaging and new educational opportunity for the public to learn about the history of the White House," said Neil Horstman, president of the White House Historical Association.
Designs for the rehabilitation were developed by the SmithGroup (architecture and engineering) and Gallagher & Associates (exhibitions and media). In April of this year, NPS awarded a contract to Clark Construction Group, LLC, for the construction of the architectural and engineering portion of the rehabilitation.
In addition to revitalizing the space to improve the educational experience for visitors, design priorities included making the experience accessible for all visitors, protecting and enhancing the historic space, and incorporating sustainability principles.
Opened in 1995, the White House Visitor Center is operated by the NPS and located in Baldrige Hall in the Herbert Hoover building, which houses the U.S. Department of Commerce.