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Friday, November 16, 2012

Ron Wade’s Oval Office - right here in East Texas


His reproduction office is as close as possible to the same one the President of the United States walks into every day.

Ron Wade with his family in his Oval Office (Photo Credit: Ron Wade)

Ron Wade with his family in his Oval Office (Photo Credit: Ron Wade)

— What sort of art does the President of the United States keep in the Oval Office? I decided I had to go and find out for myself. Unfortunately, the travel budget is a bit limited these days, so I turned to the one man we can always find behind the big mahogany desk in the most famous room in the world.

It’s a long way from Longview to the Oval Office in Washington, D.C., so Ron Wade decided to take a reasonable shortcut. The retired state worker built himself an exact replica of the Oval Office right in his own home on Lafayette Street in Longview.

I’ve always been interested in the history of our country,” he explained. ”And, you know, politics is a basic part of history.”

The son of Ellis W. Wade and Rosedyne Langford Wade of Gilmer, Wade spent his childhood listening to his parents, grandparents and great grandparents discussing family history. Even as a small boy, he was fascinated by the White House and the powerful men who lived there. By the time he was 10 years old, he was building scale models of the White House and pretending his toy cars were presidential limousines.

He began collecting political campaign items that reflected the presidency. His collection continued to grow as his interests grew from those of a child to those of an adult. When he was a college student, he had the privilege of meeting with President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office - the real one in the White House. He later met with everal presidents including Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush. The Oval Office was never far from his mind. In fact, President George W. Bush gave him some suggestions about the project.

“He said he would come see it,” Wade said. “But he hasn’t been able to make it so far.”

When he retired from his own career, he found himself looking for something to do with his spare time. He built a Japanese garden in the backyard of his home, but his thoughts kept returning to that Oval Office, the most powerful room in the world.

There was no ignoring it. It had become an obsession. And it was an obsession which his wife Laura encouraged. She described it as a “healthy” one.

The Oval Office was such a big part of his life, he decided he would make a replica as an addition to his own home. His reproduction office is as close as possible to the same one the President of the United States walks into every day. It is a full eighty percent of the size of the Washington original. Wade explained that it cost $250,000 to build, and it took more than two years to design. It involved eight months of extensive carpentry and 250 workers.

Wade’s Oval Office has custom ceilings, carpeting and furniture including the very prominent presidential desk and chair. The draperies, dishes, furniture, paintings, and even the desk are exact reproductions of those which may be seen in the original. Mr. Wade purchased many of the items from auction sites across the country.

First, he bought the presidential desk and chair. The ornately carved desk is a copy of the Resolute desk, which has been seen in many presidential speeches and talks. The original is a large 19th century partner’s desk. It was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. It was built from the timbers of the British Arctic exploration ship, the Resolute, which was trapped in the ice and abandoned. The ship was recovered by an American whaling ship and was returned to Queen Victoria in 1856.

The desk has been used by many presidents including Barack Obama. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a decorative interior door added to the leg area of the desk in order to hide the leg braces and metal bindings he had to wear as a result of polio. There is a well-known photograph of a tiny John F. Kennedy, Jr., peeking out through that same opened door.

The desktop is complete up to and including the green shaded lamp and the infamous red telephone. Fortunately, this telephone does not bear the heavy responsibility carried by the original. A glass case on the desk holds a crystal reproduction of the largest pearl ever found in the world. It was a gift to President George Bush presented in the hopes of finding world peace.

A large American flag and a Presidential flag stand behind the desk in Mr. Wade’s Oval Office. A reproduction Frederick Remington sculpture sits on a pedestal table. Shelves in the tall, narrow shel-topped alcove display books, plates and figures. The clock once belonged to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Some of Mr. Wade’s props are real. The Jackie Kennedy chairs, which are situated at either side of the desk, were purchased by Mrs. Kennedy for use in the second floor dining room of the White House during her husband’s administration. Another memory of the popular Kennedy administration is an heirloom rocking chair, which once belonged to Kennedy. A clay brick made from the mud of the Potomac River shares exhibit space with one of Harry Truman’s famous walking canes. This cane was made from the original timbers of the White House that were salvaged from the extensive renovations during Truman’s presidency.

The ornately swag trimmed gold colored draperies are similar to those of the Federal Period design, which are seen behind the desk in the original Oval Office. The handmade carpets were woven in Paris, France, and took eight months to complete.

Since they spend so much time there, presidents usually put their own touches on the Oval Office, making changes early in their terms. President George W. Bush used a rug which had radiating stripes and reminded him of a peaceful sunrise. It was designed by his wife Laura. While each president has the opportunity to choose the colors of his own carpet, Wade’s carpet is red, gold, and blue with a circle of white stars surrounding the eagle of the presidential seal. A handsome reproduction of Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of George Washington hangs in a gilded frame above the fireplace mantel just as it does in the original Oval Office in the West Wing of the White House in Washington, D.C.

“We welcome groups and visitors,” Wade said. “We just ask people to call in advance so that we can prepare for your visit.”

For further information, contact Ron Wade at 903-236-9499.



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