Harris Is Moving Into Newly Renovated Official Residence

The vice president had been living temporarily in Blair House while Number One Observatory Circle underwent repairs.,


Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

WASHINGTON — Number One Observatory Circle is finally ready for its newest resident. After months spent living in temporary quarters at Blair House, Vice President Kamala Harris moved into her 33-room official residence on Tuesday evening following the completion of renovations, an administration official said.

“Tonight when she returns, she will take Marine Two to the vice president’s residence,” the official, who asked not to be identified because of security concerns, said about the move earlier Tuesday.

Ms. Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, spent last weekend in California. On Tuesday, Ms. Harris stopped in Chicago to tour a coronavirus vaccination site before flying on to Washington, while Mr. Emhoff visited Washington State.

Scheduled improvements delayed the vice president’s move to the Victorian home, which has housed vice presidents and their families since the Mondales in the 1970s. Over the past two months, the home underwent extensive renovations, including the installation of a new heating and air system, refurbished wooden floors and updated chimney liners, the vice president’s office said.

The home, which features a large veranda, a pool and a sunroom, sits on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington.

The Navy provides funding for most structural refurbishments, like heating and air conditioning or refurbishment of floors, according to Philip Dufour, who served as the home’s manager and social secretary to Vice President Al Gore. According to government spending data, the Navy has awarded contracts worth at least $4.2 million in air conditioning, plumbing and heating upgrades since 2018.

Payment for preservation or aesthetic-related home improvements comes from the coffers of the Vice President’s Residence Foundation, which was started in 1991 after Vice President Dan Quayle began soliciting donations for various home improvements, including a $130,000 pool, a gym and a putting green. (“He’s my favorite vice president,” President Biden, a former resident and fan of the pool, said of Mr. Quayle in 2010. “And my granddaughters love it.”)

The foundation also pays to hang artwork and install new drapes, and handles some larger projects. It “partnered with the Navy” for a major renovation during the Gore era that included the installation of a kitchenette on the second floor, so that the family would not have to travel to the service kitchen in the basement, Mr. Dufour said.

The foundation is run by volunteers appointed by the vice president who often help solicit private donations, and Ms. Harris has been working to select a five-person panel to serve on the foundation, her office said. In 2018, it reported about $250,000 in contributions from donors, according to public filings.

The Queen Anne-style home provides privacy and a respite from the bustle of Washington that is not available at the White House, which is “lovely and beautiful, but you kind of live above the store,” Mr. Dufour said.

The seven vice presidents who lived at Number One Observatory Circle before Ms. Harris cherished the expansive grounds, and the ability to make the house their own. When the Bidens lived there, they painted the dining room the same shade of blue as their home in Delaware, and hung pieces on loan from the National Gallery of Art.

It has also become somewhat of a tradition for each new tenant to preside over improvements to the 128-year-old house. The Cheneys remodeled the kitchenette, for instance. The Pences added a beehive. (On Tuesday, an official with Ms. Harris’s office said the bees would “absolutely” be staying.) And the Bidens added a small garden that features the names of past occupants, and their pets, etched in stones surrounding a fountain.

“Each person has added something to make the home better for the next family,” Jill Biden told The Washington Post as the Bidens, then vice president and second lady, prepared to depart the residence in 2017. Most residents hired a designer to help, but Ms. Harris and Mr. Emhoff have not done so yet.

On Tuesday, an official in Ms. Harris’s office said that the vice president and Mr. Emhoff would be “discussing long-term projects” that would incorporate elements of California, where she served as attorney general and as a senator, and her cultural heritage as the first woman of color to hold the job.

Ms Harris’s predecessors often hosted personal or official events at the home, and have often interacted with people from the neighborhood, who have to contend with the daily clog of motorcades and the noise of Marine Two flying overhead.

“You have to be conscious when you put on an event,” Mr. Dufour said. “People in the neighborhood feel a lot of traffic.”

Leave a Reply