Southern Traditions take D.C. once again!


Time magazine said, “It's been called ‘the world's most exclusive hotel,’ ‘Uncle Sam's guesthouse,’ and ‘the best small hotel in Washington D.C.,’” all of which justify it perfectly, because since 1942, the Blair House has served as the home away from home for visiting chiefs of state, heads of government, and their delegations, former presidents, incoming presidents, and major leaders from around the world.

Composed of four seamlessly connected townhomes—two on Pennsylvania Avenue and two facing Lafayette Park on Jackson Place—Blair House’s facade retains the unique outward appearance of each original row house with a carefully integrated interior that’s deeply enriched in our nation’s history.

Built as a private home in 1824, Blair House has played an important role in nearly 200 years of American political, diplomatic, and cultural history—from Andrew Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet,” to private chats with Abraham Lincoln, to Harry S. Truman’s crucial leadership as World War II ended and the Cold War began. Still today, U.S. Presidents continue to rely on Blair House as a significant foreign policy tool and a place to lay their head when the White House isn’t sufficient.

In an elegant setting, reflecting our country’s history, the Blair House is furnished with fine antique furniture, objects, and art, and carefully curated to portray the values and hospitality of our nation. Maintained by the U.S. Department of State and the General Services Administration, an invitation from the President of the United States is required to occupy this historic residence, making it an honor of the highest significance to even earn the opportunity to stay there.

However, on Monday November 21, one Swainsboro resident received the chance of a lifetime when he was invited to America’s most elite Airbnb. Southern Traditions owner, Jim Roberts, arrived at the Blair House after being chosen as one of its four lead designers for a golden occasion. His responsibility was to help manage and direct a team of 12 designers for the preparation of the holiday season and the arrival of French President, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife Brigitte, who were visiting for one of the most glamorous events held at the White House, a State dinner with the U.S. President.

“It was an opportunity that not everyone gets to experience.” Roberts explained, “The Blair House is a place that you can’t tour. It’s not open to the public so it was neat getting to have access to a place that no one else gets to go into, unless you’re high up in the government, a dignitary from another country, or the President or Vice President. Those are the only people who are allowed to go into that house.”

During his time as a lead designer for the Blair House, which contains more than 120 rooms including 14 guestrooms, three formal dining rooms, two large conference rooms, a hot and cold kitchen, a fully equipped beauty salon, an exercise room, and an in-house laundry facility, Roberts held the responsibility for overseeing the layout of fresh, seasonal floral arrangements for the living quarters of the home, the dining rooms, and the library.

“It was an experience beyond imagination.” He said, thinking back on his time there, “Anyone can tour the white house but when you tour the White House, it’s like touring a museum, you only get to go so far. You don’t get to go behind the velvet rope. However, during my time at the Blair House, I got the opportunity to look behind the velvet rope as if I were one of them. I got to be a part of it and see the things that many people don’t get to see.”

Although the Blair House was built in 1824, it wasn’t until the Blair family took up residence there in 1837, that it became politically central in Washington, D.C. Francis Preston Blair was a circuit court clerk from Frankfort, Kentucky, whose editorials in his local newspaper attracted President Andrew Jackson’s attention. Jackson invited Blair to convert the Globe, a failing D.C. newspaper, into a pro-administration publication, and in 1830, Blair, his wife Eliza, and their three children moved to the nation's capital. Seven years later, they took up residence in the former home of Dr. Joseph Lovell, the first surgeon general of the U.S. Army. That home would soon become known as Blair House.

As editor of the Globe and the Congressional Globe (the first published proceedings of Congress) with partner John Cook Rives, Blair acquired a good deal of political power. Many political players, including presidents, sought his insight. He was the most influential member of President Jackson's informal group of advisors, the “Kitchen Cabinet,” and remained an important confidant to

Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren. Abraham Lincoln also sought Blair’s counsel during his presidency and appointed Blair's eldest son, Montgomery, to his cabinet as Postmaster General.

In 1859, Francis Preston Blair built a home at 1653 Pennsylvania Avenue, next to Blair House, for his daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee. This home, known as Lee House, is now an integral part of the Blair House complex.

It wasn’t until President Franklin “Teddy” Roosevelt approved the purchase of Blair House in 1942, that it officially became ‘the Presidents Guest House’. The purchase included all the Blair family’s furniture, china, and silver, which still inhabits the home today.

“It was just incredible to get to be there and be face to face with so much physical history.” Roberts said.

Heather Cooper is Blair House’s one and only full-time floral designer. Although, volunteers are only allowed to enter Blair House during Christmas, after this amazing experience, Roberts has an open invitation to return to our nation’s finest Bed and Breakfast whenever he wants, which is a trip he’s sure to make time and time again.


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