Melania Trump Leaves Mark on White House With New Tennis Pavilion

First the Rose Garden, now the South Lawn. 

Melania Trump made a further lasting mark on the White House grounds with a new tennis pavilion that “will function as both a place of leisure and gathering for future First Families,” the First Lady said in a statement issued on Monday. 

The project refurbished the existing White House Tennis Court and Grandchildren’s Garden and erected a new 1,200-square-foot building on the South Lawn. Construction of the pavilion began in October and drew inspiration from existing architecture—that is the neoclassical Federal style favored by President Donald Trump—according to a proposal submitted by the National Park Service, which operates the 18-acre grounds of the White House. 

The latest fixture on the White House lawn is 18 feet high. Clad in limestone and boasting a copper roof, it features such architectural elements unique to the White House as a colonnade and fanlight windows. The pavilion also has locker rooms and is meant to be a “unifying” part of the grounds, connecting the Children’s Garden and the tennis court. According to the statement, the tennis pavilion was funded by private donations. 

The south grounds of the White House have traditionally served as recreational space for first families since the early 20th century, with each president leaving a personal touch. Jimmy Carter had a treehouse built for his daughter, and Bill Clinton had a seven-seat hot tub installed. Tennis courts were first installed under Theodore Roosevelt; in 2009, Barack Obama had basketball court lines painted and added removable baskets so he could play full-court basketball. 

The grounds have also served as a canvas for first ladies to leave symbols of their legacies. The Children’s Garden was constructed in 1969 as envisioned by former first lady and ardent environmentalist, Lady Bird Johnson. In 2009, then-First Lady Michelle Obama planted the 2,800-square-foot Kitchen Garden as part of her work to promote healthy eating. 

Melania Trump’s project, approved in June by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Planning Commission, drew criticism in March when the first lady posted an update on Twitter as coronavirus cases were spiking in the U.S. Critics lambasted the timing of the post; one called it “real Marie Antionette” energy.

The pavilion is one of several design endeavors that the first lady has undertaken this year. She overhauled the White House Rose Garden in August, working with landscape architecture firms Perry Guillot Inc. and Oehme, van Sweden & Associates for the makeover, which involved digging up trees, replacing bright yellow and red floral beds with white and pastel roses, and installing limestone-paved walkways.  The revamp was completed before a rally for the Republican National Convention was held on the White House lawn. 

According to the original proposal, the tennis pavilion will not impact historic resources or prominent vistas.

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