I was ecstatic to be chosen to make an ornament for the official White House Christmas
Tree in 2001. My ornament portrays Oak Hill, near Leesburg, Virginia, as
it was originally built. It was the home of our fifth president, James
Monroe. He wrote the Monroe Doctrine in this house.
Two hundred and four artists from the US participated in decorating the White House tree. The
theme was historic homes. The ornament was to be three-dimensional,
lightweight, and primarily white. All the ornaments are now in the permanent
collection of the White House.
The owners of Oak Hill (it is now a private residence) kindly allowed me to visit the property
to researched the project. Later, they commissioned this art quilt. The garden in spring is fabulous, and
the owners are particularly fond of the irises.
Oak Hill is truly historic. President Monroe’s contemporaries, including
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Dolley Madison owned much of the
furniture in the home’s collection. The design of the house itself shows the hands of Jefferson and
Thomas Hoban, architect of the White House. Two ornately carved marble
mantelpieces were presented to the Monroes by Lafayette, in gratitude for
their saving Madame Lafayette from the guillotine during the French Revolution. The
owners showed me where Civil War soldiers chipped off some of the carvings to
take as souvenirs (the house was used by both armies during the Civil War).
Some of the slate floor stones were brought from the White House after it was burned during
the War of 1812. The house’s history goes back even further, by many
eons – other floor stones contain dinosaur footprints,
found on Oak Hill’s farmland. I have depicted these footprints in the quilt’s
The quilt is heavily thread-painted to portray the lovely gardens around the
residence. The shadow across the house was painted. Most details on the house,
and the steps, were inked. The columns and steps were fused in place.