As reporters and photographers crowded into the cramped briefing room, Mr. Bush told the group, "We felt your pain. So we decided to help you renovate."
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow laughed with former secretaries about "lingering memories" as he gave the final briefing in the old press room.
Former press secretaries James Brady, Marlin Fitzwater, Jody Powell, Ron Nessen, Joe Lockhart and Dee Dee Myers were on hand to say goodbye to the room where they spent hours talking to a sometimes unfriendly press corps.
The briefing room, which has been described as cramped, dirty and even a
fire hazard, will receive a long-overdue makeover complete with the
addition of state-of-the-art technology and wider seats.
And as the president joked, the air conditioning will be better — which, on a day like Wednesday when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees, will be a welcome announcement.
But perhaps one of the most eagerly awaited parts of the renovation will be the removal of the rats that have also made the press room their home. White House briefings will be conducted in a building across Pennsylvania Avenue until the renovations are complete sometime next May.
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room sits above the swimming pool built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Roosevelt used the pool to help ease the pain of polio.
In 1970, President Richard Nixon arranged for the briefing room to be built above the pool to accommodate the growing demand from the media — particularly television crews — for more space. The pool still exists under the flooring and is accessible through a trapdoor on the floor.
On Feb. 11, 2000, the briefing room was renamed for Brady, the former press secretary who was shot and permanently injured after an assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981.