The historic White House Rose Garden is getting an upgrade for the first time in nearly 60 years. First Lady Melania Trump faced backlash after revealing the restoration plans Monday — just months before the election, as coronavirus cases continue to surge in many states.
Mrs. Trump said she wants to return the garden to its original 1962 glory, when it was designed by Rachel Lambert Mellon, a friend of President John F. Kennedy. Mellon wrote that she was found inspiration during an October walk along Fifth Avenue in New York City, when she was awestruck by magnolia trees outside of the Frick Museum.
Plans are already underway to restore the famous garden, the first lady said during a rare appearance Monday. It hasn't been redone since the Kennedy era, but the announcement emphasized the need for a renovation after decades of use and modern updates, in order to "appreciate the elegant symmetry of the Mellon plan."
"The very act of planting a garden involves hard work and hope in the possibility of a bright future," said Mrs. Trump in the announcement. "Preserving the history and beauty of the White House and its grounds is a testament to our nation's commitment to the care of this landscape and our dedication to American ideals, safeguarding them for our children and their children for generations to come."
The project is expected to be completed in about three weeks. Work has already begun, with tarps and drapes spotted hanging on the West Wing and the Oval Office, The Associated Press reports.
Perry Guillot, the landscape architect working on the project, told AP that the biggest change to the garden will be the addition of a 3-foot-wide limestone walking path bordering the central lawn.
The project will also make the garden more accessible for people with disabilities. Other changes will be made to drainage, infrastructure, plantings and audiovisual and broadcasting technologies.
The Rose Garden, which borders the Oval Office and the West Wing, has been used for weddings, state dinners and presidential news conferences, among other historic events. Mrs. Trump herself used the space to announce her "" program in May 2018, and, most recently, President Donald Trump has used the space to hold his coronavirus .
Following the announcement, "Marie Antoinette" trended on Twitter, comparing the First Lady to the French Queen for her announcement as millions of Americans are losingand .
"I wonder if Marie Antoinette redid the gardens at Versailles when the revolution was brewing," writer Gary Legum tweeted.
"Marie Antoinette would TOTALLY nod her head to Melania trump's tone-deaf aloofness if she still had a head," writer Majid M. Padellan tweeted.
Previously, Mrs. Trump has made changes to the Red Room, Blue Room and White House Bowling Alley. She also faced backlash for announcing the construction of a privately-funded tennis pavilion on the South Lawn during the beginning of the pandemic.
She pushed back, tweeting at the time, "I encourage everyone who chooses to be negative & question my work at the @WhiteHouse to take time and contribute something good & productive in their own communities."
The Rose Garden will be overseen by the National Park Service and paid for with private donations.