Gaekdang refers to the reception hall where guests at the Korean legation were greeted. The interior of Gaekdang including furniture and wallpaper was decorated in the Victorian style of the 1890s, and various ornaments demonstrating distinct Korean characteristics were displayed in the space: a folding screen embroidered with flowers and birds, cushions embroidered with the national flag of Korea, Taegeukgi, and the like. The furnishings and decorations were reproduced on the basis of photographs taken in 1893 showing inside the reception hall.
Jeongdang was the most important and symbolic space among the architectural spaces of the legation building. This space was used to enshrine the portraits of the king and the crown prince and to perform a ceremony of bowing toward the direction of the palace on meaningful days such as on the first and fifteenth days of the lunar month and the day of the king’s birth.
Sikdang of the legation building served as more than a place for dining since it was used as a social venue associated with vigorous diplomatic activities. Indeed, the local U.S. newspapers and magazines printed at the time reported that diplomats of the Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire participated in active diplomatic. Back then, Sikdang was used to host social meetings where not only diplomatic representatives from various countries and American administrative officials but also the First Lady of the U.S. were invited.
A private space for the diplomatic minister, it was intended for the use of the minister’s wife as well as the minister himself, as was the case with Lee Chae-yeon and Lee Beom-jin. The room was, so to speak, a space for the minister’s family. With this in mind, the interior of this room was reproduced to a bedroom of the minister and his wife, furnishing the space with a bed, a dressing table, a mirror, and a desk in the Victorian-style dating back to the 1890s, as with the first floor.
This is the office where the diplomatic minister performed his various duties. As with other spaces in the building, this space was also furnished with equipment and furniture required for conducting his business affairs: a desk, chair, alarm clock on the fireplace mantle, and bookstand which were readily available back then in the 1890s in the U.S. This place is connected to the sunroom directly overlooking the surroundings including the Logan Circle.
The reference room where a wide range of books acquired both at home and abroad by legation officials were collected for reading, the space is furnished with some items purchased in the nineteenth century U.S. and a Korean bandaji chest of the late Joseon period brought over from Korea. The books on display in this library are a combination of hardcover old prints and books produced during the Joseon period.
Across from the bedroom of the diplomatic minister is an office of legation officials. This place also served as an outpost for early diplomatic engagement with the U.S. Items on display are stationery brought over from Korea, an English dictionary for business use published in the late nineteenth century, and an old map of Washington D.C. produced in 1892, which offer a glimpse into the look of the office at the time.
Stocked with bath supplies and bathroom furnishings widely popular in the 1890s in the U.S., the bathroom is outfitted with a partition made of bamboo poles, a bathtub, towels, and a soap holder in the Victorian style popular at that time. The soaps on display are exact replicas of products used back then.
The spaces on the third floor are currently used as a large exhibition hall, but it is assumed that they were originally intended to house several accommodation facilities for the legation officials. Since the forced sale of the legation building by the Japanese in 1910, the third floor has lost its original layout as several walls were torn down and the entire space floor eventually became a large hall. Since reference data necessary to infer the original layout of the spaces including floor plans and photos have yet to be discovered, the third floor was created as an exhibition hall by utilizing the spaces as is. The exhibition hall is divided into four sections, each with a different theme such as the history of Korea-U.S. relations, establishment and transition process of the legation building, everyday lives of the legation officials, independent diplomatic activities of Emperor Gojong, and modernization and development of Korea, coupled with various artifacts and items.
This small space situated between the legation building and the adjoining building was originally used as a parking space, which was renovated as a Korean traditional garden. The garden was bordered with a low wall similar to the floral motif wall around the Jagyeongjeon Hall of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. This wall was constructed with red bricks and decorative roof tiles laid on top, and adorned with baked clay designs of the four noble plants—bamboo, plum blossom, orchid, and chrysanthemum—engraved on the surface of the wall to add refined elegance and beauty of the garden space. In addition, the garden was paved with stone plates of irregular shapes in a seemingly effortless manner to create an aesthetic balance with the traditional walls. Meanwhile, the center of the garden features a replica of Bulromun, or the Gate of Eternal Youth, which was erected in the backyard of Changdeokgung Palace. The Bulromun Gate, built with thin slabs of granite cut in the shape of “ㄷ,” was believed to provide everlasting youth to whomever passed through it. For this reason, people in the old days used to wish for good health and long life at the gate. The Korean traditional garden created in the middle of the Washington D.C., the capital of the U.S., remains as a special space to celebrate the historic Korean legation building in Washington D.C., which became part of Korean history by establishing a valuable friendship between Korea and the U.S. dating back to the late nineteenth century.