For two hundred years, the White House has stood as a symbol of the
Presidency, the United States government, and the American people. Its history,
and the history of the nation’s capital, began when President George
Washington signed an Act of Congress in December of 1790 declaring that the
federal government would reside in a district "not exceeding ten miles
square…on the river Potomac." President Washington, together with city
planner Pierre L’Enfant, chose the site for the new residence, which is now
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. As preparations began for the new federal city, a
competition was held to find a builder of the "President’s House."
Nine proposals were submitted, and Irish-born architect James Hoban won a gold
medal for his practical and handsome design.
Construction began when the first cornerstone was laid in October of 1792.
Although President Washington oversaw the construction of the house, he never
lived in it. It was not until 1800, when the White House was nearly completed,
that its first residents, President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, moved in.
Since that time, each President has made his own changes and additions. The
White House is, after all, the President’s private home. It is also the only
private residence of a head of state that is open to the public, free of charge.
The White House has a unique and fascinating history. It survived a fire at
the hands of the British in 1814 (during the war of 1812) and another fire in
the West Wing in 1929, while Herbert Hoover was President. Throughout much of
Harry S. Truman’s presidency, the interior of the house, with the exception of
the third floor, was completely gutted and renovated while the Truman's lived at
Blair House, right across Pennsylvania Avenue. Nonetheless, the exterior stone
walls are those first put in place when the White House was constructed two
Presidents can express their individual style in how they decorate some parts
of the house and in how they receive the public during their stay. Thomas
Jefferson held the first Inaugural open house in 1805. Many of those who
attended the swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol simply followed him home,
where he greeted them in the Blue Room. President Jefferson also opened the
house for public tours, and it has remained open, except during wartime, ever
since. In addition, he welcomed visitors to annual receptions on New Year’s
Day and on the Fourth of July. In 1829, a horde of 20,000 Inaugural callers
forced President Andrew Jackson to flee to the safety of a hotel while, on the
lawn, aides filled washtubs with orange juice and whiskey to lure the mob out of
the mud-tracked White House.
After Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, Inaugural crowds became far too large
for the White House to accommodate them comfortably. However, not until Grover
Cleveland’s first presidency did this unsafe practice change. He held a
presidential review of the troops from a flag-draped grandstand built in front
of the White House. This procession evolved into the official Inaugural parade
we know today. Receptions on New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July continued
to be held until the early 1930s.
President Clinton’s open house on January 21, 1993 renewed a venerable
White House Inaugural tradition. Two thousand citizens, selected by lottery,
were greeted in the Diplomatic Reception Room by President and Mrs. Clinton and
Vice President and Mrs. Gore.
The West Wing - This new TV Show averages over a 11 million viewers each
week but what is the west wing?
The West Wing is where the President works and where executive offices are
located. This wing was constructed by Teddy Roosevelt to meet the housing
needs of his rather large family which required the entire second floor for
their living quarters. In 1909, William Taft added an Oval Office to the West
Wing. FDR had the West Wing enlarged and relocated the Oval Office
within the wing in 1934.
In 1948, it was determined that the White House in imminent danger of
collapsing. Harry Truman moved across the street to the Blair House and the
interior was gutted and historic rooms were rebuilt as exact
representations of the originals.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis launched a program to redesign the
White House emphasizing American antiques and artwork.. She is primarily
responsible for making the White House a living museum of American history.
Today over five million cyber tour the White House annually with over 1
million actual visitors.
Some White House Facts
There are 132 rooms, 32 bathrooms, and 6 levels to
accommodate all the people who live in, work in, and visit the White House.
There are also 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 7 staircases, and 3
At various times in history, the White House has been known
as the "President's Palace," the "President's House,"
and the "Executive Mansion." President Theodore Roosevelt
officially gave the White House its current name in 1901.
The White House receives approximately 6,000 visitors a day.
Presidential Firsts… President John Tyler (1841-1845) was
the first President to have his photograph taken… President Theodore
Roosevelt (1901-1909) was not only the first President to ride in an
automobile, but also the first President to travel outside the country when
he visited Panama… President Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945) was the first
President to ride in an airplane.
With five full-time chefs, the White House kitchen is able
to serve dinner to as many as 140 guests and hors d'oeuvres to more than
The White House requires 570 gallons of paint to cover its
For recreation, the White House has a variety of facilities
available to its residents, including a tennis court, a jogging track,
swimming pool, movie theater, billiard room, and a bowling lane
1824 -- South Portico completed, 1829 -- North Portico completed, 1833 --
Running water installed, 1848 -- Natural Gas lighting installed, 1853 --
Central plumbing installed, 1855 -- First kitchen stove, 1873 -- Major
renovations, 1879 -- Telephone Service installed, 1881 -- Elevator
installed, 1891 -- Electric Lighting installed, 1901 -- Conversion of
2nd floor offices, 1902 -- Roosevelt's
Construction of the West Wing, 1909 -- Taft's Oval Office construction,.
1913 -- Creation of the Rose Garden, 1933 -- Swimming pool installed, 1934
-- Oval Office moved, and 1948-52 "Truman" renovation (total
reconstruction of the structure)
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