History and Facts About The White House
A worldwide symbol of freedom and democracy, the White House was built in 1792 and is the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States. Its iconic Neoclassical style façade is the most recognizable aspect of the 55,000 square foot building that houses 132 rooms. A striking landmark with limited access to the public makes it one of the most intriguing places to visit in Washington DC. Although some portions are open for tours, they must be scheduled months in advance and many who apply will be turned away. This guide will give some important historical information and facts about the White House, in case you’re not able to take the tour when you visit the Nation’s Capital.
Although he never lived in it, George Washington chose the site for the White House in 1791. The cornerstone was laid in 1792 and construction began soon after. Irish-born architect James Hoban won the competition for the design and the President’s House, its original name, was built between 1792 and 1800. It took eight years to construct the building and even before the house was officially finished, in 1800 President John Adams and his wife Abagail moved in.
When Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, he had the building expanded outward, creating the two colonnades that were meant to conceal stables and storage.
But the changes wouldn’t last long as a massive fire, set by the British during the War of 1812, would subsequently burn the building to the ground. Much of the interior and exterior were damaged or destroyed, requiring the President to move out and reconstruction to begin. The process was nearly completed when President James Monroe moved in during October 1817 and construction continued. At this time the south and north portico were added.
The White House would be expanded throughout its history, including the construction of the West Wing in 1901 and the construction of the first Oval Office in 1909. Other expansions, additions and remodeling projects took place under Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Harry S. Truman. As one could imagine, today’s White House is quite different than the original.
The White House Today
The White House today has six floors (ground floor, state floor, second and third floor, two story basement), 132 rooms and totals approximately 55,000 square feet. It remains the only private residence of a head of state open free of charge to the public. It also has and continues to host an array of historic events and annual traditions.
Fun Facts About the White House
• George Washington was the only US President never to live in the house.
• Thomas Jefferson held the first inaugural open house in 1805 and opened the house up for public tours and receptions on New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July.
• There was a second fire during the Hoover administration in 1929 that destroyed the executive wing and led to more renovations.
• John Quincy Adams established the first flower garden.
• There are 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases and 3 elevators in the White House.
• It would take 570 gallons of paint to cover the entire outside surface of the White House.
• The White House kitchen is able to serve dinner for 140 people at a time.
• A swimming pool was added to the White House in 1933 to help polio-stricken Franklin Roosevelt exercise his upper body.
• In 1969 Richard Nixon had the pool filled in to create an area for press to gather.
• Gerald Ford had an outdoor pool built in 1975.
• The Movie Theater was once a cloakroom.
• President Carter had the first computer and laser printer installed in the White House in 1978.
• The White House has a bowling alley, flower shop, dentist office and carpenter’s office located on campus.
• There is a Situation Room in the basement where the President meets with advisors during a crisis.