Everything You Have Ever Wanted to Know About 1600 Pennsylvania NW
TR Robertson –January 20, Joe Biden will be the 45th President sworn in and will take up residence in the White House, possibly even sooner. The story of the White House remains an ongoing tale of constant changes. George Washington, our first President, resided first in New York as President from 1789 until 1790 then Philadelphia, from 1790 until 1797. The first corner stone for the White House was laid in 1792, but President Washington would not live in the White House. That honor goes to President John Adams, our first one term President and second President, who served from 1797 until 1801. Adams would live in the first version of the White House from 1800 until 1801, a one-year stay.
Most people in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s wondered why the young government of the United States would pick the area now known as Washington, D.C., as the location for the Nation’s Capital. The area, at that time, was in swampy land and during the building malaria was a constant concern. The original design of The White House was by Irish-born James Hoban. He picked a neo-classical style modeled on the Leinster House in Dublin. That building houses the Irish legislature. The original building was Aquina Creek sandstone painted white. The construction took place from 1792 until 1800 for the first White House. During that time Brigadier General Nathaniel Michler was asked to consider different locations. He proposed and designed a new home in Meridian Hill in a more favorable location. Another site was Metropolis View. Both locations were rejected by Congress and construction continued at the present location.
The first disaster to beset The White House was in 1814, during the war with the British known as the War of 1812. President James Monroe was in office as the British marched on Washington, D.C., This brief war ended in another British defeat, but they did burn The White House. Extensive damage was done to the residence with only exterior stone walls remaining. One of these can be seen today. Dolly Madison, President Madison’s wife, was only able to save a painting of George Washington, according to historical records. Immediate rebuilding of The White House began once the war ended. President James Monroe was able to move into a partially reconstructed Executive residence in 1817. The semi-circular South Portico construction was also begun. The North Portico would be added in 1829, under President Andrew Jackson’s administration.
The second disaster to occur to The White House involved another fire when most of the West Wing and the Oval Office was damaged by fire on Christmas Eve in 1929. The West Wing had been the idea of Thomas Jefferson and the Oval Office added during President William Howard Taft’s administration. Herbert Hoover was President when the fire occurred, which also destroyed numerous antiques in both areas. Again, immediate construction began to repair the areas burned in the fire. In 1927, additional portions were added to The White House. A third-floor attic was converted into additional living quarters and an East Wing was added to use as a reception area for social event
The third disaster to The White House occurred in 1948 as WW II was ending. The White House was declared structurally unsound. President Harry Truman temporarily moved out of The White House until the renovation was completed in 1952. The entire interior of The White House was removed and replaced with an all new infrastructure.
The White House of today includes the Executive Residence, West Wing (where the Oval Office is located), East Wing, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building which is the former State Department including offices for the President’s staff and Vice President. The Executive Residence is made up of six stories – the Ground Floor, State Floor, Second Floor, Third Floor, as well as a two-story basement. The Ground Floor has 10 rooms, 1 corridor and 6 lavatories. The First Floor has 8 rooms, 1 corridor and 1 entrance hall. The Second Floor – the family residence, has 16 rooms, 1 main corridor, 6 bathrooms and 1 lavatory. The main rooms of the second floor include the Presidents bedroom with a private sitting room and dressing room, the President’s dining room with kitchens, the East Room and West Room, the Queen’s Bedroom with sitting room, the Yellow Oval Room and Treaty Room, the East and West Sitting Halls and Center Hall. The top floor – called the Attic – has 20 rooms, 1 main corridor and 9 bathrooms. In all there are 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases and 3 elevators in The White House. The White House kitchen can serve dinner to 140 guests and hors d’oeuvres to more than 1,000. Five full time chefs are employed. When the White House exterior is painted it takes more than 570 gallons of paint to cover all the outside surface.
The White House has been called 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. Each President can add or make changes to the White House based on that President’s interest. The White House has a tennis court, a single lane bowling alley, a movie theater (called The White House Family Theater), a jogging track, a swimming pool, and a putting green. Prior to COVID restrictions, an average of 30,000 people visited The White House each week.
The tennis court was added by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1902, the bowling alley first added by President Truman in 1947 and then added again (after it was removed) by President Nixon in 1969. The movie theater was added by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942, the jogging track by President Clinton in 1993, the indoor swimming pool (now covered) by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and the outdoor pool added by President Ford in 1975. President Eisenhower added a putting green in 1954 and President John Kennedy, under advisement from his wife Jacqueline, added the Rose Garden in 1961. Jacqueline Kennedy also directed an extensive historical restoration of The White House, including picking historic themes for each room and finding antiques to fit the period. Melanie Trump recently had the crab apple trees removed from the Rose Garden and planted in another location on the grounds. She also had a walkway added and had some of the hedges removed. President Trump has said this makes the garden area more accessible for functions and for the handicapped.
I am sure former Vice President Biden, now President Biden, is quiet familiar with The White House, but now this will be he and his wife, Jill, home for the next 4 years, plus their two German Shepard’s – Champ and Major. It will be interesting to see what changes the President and the first lady will make to this most historic Home of the Presidents.