The White House

We all know who lives in the ‘White House’. We also know the address right? (1600 Pennsylvania Ave.). When did this house become the President’s house? The president first moved in on November 1, 1800. 

James Hoban is the architect and the plans were started back in 1792 as part of the L’Enfant plan.

During the war of 1812 (in 1814) our current friends to the north, came down to Washington and burned down many of our important buildings. But it was in retaliation for when we set fire to their parliament.

To mask the damages and minimize them, white wash was commonly used on barns and easily accessible and so the house was painted…white. But it wasn’t really called the ‘White House’ in the sense that we use it today to refer to the office of the President. It was referred to the President’s House. Early on, they wanted to call it the Presidential Palace but Washington thought inappropriate as we had fought against a monarchy and so it would call the President’s house. It was under Teddy Roosevelt that the “White House” moniker would be used.

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. During this, the Truman’s lived at their Blair House, right across Pennsylvania Avenue. The exterior stone walls remain in tact from their initial placement two centuries ago. The White House fence encloses 18 acres of land. Running water was added in 1833. Electricity was installed in 1891.

It was during the renovations under Taft would see the expansion of the executive wing in 1909. This is when the house would get the now famous West Wing. The west wing and oval office are part of a low lying building just off to the west of the house. 

Think of it as an office just like other companies. The president has a staff and they need to be close to the President as part of their work as the ‘Executive Branch’.

Like the word says, they make sure the laws are applied, executed.

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 

Following Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, inaugural crowds became far too large for the White House to accommodate comfortably. It wasn’t until President 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. 

The private residence is located in the third floor which looks recessed from our vantage points to the North or South of it.

The White House is quite famous and often in the news and now you will be able to say you’ve seen it and maybe one day, one of you might live here.

Notes: We usually recommend making your presentation across the street at Lafayette Park. Take the students and turn your back to the WH so the students can look at it while you present. There is always a large crowd.

There are 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms and six levels in the residence. There are also 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, eight staircases and three elevators. For recreation, the White House has a variety of facilities available to its residents, including a tennis court, jogging track, swimming pool, movie theater and bowling lane. Five full-time chef are employed to cook meals for the First Family and the staff.

  • 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.
  • Who was the first president who lived in the White House? John Adams.
  • Electric vacuum cleaners were used for the first time on White House carpets in 1922
  • The Gilbert Stuart likeness of George Washington, obtained in 1800, is the oldest possession in the White House. During the War of 1812, Dolley Madison saved Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington before approaching British troops torched the White House.
  • The movements of the President, First Lady and others, are tracked within the White House. The Secret Service and ushers are alerted whenever someone enters a room. 
  • In the State Dining Room, a prayer is carved into the mantle of the fireplace. President Franklin Roosevelt (1933-45) chose a letter written by President John Adams (1797-1801), to his wife. “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it.May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
  • During World War I, sheep grazed the south lawn of the White House. President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, First Lady Margaret Wilson, wanted to be a model American family helping the war effort. The sheep saved the White House manpower from cutting the lawns, and the wool from the sheep raised $52,823 for the Red Cross.If you ever have a chance,  watch Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. It is a great movie depicting life back in the middle of the 1800’s. People would call on the president just like we would today to see the mayor or the town manager. Things sure have changed.
Make sure have the White House orientation walk on your next Washington DC School Trip itinerary.