|The White House|
The North Portico - (November 15th 2014)
|Architectural style||Neoclassical, Palladian|
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
NW Washington, D.C. 20500 U.S.
|Current tenants||Barack Obama, President of the United States and the First Family|
|Construction started||October 13, 1792|
|Design and construction|
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. It has been the residence of every U.S. president since John Adams in 1800.
The house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia Creek sandstone in the Neoclassical style. When Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, he (with architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe) expanded the building outward, creating two colonnades that were meant to conceal stables and storage.
In 1814, during the War of 1812, the mansion was set ablaze by the British Army in the Burning of Washington, destroying the interior and charring much of the exterior. Reconstruction began almost immediately, and President James Monroe moved into the partially reconstructed Executive Residence in October 1817. Construction continued with the addition of the South Portico in 1824 and the North in 1829.
Because of crowding within the executive mansion itself, President Theodore Roosevelt had all work offices relocated to the newly constructed West Wing in 1901. Eight years later, President William Howard Taft expanded the West Wing and created the first Oval Office which was eventually moved as the section was expanded. The third-floor attic was converted to living quarters in 1927 by augmenting the existing hip roof with long shed dormers. A newly constructed East Wing was used as a reception area for social events; Jefferson's colonnades connected the new wings.
East Wing alterations were completed in 1946, creating additional office space. By 1948, the house's load-bearing exterior walls and internal wood beams were found to be close to failure. Under Harry S. Truman, the interior rooms were completely dismantled and a new internal load-bearing steel frame constructed inside the walls. Once this work was completed, the interior rooms were rebuilt.
Today, the White House Complex includes the Executive Residence, West Wing, East Wing, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building—the former State Department, which now houses offices for the President's staff and the Vice President—and Blair House, a guest residence.
The Executive Residence is made up of six stories—the Ground Floor, State Floor, Second Floor, and Third Floor, as well as a two-story basement. The term White House is often used as a metonym for the Executive Office of the President of the United States and for the president's administration and advisers in general, as in "The White House has decided that....". The property is a National Heritage Site owned by the National Park Service and is part of the President's Park. In 2007, it was ranked second on the American Institute of Architects list of "America's Favorite Architecture".
- 1789–1800 1.1
- Architectural competition 1.2
- Design influences 1.3
- Construction 1.4
- Architectural description 1.5
- Naming conventions 1.6
Evolution of the White House 2
- Early use, the 1814 fire, and rebuilding 2.1
- Overcrowding and building the West Wing 2.2
- The Truman reconstruction 2.3
- The Kennedy restoration 2.4
The White House since the Kennedy restoration 3
- Layout and amenities 3.1
- Executive Residence 3.2
- West Wing 3.3
- East Wing 3.4
- Grounds 3.5
- Public access and security 4
- See also 5
- References 6
- Further reading 7
- External links 8
Following his April 1789 inauguration, President George Washington occupied two executive mansions in New York City: the Samuel Osgood House at 3 Cherry Street (April 1789 – February 1790), and the Alexander Macomb House at 39–41 Broadway (February–August 1790). In May 1790, New York began construction of Government House for his official residence, but he never occupied it. The national capital moved to Philadelphia in December 1790.
The July 1790 Residence Act named Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the temporary national capital for a 10-year period while the Federal City was under construction. The City of Philadelphia rented Robert Morris's city house at 190 High Street (now 524-30 Market Street) for Washington's presidential residence. The first president occupied the Market Street mansion from November 1790 to March 1797, and altered it in ways that may have influenced the design of the White House. As part of a futile effort to have Philadelphia named the permanent national capital, Pennsylvania built a much grander presidential mansion several blocks away, but Washington declined to occupy it.
President John Adams also occupied the Market Street mansion from March 1797 to May 1800. In November 1800, he became the first president to occupy the White House. The President's House in Philadelphia became a hotel and was demolished in 1832, while the unused presidential mansion became home to the University of Pennsylvania.
First Presidential Mansion: Samuel Osgood House, Manhattan, New York. Occupied by Washington: April 1789 - February 1790.
Second Presidential Mansion: Alexander Macomb House, Manhattan, New York. Occupied by Washington: February - August 1790.
Third Presidential Mansion: President's House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Occupied by Washington: November 1790 – March 1797. Occupied by Adams: March 1797 – May 1800.
Government House, New York (1790-91). Built to be the permanent presidential mansion, Congress moved the national capital to Philadelphia before its completion.
House intended for the President, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1790s). Built to be the permanent presidential mansion, neither Washington nor Adams would occupy it.
The President's House was a major feature of Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant's's plan for the newly established federal city, Washington, D.C. The architect of the White House was chosen in a design competition which received nine proposals, including one submitted anonymously by Thomas Jefferson.
President Washington visited Charleston, South Carolina in May 1791 on his "Southern Tour", and saw the under-construction Charleston County Courthouse designed by Irish architect James Hoban. He is reputed to have met with Hoban then. The following year, he summoned the architect to Philadelphia and met with him in June 1792.
On July 16, 1792, the President met with the commissioners of the federal city to make his judgment in the architectural competition. His review is recorded as being brief, and he quickly selected Hoban's submission.
Washington was not entirely pleased with the original submission, however; he found it too small, lacking ornament, and not monumental enough to house the nation's president. On his recommendation, the house was changed from three stories to two, and was widened from a nine-bay facade to an 11-bay facade. Hoban's competition drawings do not survive.
The building has classical inspiration sources, that could be found directly or indirectly in the Roman architect Blue Room. These influences, though undocumented, are cited in the official White House guide, and in White House Historical Association publications. The first official White House guide, published in 1962, suggested a link between Hoban's design for the South Portico and Château de Rastignac, a neoclassical country house located in La Bachellerie in the Dordogne region of France and designed by Mathurin Salat. Construction on the French house was initially started before 1789, interrupted by the French Revolution for twenty years and then finally built 1812–1817 (based on Salat's pre-1789 design). The theoretical link between the two houses has been criticized because Hoban did not visit France. Supporters of a connection posit that Thomas Jefferson, during his tour of Bordeaux in 1789, viewed Salat's architectural drawings (which were on-file at the College) at the École Spéciale d'Architecture (Bordeaux Architectural College). On his return to the U.S. he then shared the influence with Washington, Hoban, Monroe, and Benjamin Henry Latrobe.
Construction of the White House began with the laying of the cornerstone on October 13, 1792, although there was no formal ceremony. The main residence, as well as foundations of the house, were built largely by enslaved and free African-American laborers, as well as employed Europeans. Much of the other work on the house was performed by immigrants, many not yet with citizenship. The sandstone walls were erected by Scottish immigrants, employed by Hoban, as were the high-relief rose and garland decorations above the north entrance and the "fish scale" pattern beneath the pediments of the window hoods. The initial construction took place over a period of eight years, at a reported cost of $232,371.83 (equal to $3,229,057 today). Although not yet completed, the White House was ready for occupancy on or circa November 1, 1800.
Shortages, including material and labor, forced alterations to the earlier plan developed by French engineer Pierre Charles L'Enfant for a "palace" that was five times larger than the house that was eventually built. The finished structure contained only two main floors instead of the planned three, and a less costly brick served as a lining for the stone façades. When construction was finished, the porous sandstone walls were whitewashed with a mixture of lime, rice glue, casein, and lead, giving the house its familiar color and name.
As it is a famed structure in America, several replicas of the White House have been constructed.
The principal façade of the White House, the north front, is of three floors and eleven bays. The ground floor is hidden by a raised carriage ramp and parapet, thus the façade appears to be of two floors. The central three bays are behind a prostyle portico (this was a later addition to the house, built circa 1830) serving, thanks to the carriage ramp, as a porte cochere. The windows of the four bays flanking the portico, at first-floor level, have alternating pointed and segmented pediments, while at second-floor level the pediments are flat. The principal entrance at the center of the portico is surmounted by a lunette fanlight. Above the entrance is a sculpted floral festoon. The roofline is hidden by a balustraded parapet.
The mansion's southern façade is a combination of the Palladian and neoclassical styles of architecture. It is of three floors, all visible. The ground floor is rusticated in the Palladian fashion. At the center of the façade is a neoclassical projecting bow of three bays. The bow is flanked by 5 bays, the windows of which, as on the north façade, have alternating segmented and pointed pediments at first-floor level. The bow has a ground floor double staircase leading to an Ionic colonnaded loggia (with the Truman Balcony at second-floor level), known as the south portico. The more modern third floor is hidden by a balustraded parapet and plays no part in the composition of the façade.
The building was originally referred to variously as the "President's Palace", "Presidential Mansion", or "President's House". The earliest evidence of the public calling it the "White House" was recorded in 1811. A myth emerged that during the rebuilding of the structure after the Burning of Washington, white paint was applied to mask the burn damage it had suffered, giving the building its namesake hue. The name "Executive Mansion" was used in official contexts until President Theodore Roosevelt established the formal name by having "White House–Washington" engraved on the stationery in 1901. The current letterhead wording and arrangement "The White House" with the word "Washington" centered beneath goes back to the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Although it was not completed until some years after the presidency of George Washington, it is also speculated that the name of the traditional residence of the President of the United States may have derived from Martha Washington's home, White House Plantation in Virginia, where the nation's first President had courted the First Lady in the mid-18th century.
Evolution of the White House
Early use, the 1814 fire, and rebuilding
On Saturday, November 1, 1800, John Adams became the first president to take residence in the building. During Adams' second day in the house, he wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, containing a prayer for the house. Adams wrote:
I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this House, and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.Franklin D. Roosevelt had Adams's blessing carved into the mantel in the State Dining Room.
Adams lived in the house only briefly before Thomas Jefferson moved into the "pleasant country residence" in 1801. Despite his complaints that the house was too big ("big enough for two emperors, one pope, and the grand lama in the bargain"), Jefferson considered how the White House might be added to. With Benjamin Henry Latrobe, he helped lay out the design for the East and West Colonnades, small wings that help conceal the domestic operations of laundry, a stable and storage. Today, Jefferson's colonnades link the residence with the East and West Wings.
In 1814, during the
- Official website
- The White House Historical Association, with historical photos, online tours and exhibits, timelines, and facts
- National Park Service website for the President's Park
- The White House Museum, a detailed online tour of the White House
- Detailed 3D computer model of White House and grounds
- Video of "White House Holiday Tour with Laura Bush", C-SPAN Dec 3, 2008
- 14 Video tours of different White House rooms, C-SPAN Dec 1, 2008
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- L'Enfant identified himself as "Peter Charles L'Enfant" during most of his life, while residing in the United States. He wrote this name on his "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of t(he) United States ...." (Washington, D.C.) and on other legal documents. However, during the early 1900s, a French ambassador to the U.S., United States Code states in 40 U.S.C. § 3309: "(a) In General.—The purposes of this chapter shall be carried out in the District of Columbia as nearly as may be practicable in harmony with the plan of Peter Charles L'Enfant." The National Park Service identifies L'Enfant as "Major Peter Charles L'Enfant" and as "Major Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant" on its website.
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- Seale, William (1992). The White House, The History of an American Idea. The American Institute of Architects Press. pp. 35. 1.
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For the White House itself, and thus for the American people, Pat Nixon also decided to accelerate the collection process of fine antiques as well as historically associative pieces, adding some 600 paintings and antiques to the White House Collection. It was the single greatest collecting during any Administration.
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- List of largest historic houses in the United States
- Blair House, official guest house of the President
- Camp David
- Curator of the White House
- Germantown White House
- Reported White House ghosts
- List of National Historic Landmarks in the District of Columbia
- List of U.S. Presidential residences
- Number One Observatory Circle, residence of the Vice President
- Rooms in the White House
- Western White House
- White House Acquisition Trust
- White House Chief Calligrapher
- White House Chief Floral Designer
- White House Christmas tree
- White House Communications Agency
- White House Endowment Trust
- White House Executive Chef
- White House Fellows
- White House Graphics and Calligraphy Office
- White House History
- White House Social Secretary
For security reasons, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House is closed to all vehicular traffic, except government officials.
White House at night
White House on the reverse (back) of the U.S. $20 note.
NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System) were used to guard air space over Washington, D.C. during the 2005 presidential inauguration. The same NASAMS units have since been used to protect the president and all air space around the White House, which is strictly prohibited to aircraft.
Prior to its inclusion within the fenced compound that now includes the Old Executive Office Building to the west and the Treasury Building to the east, this sidewalk served as a queuing area for the daily public tours of the White House. These tours were suspended in the wake of the September 11 attacks. In September 2003, they resumed on a limited basis for groups making prior arrangements through their Congressional representatives or embassies in Washington for foreign nationals and submitting to background checks, but the White House remained closed to the public. White House tours were suspended for most of 2013 due to budget constraints after sequestration. The White House reopened to the public in November 2013.
The Pennsylvania Avenue closing has been opposed by organized civic groups in Washington, D.C. They argue that the closing impedes traffic flow unnecessarily and is inconsistent with the well-conceived historic plan for the city. As for security considerations, they note that the White House is set much farther back from the street than numerous other sensitive federal buildings are.
On May 20, 1995, primarily as a response to the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995, the United States Secret Service closed off Pennsylvania Avenue to vehicular traffic in front of the White House from the eastern edge of Lafayette Park to 17th Street. Later, the closure was extended an additional block to the east to 15th Street, and East Executive Avenue, a small street between the White House and the Treasury Building. After the attacks of September 11, 2001 this policy was made permanent in addition to closing E Street between the South Portico of the White House and the Ellipse. During the Boston Marathon Bombings, the road was closed to the public in its entirety for a period of two days.
In 1974, a stolen Army helicopter landed without authorization on the White House grounds. Twenty years later, in 1994, a light plane crashed on the White House grounds, and the pilot died instantly. As a result of increased security regarding air traffic in the capital, the White House was evacuated in 2005 before an unauthorized aircraft could approach the grounds.
The White House remained accessible in other ways; President Abraham Lincoln complained that he was constantly beleaguered by job seekers waiting to ask him for political appointments or other favors, or eccentric dispensers of advice like "General" Daniel Pratt, as he began the business day. Lincoln put up with the annoyance rather than risk alienating some associate or friend of a powerful politician or opinion maker.
Like the English and Irish country houses it was modeled on, the White House was, from the start, open to the public until the early part of the 20th century. President Thomas Jefferson held an open house for his second inaugural in 1805, and many of the people at his swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol followed him home, where he greeted them in the Blue Room. Those open houses sometimes became rowdy: in 1829, President Andrew Jackson had to leave for a hotel when roughly 20,000 citizens celebrated his inauguration inside the White House. His aides ultimately had to lure the mob outside with washtubs filled with a potent cocktail of orange juice and whiskey. Even so, the practice continued until 1885, when newly elected Grover Cleveland arranged for a presidential review of the troops from a grandstand in front of the White House instead of the traditional open house. Jefferson also permitted public tours of his house, which have continued eve