Formerly: The Executive Mansion
Formerly: The President's House
Formerly: The People's Palace
Designed by: James Hoban
Renovated: 1902: the West Wing is added by McKim, Mead & White
Renovated: 1814 after being burned by British Troops
Type: Government Building
Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, United States
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he location of the White House was chosen by the first president of the United States of America, George Washington; along with the capital's first city planner, Pierre L'Enfant in 1790. Irish architect James Hoban decided the building should look like an English country house, and together with Washington they created the home of the country's future leaders.
In spite of a number of major renovations, the exterior walls are the same ones put in place more than 200 years ago. Each president, however, is allowed to decorate the inside as he sees fit. During the Truman administration the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth floors were gutted. Construction was so extensive that the First Family had to live elsewhere for a time.
In the early 1900's Theodore Roosevelt had the now famous West Wing built to house the president's offices. Roosevelt is also responsible for the White House movie theater and the indoor swimming pool.
Harry Truman replaced the awnings on the back of the building with the grand balcony so familiar today.
The Roosevelt swimming pool wasn't a favorite of Richard Nixon, who had it decked over.
Ronald Reagan had stadium-style seating installed in the theater.
The building‘s main rooms are as follows:
**The Blue Room
**The Green Drawing Room
**The Red Room
**The Vermeil Room
**The Yellow Oval Room
**The China Room
**The Diplomatic Reception Room
**The East Room
**The Lincoln Bedroom
**The Map Room
**The Palm Room (West Garden Room)
**The Queen's Bedroom (formerly the Rose Bedroom)
**The Roosevelt Room
**The State Dining Room
The White House has faced a number of threats in long history; most commonly from fire. The British burned it during the War of 1812. And the West Wing burned in 1929 during Herbert Hoover's administration. In the late 1990's, Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to traffic and concrete security barriers erected because of the fear of terrorism. In 2000, a plan was conceived to reopen the street to the public, but with a pair of low pedestrian walkways. These would only allow cars to pass, keeping large trucks and the bombs they might carry away from the building.
This also helped achieve a long-time goal of the Park Service -- the estoration of the White House as a symbol of openness. "The People's Palace," as it is sometimes called, has been open to visitors almost continuously since 1805, and the Park Service wanted to continue that tradition.
- The White House has long been known for its distinguished cadre of ghosts. Among them, the most famous is spirit of President Abraham Lincoln who has been reported a number of times in and in the vicinity of the Lincoln Bedroom.
- It is said the ghost of President Harrison can be heard in the attic.
- The ghost of President Andrew Jackson has been repeatedly seen in one of the bedrooms.
- The ghost of First Lady Abigail Adams has been seen walking through the halls with her arms outstretched, as if carrying something. She has also been seen making motions as if doing laundry.
- The sighting of the spirit of a black cat in the basement has been known to precede national tragedies like assasinations and stock market crashes. The same thing is said of a spirit cat in the basement of the Capitol Building. It is unknown if this is the same phantom, or a confusion of the tales.
- The ghost of First Lady Dolly Madison has been seen in the Rose Garden.
- The White House has 132 rooms, 32 bathrooms, 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, seven staircases, five full-time chefs, three elevators, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a tennis court, a jogging track, and a billiards room.
- The State Dining Room can seat 140 guests.
- It takes 570 gallons of paint to paint the exterior.
- The White House is the only private residence of a head of state that is open to the public for free.
- After the Civil War, the White House was almost abandoned in favor of another mansion in the countryside. It was President Grant who saved the White House by deciding he wanted to sleep where President Lincoln slept.
- During World War I, Woodrow Wilson used sheep to cut the lawn to save money.
- The curved driveway used to be open to the public, and became a "lover's lane." First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt put a stop to it.
- The Queen's Bedroom used to be known as the Rose Bedroom until the Kennedy administration. Before it was a bedroom it was a staff office.
- The Lincoln Bedroom used to be Lincoln's office. Harry Truman decided it should be a bedroom.
- Just about everything inside the White House has a story. The president's desk is no exception. It started out as an Arctic exploration ship. In 1852 HMS Resolute set sail from England on a rescue mission. It was in search of a ship that disappeared near Greenland while searching for the fabled Northwest Passage. The Resolute and three other ships became trapped in the ice and in 1854 they were abandoned. Eventually the ice melted, and the Resolute drifted a thousand miles before it was found by the American whaling ship George Henry. Its captain brought the Resolute to Connecticut. A New York merchant paid to have it refurbished and sent to England. Back in its home country the Resolute served for two decades in the Royal Navy. It was then decommissioned, and ordered destroyed. Queen Victoria decided part of the ship should be made into a desk for the American president. The 1,300 pound piece of furniture arrived at the White House on November 23, 1880.
- 1902: The West Wing is added to the White House.
- 1931: The East Garden was designed by Beatrix Farrand for First Lady Ellen Wilson.
- 1934: The Oval Office was moved to the West Wing.
- 1935: An area used as a waiting room and a laundry room was made into the library.
- 1942: A cloak room then known as the Hat Box was transformed into the White House movie theater.
- September, 1994: Frank Corder crashed a stolen airplane on the south lawn of the White House. He was killed on impact.
- October, 1994: Francisco Duran opened fire on the White House with an automatic weapon. No one was hurt.
- May, 1995: Leland Modjeski climbed over the fence with an unloaded gun. He was shot on the lawn.
- In 2000, Three replica White House dog houses were made by the Coldwell Banker real estate firm. One went to then-President Clinton and his dog. The second went to President George W. Bush, and the third was given away in a contest.
- 7 February, 2001: A man with a history of mental illness was shot by a Secret Service agent outside the White House in Washington, DC. Robert Pickett was shot in the knee when he refused to put down his gun after firing several shots and aiming the weapon at the White House. He is a West Point Military Academy dropout who was fired from his IRS job in Cincinnati and claims the government has ruined his life through a campaign of systematic persecution.
- 14 March, 2001: Another man jumps the White House fence. He is not armed and is arrested without incident.
- August, 2001: The White House gets a facelift. 40 renovation projects are undertaken while the president is away at his ranch in Texas. Cracking driveways and crumbling columns are repaired. And the building is repainted in its official shade "Whisper White."
- 11 September, 2001: The White House is closed to the public after terrorists attack the Pentagon.
- September, 2002: The National Parks Service starts installing solar panels on some of the buildings on the grounds of the White House. They are used to light the grounds at night, warm the President's water, and heat the President's pool.
- 28 April, 2003: Following the war on Iraq, public tours of the White House resume, but are limited to children's groups and veterans groups.
- September, 2003: More public tours of the White House are permitted, but must be arranged through a member of Congress and the visitor must pass a security screening.
|Did You Know?
- *George Washington was the only president who didn't live in the White House, even though it was his idea.
- At one time Congress considered moving the White House and the rest of the capitol to Cincinnati.
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