For over two hundred years, the White House has been representing the United States and its President. However, it was in December, 1790, when the President George Washington signed an Act of Congress, that the idea of this building was formed. Now known as 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the site where the White house stands today was chosen by the President Washington along with city planner Pierre L’Enfant. The charge of building this magnificent structure was then rested in the hands of Irish-born architect James Hoban, who turned victorious in the contest organized by the government.
White House Facts
The foundation stone for White House was placed on 13th October 1792 and President Washington himself undertook continuous supervision of the construction work, though he never resided in there. The building consists of a lavish reception room, window hoods, elegant pilasters, and stone swags of oak leaves and flowers. This majestic presidential palace followed the neo-classical Federal style with the intricate elements hinting on the typical Greek Ionic architecture. The original sketch of this structure was similar to the Leinster House in Dublin, Ireland without any north and south porticos.
The masons who were hired from Scotland handled the entire stone work in sandstone. They carved the rose and garland ornaments above the north entrance and the scalloped designs beneath the window pediments. The brick and plaster activities were assigned to the Irish and Italian immigrants, whereas the Italian artisans were responsible for the ornamental stonework on the White House porticoes.
Unlike the red brick work, the porous sandstone was covered by a thick whitewash which gave a paint coated look. The thick whitewash required glue to hold the ingredients together. The sandstone was gray in color and sourced from a quarry in Aquia, Virginia. They were painted white only when the White House was renovated after a fire incident. It was after this accident that the building became famous as the “White House”. The first coating of the white paint used was a mixture of rice glue, casein, and lead, and an estimated 570 gallons of paint was
needed to cover the exterior area of the building.
The construction process of White House was not only very slow but also consumed a whopping amount of $232,372. The White House, which took almost 8 years to meet its completion, was a smaller version of what had been visualized by the planner L’Enfant. Nevertheless, when completed, it was the biggest residential premise in the entire of United States till the 1860s. This magnanimous structure comprises of 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the Residence. It was built to have 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators. For a guest list of 140 people and hors d’oeuvres over 1,000, the White House has five full-time chefs who work in the kitchen.
Post-completion, the White House experienced a major fire in 1814 and then in 1929 again bore the brunt of another fire in the West Wing during the presidency of Herbert Hoover. In another incident floor which took place when Harry S. Truman was the president, the interiors of the structure were all devastated excluding the third floor.
In 1800, the White House welcomed their first guests, President John Adams and his family. The House was not even nearing its finishing date when the family had settled in, but they soon arranged housekeeping in the second floor. The ground floor was used by the servants for kitchens, laundry, and housekeeping rooms. Also, what is currently a Diplomatic Reception Room today was formerly the housekeeper’s room, equipped with built-in cabinets. During the work on the Public Audience Chamber (East Room) and the grand staircase (presently in north end of the State Dining Room), few of the rooms on the second and ground floor served the purpose of store rooms.
In 1800, Adams left the premise when Thomas Jefferson won the election, and with every new occupant, the structure underwent a series of modifications and alterations. Since his presidency in 1805, President Thomas Jefferson also allowed public tours, except during the war. With assistance from the architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, he made various additions to the structure.
At present, the residents at the White House enjoy and relax in a range of facilities such as the tennis court, swimming pool, jogging track, movie-theater, and bowling lane. The building was earlier popular by various names such as the President’s Palace, the President’s House, and the Executive Mansion. It was formally christened as White House by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901.