Wanderlust America

Significance and history behind the White House

The White House is the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States of America. The address for the White House is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, DC. It has been the home of every United States president since John Adams in 1800. White House is not only America’s most iconic home but has also been the location of some significant events in United States history.

The White House was set on 18 acres of land and comprises the Executive Residence, the West Wing, the East Wing, and the world-famous Oval Office. In total, there are 132 rooms on six levels, and it is laid out over 55,000 square feet. In a year  the White House attracts nearly 500,000 visitors and has been an everlasting emblem of democracy

White House 1 scaled

Early History

Initially, the president of the United States used to reside in New York and Philadelphia. George Washington then selected the location of the capital with the assistance of a French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant. Originally it had been proposed that the residence be of an opulent structure which would have resulted in the building being four times what it is today. However, this was quickly rejected by the committee which was overlooking the construction of the District of Columbia. It was finally decided that the design be selected through a national competition. 

Architectural design

In 1792, Irish-born James Hoban won the national competition and was selected to design and build the White House. James Hoden suggested a Palladian neoclassical structure. James Hoban was inspired by L’Enfant’s design for the Federal Hall located in New York. 

The construction of the house started in October of 1792. It was constructed using Aquia sandstone and lumber brought from forests in Virginia. President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Adams had moved into the building in 1800 while it was still unfinished. Until after the Civil War, the White House would remain the single biggest home in the United States of America. The total cost of construction of the White House was $232,372. 

The White House Aerial View scaled


All through its history, the White House has gone through many expansions and renovations. It started with President Thomas Jefferson who decided to add East and West Colonnades. It was in 1812 during the War that the first crucial renovations took place. During the War in 1814, British troops decided to burn down the White House and a few other public buildings. This meant Hoban had to return to build the residency again and his work was finally complete in 1817.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States decided to again expand and renovate the White House with the help of McKim, Mead, and White. They decided to shift the presidential offices to a newer building now known as the West Wing. Roosevelt’s renovations included adding a reception, a new entry, and a new staircase fit which he repurposed with the help of architect Charles McKim. The West Wing addition was a huge step in the expansion of the White House. It has now become one of the premier and legendary symbols of the United States presidency. Other than these, Roosevelt also decided to expand the Dining room as the U.S. started to take center stage in world politics.

Harry Truman the 33rd president of the United States of America moved into the White House in 1945. When he saw the state of the building he was concerned. This was because a chandelier had almost fallen on Bess Truman and her guests, and the leg of Truman’s piano had almost penetrated the private dining room’s floor. Upon careful inspection, it was decided that the building was unsafe for housing and Truman and his family moved to the president’s guest house.

It took three years during which architect Lorenzo Winslow oversaw the destruction and rebuilding of the White House. This was undoubtedly the largest demolition and reconstruction of the White House due to its downright amount. 

Jacqueline Kennedy, the first lady in 1961 oversaw another restoration, this time of the interior room. This was done with plans of making the White House a living breathing museum. To preserve the White House, she even founded the White House Historical Association in 1961. In 1961, the White House was officially nominated as a museum by Congress. Now any changes to the Rooms of the White House had to be approved by the Committee for Preservation of the White House. 

White House Washington DC scaled

Significant Rooms in the White House

The living spaces of the president and the Staterooms are homed by the Central Executive Residence. The Diplomatic Reception Room, the Library, The Map Room, The Verneil Room, and the China Room are all located on the ground floor. The State Floor includes some important locations such as the East Room, the blue, red, and green rooms, the State dining room, and the dining room. The second floor houses the personal residency of the first family. Other than the Bedroom suite it also has spaces that include The Treaty Room, The Yellow Oval Room, The Center Hall, and East and West Sitting rooms. 

  • East Wing – The East Wing was included in 1902 and was initially meant to be an entrance to the White House. The structure that exists today is on top of the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. The First Lady and her exclusive staff have their offices in the two-story East Wing.
  • West Wing – The main highlight of the West Wing is the Oval Office. Every president who has resided in the White House has added their personal touch to this workplace. There are six desks in total in the Oval Office and the Resolute desk is the most known of them all. Current U.S. President Joe Biden occupies the Resolute desk. The Situation Room, Cabinet Room, Press Room, and other offices for advisors are all housed in the West Wing as well. The West Wing also includes an oval office for the Vice president of the United States.
  • Grounds – Since the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, the White House grounds have been a place for amazing landscaping. More than three dozen trees going back to 1870 have been planted on the South Lawn. When Barrack Obama was in power in 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama decided to plant a 1,100-square-foot vegetable garden on the White House grounds.
White House West Wing scaled

Some White House Facts

  • Greenhouses – Did you know that the White House once had greenhouses? In 1857 President James Buchanan included a glass observatory which kept expanding throughout the 19th century. Unfortunately, in 1902 then President Theodore Roosevelt decided to demolish the greenhouse to make room for the West Wing.
  • Swimming Pools – There have been two swimming pools in the White House. One was added by Theodore Roosevelt to exercise because of his polio disease. The second one was built by Gerald Ford on the South Lawn.
  • Kitchen – The White House kitchen can feed approximately 140 guests over dinner.
  • Fun activities – To have fun at the White House, you can play tennis and basketball on a court. There is also a bowling alley and a 42-inch movie theater located.
White House South Corridor scaled

White House Tourism

Public tours are available from 9.30am to 12.30 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. An American can take a tour of the White House by booking their visit though their members of Congress. As for foreign citizens, they need to book a visit through the embassy. U.S citizens should be 18 or older and foreign nationals must present a government issued ID upon arrival. Street parking is very limited therefore the closest Metro Stations are Federal Triangle, Metro Center and McPherson Square. Wheelchair accessibility is available at the White House.

Here are some things you must know before arriving.

  • Arrive 15 minutes before scheduled time
  • Stay hydrated before your arrival
  • Tours last for 45 minutes approximately
  • Please do not use cell phones when at the White House
  • No photography or video recording is allowed
  • Dress for the Weather
White House 2 scaled

Things to Know about the White House

  • The White House used to be called the “President’s House” and the “President’s Mansion” initially. This was however changed to the “White House” in 1901 by Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Except for George Washington, who chose the location and design for the White House, every other U.S. president since John Adams has lived in the White House during their presidency.
  • The color of the White House is of course White as the name suggests. This was done to protect the porous sandstone from weather damage by covering it with a mixture of lime, rice glue, casein, and lead.
  • President Grover Cleveland’s second daughter Esther is the first and only child of a President to be born in the White House.
  • Grover Cleveland also holds the distinction of being the first and only President to be married from the White House.
  • The White House has seen many weddings including those of the daughters of Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • There’s a popular myth that the White House is hunted by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in 1865. Among those who claim to have seen the ghost are notable people like First Lady Grace Coolidge, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • The Press Room in the White House was first equipped with a Coffee Machine when Tom Hanks discovered the journalists waiting for coffee, in 2004 and the tradition never stopped.
  • Franklin D Roosevelt was the first President who had ramps built in the West Wing and elevators installed in the White House to accommodate his wheelchair in 1930. However, the East Wing had to wait till 1990 when Hillay Clinton approved the addition to facilitate easier access for public tours and special events.
White House podium Washington DC scaled

Places to Eat

There are several places to eat around the White House that cater to all types of budgets and palates. From simple sandwiches from Breadline to vegan options at Equinox to typical Indian thali at the Bombay Club the tourist will be spoiled for choice.

If you want, you can visit Off The Record and order a martini seated among journalists and politicians, or you could drop in at Teaism Lafayette Park and sample from their diverse selection of teas, cookies, and udon.

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