The White House: know all its history
One of the most emblematic places in the United States, the official residence and workplace of the president of the country, is the White House. A building that was built at the end of the 18th century following a project by George Washington himself. In this article, we will tell you the story of an entire symbol.
White House history
The project to build the White House began in 1790 when George Washington chose 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the ideal plot of land. The works began two years later and lasted, at least most of them, until 1800.
White House facade
It was the Irish architect James Hoban who directed the construction works of this beautiful neoclassical-inspired building. Slaves excavated the basement of the main residence and carried out the construction of the foundations. While the brick and plaster works were carried out by Italian and Irish immigrants.
Subsequently, the entire building was covered with a mixture of rice glue, casein, lime, and lead, which is what gave it that characteristic color that years later would serve to “baptize” it.
The early years of the White House
John Adams was the first president to occupy the White House, still unfinished. It happened on November 1, 1800. More than a century later, President Roosevelt would have a prayer written by Adams engraved on the fireplace of the State Dinner Room:
I pray to Heaven to grant the best blessings to this house, and to all those who will inhabit it from now on. May only wise and honest men ever rule under this roof.
After John Adams would come, Thomas Jefferson, carried out several works to enlarge the residence. Among other things, he added colonnades to hide what were then some service buildings.
The White House is in ruins
In 1812 the White House was left in ruins after a fire caused by British troops. Only the outer walls remained, although later they had to be demolished due to their instability. All items and furniture inside were looted.
The White House was rebuilt and expanded over the years. In 1891 wings on the east and west would be added to house an art gallery and a space for official functions. Already under the mandate of President Roosevelt, a new extension was made and in 1909 President William Taft ordered the expansion of the West Wing, where the famous Oval Office was installed.
Oval Office in the White House
The lack of maintenance and some expansion work weakened the structure of the White House, to the point that President Truman abandoned it in 1949. Immediately afterward a new reconstruction began, which would last until 1952. The reform included a new staircase, two basements, warehouses, and a bomb shelter.
The most extensive and historic redecoration was carried out by Jacqueline Kennedy in conjunction with a special restoration committee. Themes were selected for each room and antique furniture and paintings were purchased. The White House became more luxurious and more in the style of European nobility.
They would not be the last changes. The residential area has been changing as the presidents passed by to adapt it to their tastes and needs. However, any changes to the “official” area must be approved by the White House Preservation Committee.
Today the White House has an area of 5,100 m² distributed over 6 floors (with 132 bedrooms and 35 bathrooms on the two upper floors). It has 7 elevators, 60 stairs, 412 doors, 147 windows, and 28 chimneys.
Can you visit the White House?
You can, but it’s not easy. Applications must be completed on the official website and processed through a member of Congress several weeks in advance. This means, neither more nor less, that non-US citizens have it very difficult.
The official website indicates that foreign visitors should contact their embassy in Washington in order to organize a visit. A possibility, however, that has not been allowed for a long time.
But there is an alternative: tour the White House Visitor Center. It exhibits more than a hundred objects and you can take a virtual tour of the building. It’s not the same as doing it live, but it’s a great experience.