White House

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Historian & humanities teacher. Author of Washington in Focus; In Honored Glory; Hostile Fire; and others.

White House, formerly Executive Mansion (1810–1901), the official office and residence of the president of the United States at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. in Washington, D.C. It is perhaps the most famous & easily recognizable house in the world, serving as both the trang chính and workplace of the president and the headquarters of the president’s principal staff members.



White House, drawing by James Hoban
Drawing of the elevation of the White House nhà trắng by James Hoban, 1792; in the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.
Courtesy of the Maryl& Historical Society, Baltimore

The building’s history begins in 1792, when a public competition was held to lớn choose a thiết kế for a presidential residence in the new capital đô thị of Washington. Thomas Jefferson, later the country’s third president (1801–09), using the pseudonymous initials “A.Z.,” was aao ước those who submitted drawings, but Irish American architect James Hoban won the commission (& a $500 prize) with his plan for a Georgian mansion in the Palladian style. The structure was lớn have three floors và more than 100 rooms and would be built in sandstone imported from quarries along Aquia Creek in Virginia. The cornerstone was laid on October 13, 1792. Labourers, including local enslaved people, were housed in temporary huts built on the north side of the premises. They were joined by skilled stonemasons from Edinburgh, Scotlvà, in 1793.

In 1800 the entire federal government was relocated from Philadelphia lớn Washington. John Adams, the country’s second president (1797–1801), moved into lớn the still unfinished presidential mansion on November 1 và the next night wrote in a letter to lớn his wife, Abigail Adams:

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I Pray Heaven Bestow the Best of Blessings on This House & All that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but Honest và Wise Men ever rule under this Roof.

At the insistence of Pres. Franklin Roosevelt (1933–45), the quotation was inscribed on the fireplace of the State Dining Room immediately below the portrait of Abrasay đắm Lincoln, by George Healy.

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When Abigail Adams finally arrived in Washington several days later, she was disappointed with the inadequate state of the residence. The first lady wrote,

There is not a single apartment finished. We have not the least fence, yard, or other convenience outside. I use the great unfinished audience room as a drying room for hanging up the clothes.

The White House nhà trắng in the 19th century

The mansion quickly became a focal point of the new federal city and was symbolically linked lớn the United States Capitol by way of Pennsylvania Avenue. Following his inauguration in March 1801, Jefferson became the second president to reside in the executive sầu mansion. In keeping with his ardent republicanism, he opened the house khổng lồ public visitation each morning, a tradition that was continued (during peacetime) by all his successors. He personally drew up landscaping plans and had two earthen mounds installed on the south lawn to remind hyên ổn of his beloved Virginia Piedmont. Meanwhile, construction continued on the building’s interior, which still lacked ample staircases & suffered from a persistently leaky roof. During Jefferson’s tenure, the White House was elegantly furnished in Louis XVI style (known in America as Federal style).


During the War of 1812 the building was burned by the British, và Pres. James Madison (1809–17) và his family were forced khổng lồ flee the city. The Madisons eventually moved inlớn the nearby Octagon House, the Washington mansion of John Tayloe, a Virginia plantation owner. Reconstruction & expansion began under Hoban’s direction, but the building was not ready for occupancy until 1817, during the administration of Pres. James Monroe (1817–25). Hoban’s reconstruction included the addition of east & west terraces on the main building’s flanks; a semicircular south portiteo and a colonnaded north portico were added in the 1820s.

During the 19th century the White House nhà trắng became a symbol of American democracy. In the minds of most Americans, the building was not a “palace” from which the president ruled but merely a temporary office và residence from which he served the people he governed. The White House belonged lớn the people, not the president, và the president occupied it only for as long as the people allowed hyên to stay. The idea of a president refusing to leave the Nhà Trắng after losing an election or an impeachment trial was unthinkable.

The inauguration of Andrew Jackson (1829–37), the “people’s president,” attracted thousands of well-wishers to the nation’s capital. As Jackson rode on horseback down Pennsylvania Avenue lớn the White House, he was surrounded by a frenetic throng of đôi mươi,000 people, many of whom attempted khổng lồ follow hyên ổn into the mansion khổng lồ get a better look at their nhân vật. A contemporary, Margaret Bayer Smith, recounts what happened next: “The halls were filled with a disorderly rabble…scrambling for the refreshments designed for the drawing room.” While friends of the new president joined arms khổng lồ protect hlặng from the mob, “chimãng cầu & glass lớn the amount of several thousand dollars were broken in the struggle khổng lồ get at the ices và cakes, though punch & other drinkables had been carried out in tubs & buckets khổng lồ the people.” Said Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, “I was glad to lớn escape from the scene as soon as possible.” During his administration Jackson spent more than $50,000 refurbishing the residence, including $10,000 on decorations for the East Room and more than $4,000 on a sterling silver dinner & dessert phối decorated with an American eagle.

In 1842 the visit to the United States of the English novelist Charles Dickens brought an official invitation lớn the White House nhà trắng. After his calls at the Nhà Trắng door went unanswered, Dickens let himself in & walked through the mansion from room lớn room on the lower and upper floors. Finally coming upon a room filled with nearly two dozen people, he was shocked and appalled to see many of them spitting on the carpet. Dickens later wrote, “I take it for granted the Presidential housemsida have sầu high wages.” Until the Civil War, however, most White House nhà trắng servants were enslaved people. Moreover, the wages of all Nhà Trắng employees—as well as the expenses for running the Nhà Trắng, including staging official functions—were paid for by the president. Not until 1909 did Congress provide appropriations to pay White House nhà trắng servants.

Dickens was not the only foreign visitor khổng lồ be disappointed with the Nhà Trắng. On a trip khổng lồ Washington just before the Civil War, Aleksandr Borisovich Lakier, a Russian nobleman, wrote that “the trang chính of the president…is barely visible behind the trees.” The White House nhà trắng, he said, was “sufficient for a private family and not at all conforming to the expectations of a European.” Subsequent changes to the building in the 19th century were relatively minor. The interior was redecorated during various presidential administrations and modern conveniences were regularly added, including a refrigerator in 1845, gas lighting in 1849, and electric lighting in 1891.

The White House nhà trắng was the scene of mourning after the assassination of Pres. Abrayêu thích Lincoln (1861–65). While Mary Todd Lincoln lay in her room for five weeks grieving for her husb&, many Nhà Trắng holdings were looted. Responding to charges that she had stolen government property when she left the Nhà Trắng, she angrily inventoried all the items she had taken with her, including gifts of quilts & waxworks from well-wishers.