big enough for two emperors, a pope, and the grand
lama - Political
Following a competition for the design of the Presidents
House in the spring of 1792, Irish born and trained architect
James Hoban was commissioned to build a home and office
for the President of the United States. With guidance
from President George Washington, Hoban employed craftsmen
brought from as far away as Scotland and oversaw a free
and slave labor force that constructed what is considered
today Americas finest 18th-century stone
cornerstone for the residence was laid on October 13,
1792. Labor and material shortages forced revisions
in the original plan earlier developed by French engineer
Pierre Charles LEnfant for a "pallace"
that was five times larger than the house that was eventually
built. Most significantly, there would only be two main
floors not three, and a less expensive brick made at
the site was employed as a lining for the stone facades.
name "White House" probably came into colloquial use
soon after the stonemasons whitewashed the house in
1798 to protect the walls. The white finish brought
out the fine exterior ornamentation. On November 1,
1800, President John Adams became the first occupant
of the house. He and his family would shiver within
the houses unfinished walls for four months.
itself couldn't warm that corner - President
Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837
Jefferson was the next president to reside in the house.
Before moving in, he fit fireplaces with coal-burning
fixtures and installed two water closets. With architect
Benjamin Latrobes assistance, Jefferson also built
long, columnar terraces extending on the east and west.
1810, Latrobe installed a "Pettibone" furnace for James
and Dolley Madison. It used a series of kettles and
clay pipes to force hot air up from the basement. When
British troops set fire to the house on August 25, 1814,
the system was destroyed and never replaced.
to a charred ruin during the War of 1812, the President's
House became an object of shame and wonder. Talk spread
of moving the capital inland with a suggestion to go
as far as Cincinnati, Ohio. But Andrew Jacksons
victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans
restored national pride and the idea of rebuilding in
the nations capital became symbolic of triumph.
is what the mansion of the head of this Republic should
and should be finished and maintained in a
style to gratify every wish for convenience and pleasure
People's Magazine, 1831
Hoban was hired to rebuild the executive mansion in
1815. Two years later, President James Monroe took residence
and purchased furnishings for the still unfinished interiors.
During Monroes administration in 1824, Hoban completed
the south portico. Double stairs curved up to a much-needed
porch, and columns lent a vertical sweep to the architecture
of the house.
1829, Hoban started construction of the north portico
and finished it a year later during the presidency of
Andrew Jackson. The fine carved stone north door surround
and garland of roses and acorns over the north portal
were overshadowed by the mass of the portico. With the
finishing of the porticoes the image of the White House
as we know it today was complete.
water was introduced to the Jackson White House in 1833.
An ingenious system was devised to pump water to an
east terrace bathing room. In 1840, Martin Van Buren
hired a live-in fireman to manage the boilers of a monstrous
new furnace. In 1848, James Polk directed that gaslights
replace candles in the chandeliers and wall fixtures.
It was an era of great innovations.
would not wish to exchange this house for any other
think it beautiful
. I love this house for the
associations that no other could have - First
Lady Lucy Webb Hayes, 1877-1881
In the years prior to the Civil War, the cumbersome
furnace was converted to an efficient hot water system.
Franklin Pierce installed a private bath in 1853. James
Buchanan added a wooden greenhouse on the roof of the
west terrace in 1857, adjacent to the State Dining Room.
This simple structure burned in 1867 and was replaced
by an iron and wood greenhouse twice as large as the
earlier one. In the 1870s and 1880s, additional conservatories
were added to the White House, including rose houses,
a camellia house, orchid houses and a house for bedding
plants. All were removed to construct the Executive
Office Building (the West Wing) in 1902.
the 1830s until 1902, changes to the main block of the
White House occurred principally to its interiors. Andrew
Jackson furnished the East Room for the first time in
1829. Succeeding presidents and their wives periodically
refurbished the house to reflect the changing tastes
of their time.
Lincoln was too immersed in the crisis of the Civil
war to care about flub dubs for this damned old house,
but after Lincoln's presidency, the White House was
no longer just a house, but an icon of the presidency
and all that America stood for.
1879, the first telephone was connected for President
Rutherford B. Hayes. Electric wiring was installed in
1891. President and Mrs. Benjamin Harrison, afraid of
being shocked, were nervous about working the lights.
A. Arthur, president from 1881 to 1885, called on Louis
C. Tiffany to add his touch to the state floor of the
White House. Practically every surface was transformed
with his decorative patterns and complicated glazing
accented in the transverse hall and entrance hall by
his trademark colored glass. In 1890, First Lady Caroline
Harrison promoted a major expansion of the White House
complex that included an art wing open to visitors,
but Congress refused to fund the project.
don't think that any family has ever enjoyed the White
House more than we have - President
Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909
of Theodore Roosevelts earliest acts, as president
was to issue an order establishing the "White House"
as the buildings official name. Previously, it
had been called the "Presidents House" or the
"Executive Mansion." In 1902, Mrs. Roosevelt asked the
distinguished architect Charles McKim for his advice
concerning the cramped second floor quarters. His recommendations
for a complete renovation of the house doubled the space
allocated to the family living quarters, provided a
new wing for the president and his staff, and created
a new area on the east for receiving guests. The plans
changed the interior and the functioning of the White
House. With a few exceptions, much of the complex as
we know it today reflects the design of 1902.
I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the
American people and that I have been given their trust
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933-1945
In 1909, President Taft had the West Wing enlarged,
adding the first oval office. Herbert Hoover remodeled
the wing and rebuilt it after a fire in 1929. With the
expansion of the staff in the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt
requested additional space, and the wing was renovated
under the eye of architect Eric Gugler. He built a second
story, excavated a larger basement for staff and support
services, and moved the oval office from the south to
its present location in the southeast corner, adjacent
to the Rose Garden. The term "West Wing" for the new
executive office space came into common usage in the
1948, architect Lorenzo S. Winslow built a balcony on
the south portico for Harry Truman. This was hardly
done when the whole building gave signs of collapsing.
The brick that Hoban had used to line the stone facade
was being stressed to its limits. Winslow began a full
renovation of the White House, which, as one inspector
put it, was standing up purely from habit.
Truman renovation retained the original walls, the third
floor and the roof, while removing and then reinstalling
the interiors within a skeleton of steel structural
beams on a new concrete foundation. Two levels of subbasements,
and service areas under the North Portico were constructed,
and the Grand Staircase was substantially changed. Of
the state floor rooms, only the State Dining Room wall
panels were reinstalled, but then were painted. Updated
conveniences were added, including central air. On March
27, 1952, Truman moved back into his new home.
White House has been pulled apart, rearranged, gutted
by fire and renovation, reassembled; yet it is always
the same. Its idea has become its essence - William
Seale, White House historian
1952, attempts to provide a sense of past history of
the Presidents House and new research have resulted
in decorative interior changes but no substantive architectural
work. Beginning in 1978, as many as 40 successive layers
of paint were removed from the exterior walls. Following
the removal of the paint, masons restored the stone.
In 1988, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)
began a five-year documentation project to record the
exterior elevations and the interior architecture of
the White House. This comprehensive record of the historic
main house will be used for base documents for future
renovation, restoration, maintenance, and interpretation
of the house.
are from the White House Collection or are public domain.
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