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6 Little-Known Facts About the White House: What Secrets Hides the Iconic Building Behind Its Facade
6 Little-Known Facts About the White House: What Secrets Hides the Iconic Building Behind Its Facade

The White House is the official workplace and residence of the President of the United States. This is one of the most famous and recognizable buildings in the world. But behind its majestic neoclassical façade lies a host of little-known details and secrets. The history of the construction of the White House is also shrouded in many different myths and conjectures. Answers to six of the most common questions about this iconic building, which has served as home to all but one of the US presidents, later in the review.

1. The White House was actually built by slaves

First photograph of the White House, 1846

According to the National Archives, the US government never owned slaves. But it paid slave owners to hire them to build the White House. According to the White House Historical Association, Washington, DC city commissioners originally planned to attract workers from Europe for construction. It began in 1792 and took eight whole years. When the desired result was never achieved, in addition to free workers, enslaved African Americans were also attracted. They worked together with local white workers and craftsmen. There were only a pitiful handful of Europeans. Not only was the president's house built, but other government buildings such as the Capitol were also built.

The first project of the residence of American presidents was created by James Hoban, an Irish immigrant and architect. He was personally selected for this job by President George Washington. After the British burned down the White House in 1814, during the war, it was Hoban who was involved in the restoration of the building.

The White House project was created by the Irish immigrant architect James Hoban

2. Where is the White House

The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. This is probably the most famous address in the country. Based on the 1790 Residence Act, President George Washington chose the exact location for the capital, on the east bank of the Potomac River and close to the Capitol Building. The builders laid the cornerstone of the White House on October 13, 1792, and the cornerstone of the Capitol, on August 18, 1793.

House of George Washington

The mansion has undergone several renovations over the years, including extensive work by Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, which included the installation of electric lighting. In 1948, after engineers discovered that the building was not constructive and unsafe to live in, Harry S. Truman ordered a complete interior overhaul and a major overhaul of the building. During the renovation, Truman and his family lived at Blair House across the street.

Reconstruction of the White House

3. Who was the first president to live in the White House

Although George Washington chose his location and architect, he was the only president who never lived in the White House. President John Adams was the first to move into the residence in 1800, even before it was completed. Since then, every president and his family have lived at this address. Two presidents also died in the White House: William Henry Harrison in 1841 and Zachary Taylor in 1850. Three first ladies also died there: Letitia Tyler, Caroline Harrison and Ellen Wilson.

George Washington is the only president who has not lived in the White House

4. How many rooms in the White House

The six-story White House has an area of ​​over five thousand square meters. It has 132 rooms (16 family rooms) and 35 bathrooms.According to the White House's official website, it has 28 fireplaces, eight stairs, three elevators, 412 doors and 147 windows. There is also a kitchen equipped for a full dinner for 140 guests or a buffet for 1000 people. The White House is painted every five to six years. This requires more than two thousand liters of paint.

The mansion and grounds also now include an indoor pool, established for Franklin D. Roosevelt, and an outdoor pool, established under Gerald R. Ford. There are other venues in the area where a tired president can let off steam: a tennis court, one lane bowling alley, a small movie theater, a games room, a jogging track, and a golf lawn.

The White House hasn't always been that way

There are rumors of secret rooms in the building and secret passages. The White House Historical Association claims that the only "secret" area is the bomb shelter. It was built under the East Wing during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Vice President Dick Cheney used it during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. President Donald Trump was likely isolated there during the 2020 protests in front of the White House. There are at least two tunnels under the mansion, one leading to the Treasury building and the other leading to South Lawn.

5. Was this house always white?

The stone façade of the building was first painted with white lime in 1798 to protect it from inclement weather and freezing temperatures. According to the White House Historical Association, the term "White House" began appearing in newspapers even before the war of 1812. Its names at that time were: the House of Presidents, the President's Mansion, the Presidential Palace and the Presidential Mansion. But it was President Theodore Roosevelt who in 1901 designated the official name of the residence of the President of the United States, the White House.

6. What's going on in the west wing?

Ever since Theodore Roosevelt moved his workplace from his residence to the newly built West Wing in 1902, the two-story West Wing has been home to presidential offices. In addition to the Oval Office, the West Wing complex includes, among other things, a situation room, a private office, Roosevelt's room, and a press briefing room.

Melania Trump at the White House decorated for the New Year

The Oval Office, which has served as the presidential office since President William Howard Taft in 1909, is actually oval in shape. There is a Resolute oak table donated to President Rutherford B. Hayes by Queen Victoria in 1880. Since then, almost every president has used it, with the exception of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

The Situation Room, officially known as the John F. Kennedy Conference Room, is located in the basement of the West Wing and actually consists of several rooms. Designated in 1961 by John F. Kennedy as a crisis coordination site, it was used by Johnson during the Vietnam War. It was here that President Barack Obama oversaw the assassination of Osama bin Laden by the SEALs.

The office is where the president meets with members of the government, and the Roosevelt Hall, where Theodore Roosevelt's office was located, serves as a general conference room. In addition, two floors, the East Wing, contain office space for the First Lady and her staff. There is a covered entrance for guests during major events.

The White House is a real historical place. There are those whose real existence is in question. Read our article on 6 famous places on the planet, historians still argue about the reality of their existence.

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