The official residence of the president of the United States for more than 200 years, the White House is one of the most distinguished buildings in the United States and was built on a location chosen by George Washington in 1790. Irish- born architect James Hoban designed the original building in a Palladian style and when it was nearing completion, President and Mrs. John Adams became the first occupants. It has survived two fires, in 1814 and 1929, and the interior was completely gutted and renovated during Harry S. Truman’s presidency, from 1945 to 1953. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name.
THE WAR OF 1812
Tensions with Britain over restrictions on trade and freedom of the seas began to escalate during President James Madison’s administration (1809-17). On June 18, 1812, the US declared war on Britain. In August 1814, British troops reached Washington, D.C., and officers of the Capitol fled, taking the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with them. On August 24, the British defeated the Americans at Bladensburg, a suburb of Washington. They set fire to the Capitol, the White House, the War Department and the Treasury, but a night of heavy rain prevented the city’s destruction. The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, was signed on February 17, 1815.
THE WEST WING
In 1902, the West Wing of the White House was built by the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White for a total cost of $65,196 This wing (the West Terrace) houses the Cabinet Room, where government officials convene with the president, and the Oval Office, where the president meets visiting heads of state. Many presidents have personalized the Oval Office in some way: President Clinton chose as his desk a table given to President Rutherford B. Hayes by Britain’s Queen Victoria in 1880.
THE WHITE HOUSE INTERIOR
The rooms in the White House are decorated in period styles and filled with valuable antique furniture, china, and silverware. Hanging on the walls are some of America’s most treasured paintings, including portraits of past presidents and first ladies. The room that served as the Cabinet Room from 1865 for 10 presidential administrations (Treaty Room) was restored in 1961 and contains Victorian pieces bought by President Grant. The most central room on the State Floor (Blue Room) was decorated in 1817 in the American Empire style (1810-30) by President Monroe. The same style was later used by first lady Jackie Kennedy to redecorate one of the reception rooms (Red Room) in 1962. The Red Room has always been a favorite of first ladies for receiving guests.
One of four reception rooms, the Red Room is furnished in red in the American Empire style. The fabrics were woven in the US from French designs.
This is regularly repainted to maintain the building’s white facade.
This leads to the West Wing, the Cabinet Room, and the Oval Office, the president’s official office.
The Palladian-style facade of the White House is familiar to millions of people around the world.
Another reception room, this was first used as a guest room before being turned into a dining room by Thomas Jefferson. Today, it is used for small receptions and predinner cocktails for guests at state dinners.
State Dining Room
Able to seat as many as 140 people, the State Dining Room was enlarged in 1902. A portrait of President Abraham Lincoln, painted by George P. A. Healy in 1869, hangs above the fireplace.
This room is used to welcome friends and ambassadors. It is elegantly furnished in the Federal Period style (1790-1820).
President Lincoln used this room as his Cabinet Room. It was turned into a bedroom by President Truman, who filled it with furnishings from the Lincoln era.
This yellow room houses seven paintings of first ladies, including this portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt by Douglas Chandor (1949).
THE WHITE HOUSE VISITOR CENTER
Interesting exhibits relating to the White House’s history, decor, and inhabitants are on display in the White House Visitor Center. Guided tours of the White House are available, but are extremely limited, and can only be booked by special arrangement through a member of Congress or an embassy.
WHITE HOUSE ARCHITECTS
After selecting the site, George Washington held a design competition to find an architect to build the residence where the US president would live. In 1792, James Hoban, an Irish-born architect, was chosen for the task. The White House was built to Hoban’s designs and he also reconstructed the building after the British attack in 1814.In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt hired the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White to check the structural condition of the building and refurbish areas as necessary.
The White House underwent further renovations and refurbishments during the administrations of presidents Truman and Kennedy.
1792: Construction begins on the Executive Mansion (renamed the White House in 1901).
1800: President Adams and his wife are the first to move into the White House.
1814: The British set fire to the White House during the War of 1812.
1902: The West Wing is built to house the official offices of the president. Its rooms include the Oval Office.
1942: The East Wing of the White House is added, as instructed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, completing the final structure.