The History of the People’s House aka the White House

The History of the People's House aka the White House

( – Nowadays, the White House and the presidency are practically synonymous. When news reporters refer to information coming from a president or a member of their administration, they’ll often say something like “according to White House staff…”

However, the presidency predates the People’s House by a few years. George Washington oversaw the construction of the mansion, which began in 1790 and was completed in 1800. Somewhat ironically, he was the only president never to live there.

Why Is It Called the White House?

Given the building’s brilliant white exterior, this might seem like a question with an obvious answer. However, the “White House” designation did not become official until 1901, under Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. The media had been using the name for almost a century before this.

The color of the building came from lime-based whitewash, which was applied to the stone exterior prior to its initial completion to offer protection from the elements.

Historic Renovations

After its completion in 1800, it would be just 14 years before British soldiers set the White House on fire during the war of 1812. James Hoban, the Irish-born architect whose original design George Washington had chosen for the building, was enlisted to lead the reconstruction effort.

Theodore Roosevelt decided to add the famous West Wing to the structure in 1902. He also removed certain Victorian additions that President Chester Arthur oversaw. After World War II, a broad renovation effort displaced President Harry Truman and his family to Blair House for four years between 1948-1952.

President Donald Trump oversaw the most recent structural update on the White House, spending $3.4 million on a facelift in 2017. Facilities on the compound currently include a jogging track, tennis court, bowling alley, and movie theater. Five full-time chefs work on-site and can cater for dinner events with up to 140 people in attendance.

Public Access to the White House

As the White House website states, the mansion is more than a private residence for the president; it’s a place where Americans should feel a sense of “inclusion and belonging.” With this in mind, the White House is open to free public tours, though you must make requests several weeks in advance through your representative in Congress.

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