The White House was designed by James Hoban, an Irish born architect. He won a competition organized by President George Washington in 1792. The inspiration for the White House was based on a villa in Dublin, Ireland called Leinster House. The building was completed in 1794.
Today, the White House is held as property No. 1 in the National Park Service’s hierarchy.
President Thomas Jefferson made changes to the White House when he assumed the presidency. While James Madison was President from 1809 to 1817, the White House was burned by the British during the War of 1812. Hoban was invited to Washington to restore the White House. After this re-construction was complete, the famous building was painted its characteristic white and thereafter referred to as The White House.
Known as the largest house in the land until circa 1865, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the White House unsafe to inhabit in early 1900s. While the residence required much needed attention, the large Roosevelt family famously “shook the walls” with their antics including decorating the state dining room with hunting and gaming trophies (taxidermy deer and bison heads), setting off toy cannons outside of cabinet meetings, and bringing the family pony to the upstairs bedrooms in the service elevator. The Roosevelt kids sure had fun!
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In the post-war period, President Harry Truman found the White House renovations dating back to 1814 to be structurally unsound. Swaying chandeliers and unsafe staircases were among the minor problems which prompted Truman to opt to rebuild the White House using structural steel.
Excavation took place on the home’s interior during the reconstruction yet Truman insisted that the exterior walls remain in place so as to keep the image of America’s home. It was well known that President Truman, his wife Bess, and their daughter Margaret lived nearby in Blair House and spent time during Truman’s time in office at The Little White House located in Key West, Florida.
In the early 1960s, the youthful spirit of the Kennedy administration embraced the newly restored White House. John F. Kennedy (in office from 1961-63) and his young family lived in the White House with some famous objects of American history.
The First Lady, assisted by decorators from Bonwit Teller decorated the White House highlighting great American antiques. Jacqueline Kennedy brought many objects, including fine art and antiques, back to the White House which were on loan to historic houses nationwide or in storage. Shortly following the redecoration, a law was enacted which mandated that the White House objects remain in the White House including the famous Resolute desk which was used by President Kennedy and later, by President Bill Clinton.
There were other personal requests made by the residents of the White House during various administrations such as the shower that was installed for President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69).
Ever the outdoorsman, former actor and President Ronald Reagan (1981-89) kept a stash of acorns in his pants pockets for the squirrels that scurried around the White House lawn. The creatures often waited for him outside the oval office for a midday snack.
When touring the White House, visitors will see the main reception rooms, furnishings, and the famous Presidential china collection. This month, Presidential collectibles will spike in value as Americans take to the polls to vote. Campaign buttons and other collectibles will enjoy an election period spike.
Filled with history, the White House is a regal abode which characterizes the wonder of the American century and highlights the interesting figures that have visited and resided there.