About The White House
The White House has been the seat of the United States government and home of Presidents of the United States of America for over 200 years. The name ‘The White House’ was actually only coined in 1901 by Theodore Roosevelt.
Today, tours of what is undoubtedly the most iconic residence in the US are a precious commodity. Nonetheless, the visitors centre and surrounding area give a sense of the White House’s role within US history.
History of the White House
Original construction of the White House began in October 1792 after President George Washington chose what is now 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the location for the new home of the federal government. The building was designed by architect James Hoban, whose plans were selected out of nine proposals, and was loosely based on the neo-classical Leinster House in Dublin.
The White House was not yet completed when, in 1800, it housed its first ‘first family’ President John Adams and First Lady, Abigail Adams.Since then, the White House has been the home of every President and first family, each of whom renovated it to different degrees to suit their tastes and lifestyles. In fact, President Truman spent most of his term living elsewhere due to the major extent of the renovations undertaken.
The White House has also been subjected to disaster, including two fires, one at the hands of the British in 1814 and one in the West Wing in 1929. Famous rooms in the White House include the Blue Room, where President Grover Cleveland married the youngest first lady in history and the President’s Oval Office, which replaced the Roosevelt Room, where President Roosevelt used to house a fish tank and fishing paraphernalia.
The first Inaugural open house at the White House took place in 1805 and was held by President Thomas Jefferson following his swearing-in ceremony.
The White House today
Today, tours of the White House itself are pretty hard to come by: you will need to arrange them at least 3 weeks advance (booking opens 3 months ahead). If you’re an American citizen you’ll need to apply via one of your state’s members of Congress. Non-US nationals will have to apply via the Embassy and tickets are extremely scarce.
The White House Visitors Centre is worth visiting regardless as a great source of White House history, including details of the building’s architecture and history. There are plenty of fun anecdotes and a comprehensive American Presidential history. Allow an hour or two to do it justice and the visitors centre is open until 4pm daily.
Unsurprisingly, the White House sits within an upmarket part of town, so wander around the area to fully soak up the atmosphere of power and politics.
Getting to the White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a hard address to miss if you are in Washington DC. The nearest metro station is McPherson Square, a 5 minute walk away. The White House is also a leisurely walk up 15th Street via the Visitors Centre from the Washington Monument.
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