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White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, District of Columbia 20500
Voice: 202-456-1111

The White House, one of the most recognizable buildings in Washington, DC, was designed by James Hoban, an Irish born and trained architect who won a competition organized by President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson in 1792. Although President Washington oversaw construction, he never lived in the house. President John Adams, elected in 1796 as the second President, was the first resident of the White House. Abigail Adams, President Adams' wife, was known to have complained about the largely unfinished new residence. President Thomas Jefferson, upon moving to the house in 1801, was also not impressed, and dismissed the house as being too big. Jefferson made several structural changes under architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe such as the addition of terrace-pavilions on either side of the main building and single-story wings for storage. In addition to replacing the slate roof with one of sheet iron, Jefferson further improved the grounds by landscaping them in a picturesque manner. While James Madison was President from 1809 to 1817, the White House was torched by the British in the War of 1812. Although the fire was put out by a summer thunderstorm, all that remained were the outside, charred walls and the interior brick walls. Madison brought Hoban back to restore the mansion, which took three years. It was during this construction that the house was painted white. Hoban later added the South and North Porticos, using a slightly altered design by Latrobe.

Expansion and further alterations were made when President Theodore Roosevelt declared the house unsafe to inhabit. He had the original building remodeled. By making the third-story attic into habitable rooms and adding the Executive Office wing and the East Gallery, Roosevelt separated his work space from his family life. In 1909, architect Nathan C. Wyeth extended the office wing adding the well-known oval office. Although used informally for some time, it was President Theodore Roosevelt who gave the White House its official name. Finally, the last major renovation took place when President Harry Truman decided that again the building was unsafe and had to be gutted. Steel replaced the original frame and paneling, and a balcony was added to the South Portico. The White House, an architectural symbol of the American presidency and the nation's power, remains a stylistically simple residence and an example of the stolid republican ideals of the Founding Fathers.

KAT'S VIEW

The White House was cool. We didn't get to view it for very long. They had a security alert or something and made everyone leave the area for awhile. The Secret Service was everywhere. We did not get to go on a tour inside, you have to arrange that a long time in advance. I would like to go back again sometime and get to go on a tour inside.

 


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