White House facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsWhite House
|1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
|Joe Biden, President of the United States and the First Family
|October 13, 1792
|November 1, 1800
|55,000 sq ft (5,100 m2)
|Design and construction
|NRHP reference No.
|December 19, 1960
The building was built between 1792 and 1800 out of white-painted sandstone from Aquia Creek in Virginia. It was designed in the Neoclassical style. It has been the home of every U.S. President since John Adams. When Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, he (with architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe) expanded the building outward. They made two colonnades that were meant to hide stables and storage. It was originally called the Executive Mansion before being renamed the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1814, during the War of 1812, the mansion was set on fire by the British Army in the Burning of Washington. The fire destroyed the inside of the house and charred much of the outside. Reconstruction began almost immediately. President James Monroe moved into the partially reconstructed house in October 1817. Construction continued with the addition of the South Portico in 1824 and the North in 1829.
Because of crowding within the executive mansion itself, President Theodore Roosevelt had all work offices moved to the newly constructed West Wing in 1901. Eight years later, President William Howard Taft expanded the West Wing and created the first Oval Office. This was eventually moved as the section was expanded. The third-floor attic was changed into living quarters in 1927. A newly built East Wing was used as a reception area for social events. Jefferson's colonnades connected the new wings. East Wing changes were completed in 1946. These changes made more office space. By 1948, the house's load-bearing exterior walls and internal wood beams were found to be close to failure. Under Harry S. Truman, the interior rooms were completely taken apart and a new internal load-bearing steel frame was built inside the walls. Once this work was done, the interior rooms were rebuilt.
Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of President John F. Kennedy (1961–63), directed a very extensive and historic redecoration of the house. She enlisted the help of Henry Francis du Pont of the Winterthur Museum to assist in collecting artifacts for the mansion, many of which had once been housed there. Other antiques, fine paintings, and improvements from the Kennedy period were donated to the White House by wealthy philanthropists, including the Crowninshield family, Jane Engelhard, Jayne Wrightsman, and the Oppenheimer family.
Stéphane Boudin of the House of Jansen, a Paris interior-design firm that had been recognized worldwide, was employed by Jacqueline Kennedy to assist with the decoration. Different periods of the early republic and world history were selected as a theme for each room: the Federal style for the Green Room, French Empire for the Blue Room, American Empire for the Red Room, Louis XVI for the Yellow Oval Room, and Victorian for the president's study, renamed the Treaty Room. Antique furniture was acquired, and decorative fabric and trim based on period documents was produced and installed.
The Kennedy restoration resulted in a more authentic White House of grander stature, which recalled the French taste of Madison and Monroe.
In September 1961, Congress enacted legislation declaring the White House a museum. Furniture, fixtures, and decorative arts could now be declared either historic or of artistic interest by the president. This prevented them from being sold (as many objects in the executive mansion had been in the past 150 years). When not in use or display at the White House, these items were to be turned over to the Smithsonian Institution for preservation, study, storage, or exhibition. The White House retains the right to have these items returned.
Out of respect for the historic character of the White House, no substantive architectural changes have been made to the house since the Truman renovation. Since the Kennedy restoration, every presidential family has made some changes to the private quarters of the White House, but the Committee for the Preservation of the White House must approve any modifications to the State Rooms.
The White House became one of the first wheelchair-accessible government buildings in Washington, D.C. when modifications were made during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used a wheelchair because of his paralytic illness. In the 1990s, Hillary Clinton, at the suggestion of the Visitors Office director, approved the addition of a ramp in the East Wing corridor, affording easier wheelchair access for the public tours and special events that enter through the secure entrance building on the east side.
In 2003, the Bush administration reinstalled solar thermal heaters. These units are used to heat water for landscape maintenance personnel and for the presidential pool and spa. One hundred sixty-seven solar photovoltaic grid-tied panels were installed at the same time on the roof of the maintenance facility. The changes were not publicized as a White House spokeswoman said the changes were an internal matter, but the story was covered by industry trade journals. In 2013, President Barack Obama had a set of solar panels installed on the roof of the White House, making it the first time solar power was used for the president's living quarters.
Layout and amenities
Today, the White House Complex includes the Executive Residence, West Wing, East Wing, Blair House, and the Old Executive Office Building, a separate building west of the West Wing, which houses the executive offices of the President and Vice President.
The White House is made up of six stories— the two story basement, The Ground Floor, The State Floor, The Second Floor and The Third Floor.
The term White House is regularly used as a metonym for the Executive Office of the President of the United States and for the president's administration and advisers in general. The property is owned by the National Park Service and is part of the President's Park. In 2007, it was ranked second on the American Institute of Architects list of "America's Favorite Architecture."
The original residence is in the center. Two colonnades – one on the east and one on the west – designed by Jefferson, now serve to connect the East and West Wings added later. The Executive Residence houses the president's dwelling, as well as rooms for ceremonies and official entertaining. The State Floor of the residence building includes the East Room, Green Room, Blue Room, Red Room, State Dining Room, Family Dining Room, Cross Hall, Entrance Hall, and Grand Staircase. The Ground Floor is made up of the Diplomatic Reception Room, Map Room, China Room, Vermeil Room, Library, the main kitchen, and other offices.
The second floor family residence includes the Yellow Oval Room, East and West Sitting Halls, the White House Master Bedroom, President's Dining Room, the Treaty Room, Lincoln Bedroom and Queens' Bedroom, as well as two additional bedrooms, a smaller kitchen, and a private dressing room. The third floor consists of the White House Solarium, Game Room, Linen Room, a Diet Kitchen, and another sitting room (previously used as President George W. Bush's workout room).
The West Wing houses the president's office (the Oval Office) and offices of his senior staff, with room for about 50 employees. It includes the Cabinet Room, where the president conducts business meetings and where the Cabinet meets, as well as the White House Situation Room, James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, and the Roosevelt Room. In 2007, work was completed on renovations of the press briefing room, adding fiber optic cables and LCD screens for the display of charts and graphs. The makeover took 11 months and cost of $8 million, of which news outlets paid $2 million. In September 2010, a two-year project began on the West Wing, creating a multistory underground structure.
Some members of the president's staff are located in the adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which was, until 1999, called the Old Executive Office Building and was historically the State War and Navy building.
The Oval Office, Roosevelt Room, and other portions of the West Wing were partially replicated on a sound stage and used as the setting for The West Wing television show.
The East Wing, which contains additional office space, was added to the White House in 1942. Among its uses, the East Wing has intermittently housed the offices and staff of the first lady and the White House Social Office. Rosalynn Carter, in 1977, was the first to place her personal office in the East Wing and to formally call it the "Office of the First Lady". The East Wing was built during World War II in order to hide the construction of an underground bunker to be used in emergencies. The bunker has come to be known as the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.
The White House and grounds cover just over 18 acres (about 7.3 hectares). Before the construction of the North Portico, most public events were entered from the South Lawn, the grading and planting of which was ordered by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson also drafted a planting plan for the North Lawn that included large trees that would have mostly obscured the house from Pennsylvania Avenue. During the mid-to-late 19th century a series of ever larger greenhouses were built on the west side of the house, where the current West Wing is located. During this period, the North Lawn was planted with ornate carpet-style flowerbeds.
The general layout of the White House grounds today is based on the 1935 design by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. of the Olmsted Brothers firm, commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the Kennedy administration, the White House Rose Garden was redesigned by Rachel Lambert Mellon. The Rose Garden borders the West Colonnade. Bordering the East Colonnade is the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which was begun by Jacqueline Kennedy but completed after her husband's assassination.
On the weekend of June 23, 2006, a century-old American Elm (Ulmus americana L.) tree on the north side of the building came down during one of the many storms amid intense flooding. Among the oldest trees on the grounds are several magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) planted by Andrew Jackson, including the Jackson Magnolia, reportedly grown from a sprout taken from the favorite tree of Jackson's recently deceased wife, the sprout planted after Jackson moved into the White House. The tree stood for over 200 years. In 2017, having become too weak to stand on its own, it was decided it should be removed and replaced with one of its offspring.
Michelle Obama planted the White House's first organic garden and installed beehives on the South Lawn of the White House, which will supply organic produce and honey to the First Family and for state dinners and other official gatherings. In 2020, First Lady Melania Trump redesigned the Rose Garden.
Like the English and Irish country houses it was modeled on, the White House was, from the start, open to the public until the early part of the 20th century. President Thomas Jefferson held an open house for his second inaugural in 1805, and many of the people at his swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol followed him home, where he greeted them in the Blue Room. Those open houses sometimes became rowdy: in 1829, President Andrew Jackson had to leave for a hotel when roughly 20,000 citizens celebrated his inauguration inside the White House. His aides ultimately had to lure the mob outside with washtubs filled with a potent cocktail of orange juice and whiskey.
The practice continued until 1885, when newly elected Grover Cleveland arranged for a presidential review of the troops from a grandstand in front of the White House instead of the traditional open house. Inspired by Washington's open houses in New York and Philadelphia, John Adams began the tradition of the White House New Year's Reception. Jefferson permitted public tours of his house, which have continued ever since, except during wartime, and began the tradition of an annual reception on the Fourth of July. Those receptions ended in the early 1930s. President Bill Clinton briefly revived the New Year's Day open house in his first term.
The White House Complex is protected by the United States Secret Service and the United States Park Police.
Images for kids
Aerial view of the White House complex, viewed from north. In the foreground is Pennsylvania Avenue, closed to traffic. Center: Executive Residence (1792-1800) with North Portico (1829); left: East Wing (1942); right: West Wing (1901), with the Oval Office (1909) at the south-east corner
Drawing of Andrea Palladio - Project for Francesco et Lodovico de Trissini - From the book : I quattro libri dell'architettura - Published in 1570
The White House North Lawn in the 1860s, during the Abraham Lincoln administration
Truman reconstruction, 1949–1952, a steel structure is built within the exterior shell
First Presidential Mansion: Samuel Osgood House, Manhattan, New York. Occupied by Washington: April 1789 – February 1790.
Second Presidential Mansion: Alexander Macomb House, Manhattan, New York. Occupied by Washington: February – August 1790.
Third Presidential Mansion: President's House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Occupied by Washington: November 1790 – March 1797. Occupied by Adams: March 1797 – May 1800.
In Spanish: Casa Blanca para niños
White House Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.