Did You Know…? White House Trivia

The White House is the residence of the President of the United States, and this building has some wonderful history relating to the executive leaders through the decades. Instead of writing a “traditional” blog post or essay today, I’ve decided to make a list of thirty trivia facts to know about one of the most famous and iconic buildings in the world.

  1. George Washington selected the site for the executive mansion in 1791 and laid the buildings cornerstone the following year.
  2. James Hoban, an Irish-born architect, originally designed the building.
  3. The original White House took eight years to construct.
  4. Through the decades, the building has had several names, including the President’s Palace, President’s House, and Executive Mansion; Theodore Roosevelt first used the term “White House.”

    An early sketch, showing the President’s Mansion would look

  5. The first president to reside at the White House? John Adams. (And the building wasn’t even completely finished when he and his family moved in.)
  6. Thomas Jefferson stored Mastodon fossils in the White House, puzzling over how the skeleton went together and inviting other scientific minds to help him selected the important bones for preservation and study.
  7. First Lady Dolley Madison took entertainments and hospitality at the President’s Mansion to a new level, redecorating and introducing a social schedule of events.
  8. In March 1812, the first White House wedding occurred when Mrs. Madison’s sister married; there have been eighteen wedding at the White House to this date.
  9. On August 24, 1814 (during the War of 1812), British troops set fire to the president’s house.
  10. James Hoban – the original architect – oversaw the reconstruction, and by 1817, the building was ready to welcome the First Family and guests again.
  11. The Monroe Family moved back to the rebuilt White House.
  12. During James Monroe‘s presidency, the South Portico was added (1824).
  13. The North Portico was added in 1829 while Andrew Jackson was president.
  14. In 1841, President William Henry Harrison was the first president to die at the White House.
  15. 1846 – James Knox Polk becomes the first president to be photographed inside the White House.

    An 1846 photograph of the White House

  16. President and Mrs. Pierce had the first Christmas Tree at the White House.
  17. During the Civil War, Union soldiers regularly lived at the White House, providing extra protection for the Lincoln Family (and new friends for the Lincoln boys!).
  18. Mrs. Lincoln tried to refurbish the White House because she said it was shabby; unfortunately, neither the president nor Congress were pleased with her spending to accomplish this project.
  19. In 1886, Grover Cleveland became the first and only president to get married in the White House.
  20. Electricity was installed in the White House in 1891; however, Benjamin Harrison and his wife were afraid of the new invention and didn’t like to use it!
  21. At the beginning of the 20th Century – during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency – the White House underwent major renovations, overseen by architects from McKim, Meade & White firm.
  22. William Howard Taft oversaw the construction of the Oval Office.
  23. Warning G. Harding was the first president to have a radio installed at the White House.
  24. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” from the White House became famous the the radio.
  25. By the 1950’s, the White House needed renovation again. During the Truman administration, everything except the outer walls was torn down and rebuilt by architect Lorenzo Winslow. By 1952, the president was back in the reconstructed building.

    Major repair and reconstruction during the Truman Administration

  26. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy helped preserve many historical artifacts and wanted to turn the White House into a “living museum” of American history, accessible to all citizens.
  27. The White House address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
  28. There are 132 rooms in the President’s Mansion and 412 doors and 147 windows!
  29. It takes 570 gallons of paint to coat the exterior of the building.
  30. Each First Family contributes to the White House’s collection of American history artifacts.

The history and stories of the White House are almost endless and this list is not intended to be comprehensive. Rather, it’s a “conversation starter”…

What’s your favorite story of a presidency or White House trivia?

Have you visited the Executive Mansion? Which room was your favorite?



Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

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