Home and executive office of the President of USA, the White House, has stood as a symbol of the government and power of America for over two hundred years. The White House replicates the vision of George Washington on the design and magnitude of the presidential office. George Washington, however, could not live in the White House as he died before the construction of was completed. President John Adams and his wife Abigail were the first occupants of the White House. The White House is a national icon and was ranked second in the country’s favorite architecture list by the American Institute of Architects. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that the White House is “owned by all American people” and the current President and First Lady call it the “People’s House”.
White House, the official residence to every US President since John Adams, is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. It is located in the north-western end of the National Mall. Ellipse, the public park and home to the National Christmas Tree, is located south of the White House. This district can be easily reached by train, buses, and flights; Washington DC has three airports which receives regular flights. To move around DC and reach the White House buses, metro and private cars are the best options. Cars can be parked at the parking area near the National Mall.
|Country||United States of America|
|Nearest International Airport||Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport|
|Distance from the Airport||3 miles|
|Visiting Hours||7:30 am and 11:00 am Tuesday through Thursday, between 7:30 am and 12:00 pm Friday, and between 7:30 am and 1:00 pm Saturday p.m.|
The site for the White House was chosen in 1791 by the first President of the US, George Washington. The construction of white house began in 1792. Architect James Hoban’s design was selected in a design competition. President John Adams and First lady Abigail Adams became the first residents of the White House when they moved here in 1800. The White House survived fire twice. In 1814 (during the course of the War of 1812) the British set fire to the White House. James Hoban was commissioned to rebuild the house and President James Monroe moved here in 1817. During his presidency, in 1824, the South Portico was added and the North Portico was added in 129during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. In 1902, the White House underwent a major renovation and the President’s offices were moved to the West Wing. During President William Howard Taft’s presidency the Oval Office was added.
During Harry S. Truman’s presidency, the interior of the house was completely gutted and renovated. During this period, President Truman had to live at Blair House, right across Pennsylvania Avenue. Previously known as President’s Palace, Executive Mansion, and President’s Home, the White House got its current name in 1901. Currently the White House has 132 rooms in 6 levels.
Landscape and Design
The original plans for the White House were developed by Pierre Charles L’Enfant and were overseen by George Washington. Architect James Hoban’s design was selected over eight others. Hoban planned a sandstone structure with three levels. It is popularly believed that Hoban’s designs were inspired by Leister House in Dublin. When James Hoban rebuilt the mansion after the fire of 1814, the ‘President’s Palace’ came to be painted white. It was in 1824 that Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the US Surveyor of Public Buildings, added the porticoes and columns and transformed what was hitherto a Georgian structure into a neoclassical one.
The Truman reconstruction was carried out by Philadelphian John McShain who had a steel reinforcement structure added to support the interiors. The original plasterwork and Beaux Arts paneling were removed. Currently the White House has 132 rooms spread over 6 levels. There are 28 fireplaces, 147 windows, and 412 doors in these rooms and 8 staircases and 3 elevators serving the estate.
White House Art
The White House is a treasure trove of national historic art. Not surprising, though as this is the mansion where history is often written. The efforts of the First Ladies of US in collecting and preserving memorabilia have been quite remarkable. The selection of artist and of the official portraits of the President and First Lady is quite a process in itself. The Ground Floor China Room of the White House is an incredible exhibition space which displays the silver, ceramics, china, and glass used for various state occasions by the First Families over the decades. The most famous painting in the White House is undoubtedly the portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. A number of other precious art makes part of official White House art collection.
Self-guided public tours to the White House are available on request through one’s Member of Congress or through one’s embassy in Washington DC (for foreign nationals). The tours are available between 7:30 am and 11:00 am Tuesday through Thursday, between 7:30 am and 12:00 pm Friday, and between 7:30 am and 1:00 pm Saturday. Requests are placed between 6 months and 21 days ahead of the planned tour through one’s Congressman or Embassy. Tours are available for groups of 10 or more people and visitors need to carry valid ID documents with their name, date of birth, and citizenship details on them. Though free of any charges, tours to the White House are subject to cancellations. The White House Kitchen Garden tour is available on request for school students. The official website of the White House also provides an option for an interactive tour. You may log on to choose the level and room for artwork information pictures, history, and other trivia about each room.
Across the world, the White House acts as an iconic representation of the US and of American administration. Over the years ‘White House’ has generally come to be used as a metonym to refer to the Office of the President of the US, to the federal administration of the country, and the president or his international policies. The White House is now a National Heritage Site and is owned by the National Park Service.