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White House

The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States.

It is a white painted, neoclassical sandstone mansion located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. (38° 53' 51? N 77° 02' 12? W). As the office of the President of the United States, the term White House is often used as a metonym for the President's administration, as in, "Today, the White House announced a new health care initiative." The Secret Service codename for it is "Crown." The property is owned by the National Park Service and is part of President's Park.

An image of the White House is on the back of the U.S. $20 bill. Presidential residences, both temporary and permanent, in the midwestern or western regions of the country, have often been called the Western White House.

The White House was built after the creation of the District of Columbia by an Act of Congress in December, 1790. President George Washington himself helped select the site, along with city planner Pierre L'Enfant. The architect was chosen in a competition, which received nine proposals. James Hoban, an Irishman, was awarded the honor and construction began with the laying of the cornerstone on October 13, 1792. The building he designed was modelled on the first and second floors of Leinster House, a ducal palace in Dublin, Ireland that is now the seat of the Irish Parliament. Contrary to widely published myth, the North portico was not modelled on a similar portico on another Dublin building, the Viceregal Lodge (now Áras an Uachtaráin, residence of the President of Ireland). Its portico in fact postdates the White House portico's design.

Construction of the White House was completed on November 1, 1800. Over an extremely slow 8 years of construction, $232,371.83 was spent. With inflation, this would be approximately equivalent to $2.4 million today.

The building was originally referred to as the Presidential Palace or Presidential Mansion. Dolley Madison called it the "President's Castle." However, by 1811, the first evidence of the public calling it the "White House" emerged, because of its white-painted stone exterior. The name Executive Mansion was often used in official context until President Theodore Roosevelt established the formal name by having "The White House" engraved on his stationery in 1901.

The "President's House," built under George Washington's personal supervision, was the finest residence in the land and possibly the largest. In a nation of wooden houses, it was built of stone and ornamented with understated stone flourishes. It did not fit everyone's concept for the home of the leader of the young democracy. Abigail Adams found it cold; Thomas Jefferson thought it too big and impractical. He added gardens, a cooking stove, and storage. Whatever one's opinion of the original design, our nation is now inseparably associated with the White House. There, the essential business of the land is conducted every day. There, our history has been made and reflected.

John Adams became the first president to take residence in the building on November 1, 1800. In 1814, during the War of 1812, much of Washington, D.C. was set alight by British troops, and the White House was gutted. Only the exterior walls remained, but it was rebuilt. The walls were repainted white, but it is important to point out that the White House was always painted white as early as 1798, and the repainting from the fire damage did not originate the term "White House" as a popular urban legend claims it did.


Leinster House in Dublin

The 18th century ducal palace in Dublin served as a model for the White House.The White House was attacked again on August 16, 1841 when U.S. President John Tyler vetoed a bill which called for the establishment of the Second Bank of the United States. Enraged Whig Party members rioted outside the White House in what was (and still is, as of 2005) the most violent demonstration on White House grounds in U.S. history.

Like the English and Irish country houses it aped, the White House was remarkably open to the public until the early part of the twentieth century. President Thomas Jefferson held an open house for his second inaugural in 1805, when many of the people at his swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol followed him home, where he greeted them in the Blue Room.