The History of the White House

The History of the White House

The White House is one of the most iconic buildings internationally, with people from all over the world knowing who lives there. Yet, not everyone knows the history of this building and how it came to be the home of every president since its construction.

The building was commissioned in 1792 to be the home of the nation’s second president, John Adams. This was a result of a change of the capital, from Philadelphia to Washington DC as the Federal City was being constructed. Philadelphia had served as the capital for 10 years and during this time; George Washington stayed in the home of noted Superintendent of Finance, Robert Morris.

The White House was officially opened on the 1st of November, 1800 and John Adams immediately took up his residence here. Many people are unaware that the design of the White House was intended to be chosen through anonymous submissions from architects. Thomas Jefferson even tried his hand at designing for the competition, as he was a renowned architect, but in the end none of these proposals were selected. On a visit to South Carolina, Washington himself spoke to the architect who had designed a building that he liked and then summoned him to the capital in 1792.

James Hoban was the architect in question and he also submitted plans to the competition, which were quickly chosen by Washington. The original design wasn’t entirely to his liking but it was eventually expanded to become a more fitting house for the president. The house received an extra floor and the façade was expanded as well.

Within months of the competition, construction had begun and the first stone was laid on October 13th, 1792. The construction lasted for eight years and would have cost over $3 million in today’s currency. The incredibly intricate design featured elements that took months to construct and were not integral to the building, such as the patterns around the windows. After the building was completed, it was whitewashed and scrubbed down, giving it the white color for which it became named.

It wasn’t originally called the White House and had no official name for many years after its construction. It was referred to as the President’s House or President’s Mansion until 1811. After the Burning of Washington DC, many believed that the building had been painted white to cover any fire damage that may have occurred.

In the centuries that followed the opening of this building, it has gone through many updates, which have mostly been interior changes. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy made a huge historical restoration of the house which was completed on Valentine’s Day in 1962. This was shown to the public on television while she showed a camera crew around the building.

If you’d like to see the White House up close and personal with a few memento photos, then book our Two-Day Washington DC Grand Tour. This includes a stop at the White House Visitor’s Center and time to take photos at one of the world’s most famous buildings.