White House, Home of the American People

The official home for the U.S. president was designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban in the 1790s. Rebuilt after a British attack in 1814, the “President’s House” evolved with the personal touches of its residents, and accommodated such technological changes as the installation of electricity. The building underwent major structural changes in the early 1900s under Teddy Roosevelt, who also officially established the “White House” moniker, and again under Harry Truman after WWII. Counting the Oval Office and the Rose Garden among its famous features, it remains the only private residence of a head of state open free of charge to the public.

The White house is small, no Buckingham Palace for the new country of the USA.  According to our tour guide this was because the White House was to represent every man’s home as opposed to “royalty”.

The White House was originally open to the citizen’s of the US. The first fence was not erected until 1803 but that fence was not to prohibit entry to citizens.  To the contrary, Jefferson opened the doors to the White House for citizens to visit, with the exception of when he was sleeping.  The grounds were generally open as if a public park.  That fence and subsequent fences and walls were largely to direct the flow of visitors.

A guard booth was not added until 1835, after an assassination attempt on President Andrew Jackson.

In the 1850s, the gates were open from 8 am until sundown.

Open public access to the grounds during daytime continued until World War II.  During the war, it was prohibited for security reasons.  Those security reasons have not relaxed, since.

Ever wonder why the entrances are refereed to as the east , west, north or south entrances? It’s because we do not want any visiting dignitary to feel slighted by entering through a “back door.”

Abraham Lincoln addressed the nation from the West Portico for the last time before his assassination. John Wilkes Booth and his c0-conspirators were in Lafayette Square when Lincoln made the address. What they heard so angered them that Booth is alleged to say, that will be the last time Lincoln makes a speech from the White House. Originally they only planned to kidnap the President but now incensed , they left  plotting the eventual assassination.

The White House may look small but it holds  142 rooms on six floors with  floor space totaling approximately 55,000 square feet. The “west wing” was added in 1942 and more than doubled the existing space.


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