8 unusual anecdotes about the White House

Washington never lived in the White House

First President of the United States of America, George Washington thought a house was needed to accommodate the highest political figure of the young Republic. He chose the site in 1791. The following year, work began, under the direction of Irish architect James Hoban, with the ceremonial laying of the first stone. But the construction stops. Result: Washington died in 1799 without ever living there. The building was not yet finished, but his successor John Adams and his wife Abigail decided to live there on November 1, 1800. They became the first residents in the history of the White House. The presidential residence consists of 6 floors, for a total of 55,000 square feet, with 132 bedrooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, 3 elevators and 412 doors. Figures that make you dizzy!

Why is the White House white?

During the war of 1812-1815, the English attacked the American capital and burned the city. Washington was in flames, as was the president’s residence. To hide the damage to the building’s facade, it was repainted a uniform white. To cover the entire building, it takes at least 2,158 liters of paint! But in the 19th century, the White House was not yet called that. We are talking about the Presidential Palace (Presidential Palace), President’s House (President’s House), or Executive Residence (Executive Mansion). It was Theodore Roosevelt who formalized the current name of the “White House” by writing it on the stationery dedicated to the official mail of the presidency in 1901. This name probably comes from the color of the building, but there is another explanation: it could be a reference to the domain name owned by President Washington’s wife: the planting a white houselocated in the state of Virginia.

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The White House will be a replica of a French castle

Château de Rastignac, in Périgord, looks like Maison-Blanche: the same rotunda with six columns in the neoclassical style. It is located in the village of La Bachellerie, between Périgueux and Brive. But then, who copied whom? The Périgord residence was built in 1811, 19 years after the residence of the American president! The issue seems to be fixed quickly. But if we go back a little, to the origin of their construction, we will find that the plans for the Château de Rastignac date back to before the French Revolution. They were kept in Bordeaux, a city visited by a certain Thomas Jefferson, then ambassador to Paris (and future American president). While visiting the architecture school, he sees the plans for the Château de Rastignac… three years before construction of the White House begins!

It will be a real pet store!

Among the famous residents of the White House, some are furrier than others… many have tails and four legs… These are the animals, of course! From its beginning, the White House welcomed farm animals, as well as dogs and cats. But some presidents came with more “exotic” animals, like Calvin Coolidge and his pygmy hippo called “Billy” or John Quincy Adams and his alligator, a gift from the French General La Fayette , which he placed in his bathtub to scare his friends. the visitors. Martin Van Buren was offered two baby tigers by the Sultan of Oman and placed them for a few hours in the White House. Champion in any category, Theodore Roosevelt owned nearly fifty animals! These include a bear, a hyena nicknamed “Bill”, an owl, a lizard, a pig, a badger, or even a parrot.

Thanks Jackie!

Living in the White House in 1961, Jackie Kennedy did not hide her disappointment in a letter to a friend: “Nothing seems to have happened in this house, oh my God, it’s the worst place in the world, so cold and so lonely, a real dungeon” The fault of Einsenhower’s wife and her taste in old things. Jackie Kennedy wanted to make it “the most perfect house in the United States”. For this, he uses his knowledge of literature and art history learned during his studies in France. He wanted to reintroduce period furniture to bring back a style of the past and authenticity to the place. A month after his official entry into the White House, he created a committee of conservation and decorative arts experts. Thanks to him, the President’s residence has become a showcase of cultural heritage and a gem of American heritage. In February 1962, for the first time, Americans could visit the White House on television. The program brings together nearly 56 million curious people.

Activities vary

Bored of the White House? Never! The list of activities to do to occupy your days and nights is as long as your arm. This, thanks to the various tenants who stayed there. Hardly installed, each president set up his own equipment. Joe Biden can thank Harry Truman for the bowling alley, Franklin D. Roosevelt for the swimming pool and movie theater or even Barack Obama for the basketball baskets installed on the tennis courts. And for a reading break after a sports session, the library currently contains nearly 3,000 books.

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Lincoln’s ghost hid in the White House

“Lincoln, are you there?” In a snapshot taken during the renovation carried out on the White House in 1950, we see a strange silhouette in the background. His particularity? He is transparent. On closer inspection, we can see the features of a man who doesn’t seem to be wearing workman’s clothes. Behind him, Lincoln’s bedroom. Opportunity? Not for writer and paranormal specialist Joshua P. Norman who wonders if the place is still haunted by the abolitionist president, who died in 1865. He’s not the only one! Others were lucky – or rather scared to death – to face the ghost of Lincoln in a frock coat and top hat. This was the case of some servants but also of distinguished guests such as Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who was invited to the White House in 1952, British Prime Minister Churchill, who would have been seen emerging from his bath, as well US President Eisenhower.

In the White House, there will be a hiding place in the president’s office

The West Wing of the White House (west wing) houses the offices of the president, and therefore, one of his most famous rooms: the oval office. Here sits a 227-kilo oak table, the Resolute (solve the desk). This massive piece of furniture, given to President Hayes by Queen Victoria in 1880, has since been used by many American heads of state. Suffering from polio, Franklin D. Roosevelt put on a facade to hide the obvious and thus hide his legs where splints were fixed. A perfect play hideout for kids! A mythical 1963 snap shows John F. Kennedy’s son inside the Resolute desk while dad works upstairs. His wife, Jackie, had the idea to put this desk in the oval office! In one of the desk drawers, each new president will find a personal message from his predecessor… “Good luck!”, perhaps.

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