12 Fun Facts You Probably Never Heard About The White House

These interesting facts might surprise even the biggest history enthusiasts. The White House, known as the longtime residence of the U.S. president and the site of numerous significant decisions and historic moments, is immediately recognizable to Americans and even familiar to many non-Americans. But as much as you think you know about it, how well do you truly understand the White House?

1.The White House’s Architect Wasn’t American

Contrary to popular belief, the White House was designed by an Irish architect named James Hoban, who started his career in Philadelphia in 1785.

2.It Didn’t Always Have an Official Name

The name “White House” wasn’t officially adopted until 1901, when Teddy Roosevelt decided to change it from the rather mundane “Executive Residence.” He felt that state governors had executive residences, and he wanted to ensure that the president’s residence had a more distinguished title.

3.It Was Indeed Constructed by Enslaved Individuals

Ever since Michelle Obama sparked a discussion by expressing her emotions about waking up in a house built by slaves, it has become widely known that the White House was constructed using slave labor. Considering the historical context of the United States during the time of the White House’s construction, this fact should not be surprising. White House records indicate that African American slaves were trained on-site to fulfill various roles, such as quarrymen, brick-makers, and carpenters.

4.The White House Is Enormous… Seriously Huge

First and foremost, the White House is a grand mansion. Just think about this: The White House Residence spans an impressive six floors and boasts 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms. That adds up to 412 doors, 28 fireplaces, eight staircases, three elevators, and the perfect setup for an epic game of hide-and-seek. You may be wondering about the cost of such a place. Well, a recent appraisal valued the property at just under $400 million.

5.It Contains Lesser-Known, Fun Rooms

What purpose could 132 different rooms possibly serve? Well, it turns out that some past residents have come up with imaginative ways to utilize these spaces. For example, Harry Truman had the White House’s first bowling alley installed. Franklin D. Roosevelt transformed a cloakroom into a 42-seat movie theater. Hillary Clinton even converted one sitting room into the Music Room, so her husband could play the saxophone.

6.John Adams Was the First President to Live in It

Although George Washington was responsible for initiating the construction of the White House, selecting its location, and approving its design, he never actually resided there. That honor went to the second president, John Adams.

Washington’s term ended in 1797, three years before the White House was completed in 1800. Sadly, he passed away in 1799, which means he never even stepped foot inside the finished building. He is the only U.S. President who never lived in the White House.

7.There’s a Hidden Pool Beneath the Press Room

Although the White House still has an exterior pool, its indoor pool is now concealed beneath the floors. This indoor pool was opened in 1933 for the use of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is located beneath the current James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.

8.It’s Not the Original White House

If you dig deep into your middle school history lessons, you’ll recall that the British burned down the White House during an invasion in 1814. Merely 14 years after its initial construction was completed, James Hoban, the same architect, was tasked with rebuilding it. The second iteration of the White House was finally completed in 1817, although Hoban returned on occasions in the subsequent years to add porticos on the north and south sides.

9.The White House Lacked Electricity

For Almost a Century Until 1891, the White House was illuminated solely by gas lights. President Benjamin Harrison, who held office during the introduction of electric lighting, was skeptical of its safety and feared he might get shocked if he touched a light switch. His solution? He never touched a switch himself, not even once.

10.The Oval Office Was Inspired by George Washington

Although George Washington never lived in the White House and passed away long before the Oval Office came into existence in 1909, he influenced the room’s distinctive shape. It is said that Washington insisted on having rounded walls in his Philadelphia home to accommodate formal gatherings or levees. This design choice was carried over when the Oval Office was built, even though such formal receptions no longer take place in the space.

11.The White House Has Witnessed Several Deaths

Not only have Presidents William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor passed away within the White House, but three First Ladies—Letitia Tyler, Caroline Harrison, and Ellen Wilson—have also died there. In total, 10 individuals have lost their lives within the White House walls.

12.And Supposedly, a Ghost Still Resides

There If we take a cue from horror movies, it’s often said that old buildings are haunted. Unfortunately, the White House doesn’t escape this belief. Staff members, guests, presidents, and First Ladies have all claimed to have encountered paranormal activity during their time there. The rumor has it that the ghost of Abraham Lincoln still haunts the premises.

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