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White House Life: Now and Then

Life in the Vice President's Residence
VP Ceremonial Office





Number One Observatory Circle
Life at the Vice President's Residence

The large telescope at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. attracted hundreds of visitors in 1910, including President Howard Taft and his wife, Helen. The stargazing Tafts drove up the hill past the superintendent's house to the Naval Observatory in their new automobile to look at Halley's Comet. The next time a president could view Halley's Comet-75 years later-the superintendent's house of the Naval Observatory would serve as the Vice President's home.

The white 19th Century house overlooking Massachusetts Avenue in Washington D.C. was built in 1893 for the superintendent of the United States Naval Observatory. The house was so lovely that the chief of naval operations booted the superintendent and made the house his home in 1923. The house was "taken over" again in 1974 when Congress turned "Number One Observatory Circle" into the official residence of the Vice President.

Before 1974, Vice Presidents and their families lived in their own home, but the cost of securing these private homes had grown substantially over the years. After years of debate, Congress agreed to refurbish the house at the Naval Observatory as a home for the Vice President.

Although Number One Observatory Circle was available to the Vice President in 1974, three years passed before a Vice President lived in the home. Vice President Ford became President Ford before he could use the home, and his Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, only used the home for entertaining. Vice President Mondale was the first Vice President to move into the home. It has since been home to the Bushes, the Quayles and the Gores.

Today, Vice President Richard Cheney and Lynne Cheney live in the Vice President's Residence. Like many Vice Presidential families, the Cheneys have decorated the home with their own furnishings. They also have displayed American art on loan from museums, including Helen Frankenthaler's Lush Spring, Andrew Wyeth's Siri and western paintings by George Catlin.

From world leaders to young children, the Cheneys have welcomed many guests to the Vice President's Residence. They have hosted leaders of several nations, including President Mubarak of Egypt and Vice President Hu Jintao of China. Lynne Cheney hosted a Constitution Day event on Sept. 17, 2002 and welcomed 200 second graders for a program and workshop about the Constitution.

Over the years, the Naval Observatory has continued to operate. Scientists there make observations of the sun, moon, planets and selected stars; determine and distribute precise time; and publish astronomical data needed for accurate navigation.

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