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White House Life: Now and Then

Family Life at the White House





Tears of Joy and Laughter
Family Life at the White House

Tears of joy could be heard throughout the White House on September 9, 1893 after bright-eyed Esther Cleveland entered the world. Her mother, Frances, gave birth to her in the Clevelands' bedroom on the northwest area of the second floor. Esther, President Grover Cleveland's second daughter, was the first and only child of a president to be born in the White House.

The White House has served as the home for the president and his family since November 1800 when President John and Abigail Adams became the mansion's first residents. Over the years the White House has been the site of many family gatherings, including birthday parties and holiday dinners. Families have also cried tears of joy at weddings and shed tears of sorrow at the loss of loved ones.

Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower's grandson, David Eisenhower, celebrated his eighth birthday in 1956 at the White House with a western party based on television personality and cowboy, Roy Rogers. Not only was Roy Rogers the theme of the party, but he and his wife, Dale Evans, also attended as special guests.

Several years earlier in 1941, Franklin Roosevelt and his family gathered to celebrate Christmas. President Roosevelt took great pleasure in watching his children and grandchildren open gifts. But the President was so busy leading the war effort that he did not have time to open his own gifts. A few weeks later, a housekeeper found the President's gifts in a closet--unopened.

Many weddings have taken place at the White House. When Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom in 1886, he became the first and only President to marry in the White House. Many brides, including presidential daughters Nellie Grant, Alice Roosevelt and Lynda Johnson, have chosen the beautiful East Room for their nuptials.

Although the East Room has been the site of many happy occasions, it has also been a place where mourners have gathered. The Green Room housed the body of Abraham Lincoln's son, Willie, who died of an illness. The bodies of seven presidents, including Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy, have lain in state in the East Room.

The size of a president's family has varied, and one family made a lasting impact on the White House grounds. President Theodore Roosevelt's six children so filled the home with joy and laughter that he ordered the construction of a temporary building to serve as office space for his staff. Today the building is called the West Wing.

Theodore Roosevelt also officially named this historic home the White House in 1901. This simple name has turned a residence into a symbol of democracy and the place that many presidents have called "the People's House."

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