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White House Q&A - Answer

Gold leaves adorn the elm tree in front of the North Portico of the White House. English and American boxwoods flank the entrance. White House photo by Tina Hager.

Question: When was the White House building completed?

Answer: It was 1800 when the White House was nearly completed, and its first residents, President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, moved in. Over the years, each President has made his own changes and contributions to the White House. For two hundred years, the White House has stood as a symbol of the Presidency, the United States government, and the American people. Its history, and the history of the nation's capital, began when President George Washington signed an Act of Congress in December of 1790 declaring that the federal government would reside in a district "not exceeding ten miles square . . . on the river Potomac." President Washington, together with city planner Pierre L'Enfant, chose the site for the new residence, which is now 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House has a unique and fascinating history. The fall foliage is in full view as Marine One departs the South Lawn. The Southern Magnolias to the left of the South Portico were planted by President Andrew Jackson. White House photo by Tina Hager. It survived a fire at the hands of the British in 1814 (during the war of 1812) and another fire in the West Wing in 1929, while Herbert Hoover was President. Throughout much of Harry S. Truman's presidency, the interior of the house, with the exception of the third floor, was completely gutted and renovated while the Trumans lived at Blair House, right across Pennsylvania Avenue. Nonetheless, the exterior stone walls are those first put in place when the White House was constructed two centuries ago.

White House Fast Facts.

  • There are 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the Residence. There are also 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators. Three Golden chrysanthemums called Sunny Denise encircle the fountain on the North Lawn. White House photo by Tina Hager.
  • At various times in history, the White House has been known as the "President's Palace," the "President's House," and the "Executive Mansion." President Theodore Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name in 1901.
  • Presidential Firsts while in office... President James Polk (1845-49) was the first President to have his photograph taken... President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) was not only the first President to ride in an automobile, but also the first President to travel outside the country when he visited Panama... President Franklin Roosevelt (1933-45) was the first President to ride in an airplane.
  • With five full-time chefs, the White House kitchen is able to serve dinner to as many as 140 guests and hors d'oeuvres to more than 1,000. An early winter snow transforms the White House and Lafayette Park into a winter wonderland, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2002. White House photo by Tina Hager
  • The White House requires 570 gallons of paint to cover its outside surface.
  • For recreation, the White House has a variety of facilities available to its residents, including a tennis court, jogging track, swimming pool, movie theater, and bowling lane.

To watch the "Life in the White House" series, click here.

For more information on history of the White House, click here.