The White House has long been one of the most popular buildings in the United States. Yes, it’s where the president lives, but there are also many rooms on the property that are used to hold important meetings that could determine the future of the country. The White House is also home to a number of Galas and Award dinners celebrating the accomplishments and milestones of both government officials and everyday people.
The White House has a reputation for being especially elegant and sophisticated, which is why many people are fascinated with finding out more about how the president and his family spend their leisure time. The people who are commissioned to decorate the White House have a pretty serious job to do, and can keep this professional accomplish on their resume permanently. The meals prepared at the White House also get a lot of attention, so the person who is selected to cook for the First Family pretty much deserves to have lifetime bragging rights. There are also a number of people who have developed conspiracies about the White House, asserting that there are secret chambers and rooms on the property that serve as the meeting place for shady business dealings.
Whether you see the White House as a large mansion for the president, or the seat of our nation’s government, there are likely some things about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that would come as a shock to you.
12. It Got Its Name From Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was the president who was responsible for overseeing the construction of the White House. There are several ideas floating around for the name of the presidential home, but Roosevelt came up with the name “White House,” and it stuck. Other ideas included “President’s Palace” and “President’s Mansion.” Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States, and held the title from 1901 until 1909. He also has the distinction of being called one of the greatest presidents the country has ever had. His face, along with the images of Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington, is also part of Mt. Rushmore.
11. The Press Room Used to Be A Pool
When Franklin Roosevelt wanted to have a place to exercise at the White House, he had a pool built on the property. After all, it’s important for the president to stay in tip-top shape, in order to be in peak physical and mental condition when making major decisions for the country. Later, when President Nixon was in office, he had the pool remodeled and turned into a press room for journalists and other members of the press. Perhaps Nixon thought that having press conferences was more important than getting a great workout. That is, until he got into some trouble of his own in the White House.
10. A Billiards Room Was Added By Ulysses Grant
While FDR felt the need to have a pool added to the White House, President Grant preferred to actually play pool. He enjoyed the game so much that he had a billiards room built on the White House property. The recreational space was between the actual White House mansion and the presidential greenhouse. The greenhouse was where Ulysses S. Grant’s wife hosted White House garden parties, and entertained the dignitaries of the day. Even way back then, married couples knew the importance of engaging in separate social activities with separate sets of friends, at least every once in a while.
9. The White House Has More Than 130 Rooms
There are over 130 rooms in the White House. However, there are more than 400 doors on the property. This is the reason many people claim that there are secret rooms at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that will never be opened to the public. The White House has several kitchens and leisure areas, which is why it’s easy to get lost in there. This could also be a good thing, since it means the First Family has plenty of room to relax and get some much-needed alone time. The White House is clearly big enough for several families to live there comfortably. However, the Secret Service isn’t supposed to let that happen, and from what we know, they’ve been doing that part of their job well.
8. James Hoban Won The White House Construction Contest
James Hoban will always be known as the guy who built the White House. When the country was trying to figure out who would build the president’s home, the government held a competition to find the best architect. Looks like the concept of competing for stardom is not a new concept in America. The judges liked James Hoban’s design the best, and he won the contest to use his architectural vision to construct the President’s House. Hoban was originally from Ireland, and it is believed that the Charleston County Courthouse in North Carolina, which he also planned, served as the model for the main facade of the White House.
7. Black Slaves Built The White House
While James Hoban was credited with coming up with the architectural plan that would later become the White House, it was the hard labor of African American slaves that actually got the job done. While it took several people to finish the work of building the White House, there were five African American workers who did the work without pay. Their names were, Ben, Peter, Harry, Tom and Daniel. According to CNN, these men often had to work seven days a week as well. This is a large part of the reason why Barack Obama’s 2009 presidential win meant so much to African Americans.
6. Some Presidents Thought The White House Was A Lonely Place
While the idea of living in an expansive mansion seems like a dream come true for many people, some presidents actually viewed the White House as a very lonely place. Richard Nixon was known for talking to the portraits on the wall during the end of his time at the White House. To be fair, he was probably drunk most of those days, and had his own reasons for feeling alienated from politics. According to The Atlantic, President Truman also confirmed that the White House could be lonely, and referred to the home as a “glamorous prison” and “the Great White Jail.”
5. The White House Has Room For A 140-Person Dinner Party
The State Dining Room in the White House is large enough to comfortably hold 140 people. While we can’t imagine why the President would ever want to have that many people over for a casual dinner, he certainly could if he wanted to. However, he probably doesn’t have the time, since the job of being the Leader of the Free World is pretty time-consuming. The State Dining Room is the largest of the two dining rooms in the Executive Residence of the White House on the State Floor. The State Dining Room was originally an office space, and got its elaborate furniture during the time that James Monroe was president.
4. The White House Has A Movie Theater
The White House got an upgrade in 1942 when a movie theater was added to the property. The space used to be a cloakroom, but it’s pretty safe to say that a movie theater is much more fun. President Obama and his wife Michelle, have been photographed enjoying a 3D movie in the space. The First Lady has also hosted movie screenings in the theater. The first movie to be shown in the White House was The Birth of a Nation, which was a heavily racist film that portrays the Ku Klux Klan to be the saviors of the United States. Woodrow Wilson hosted the screening of the film in 1915, in order to thank his supporters from the South.
3. The White House May Need A Bigger Fence
There have been a few Secret Service blunders over the years, which have involved people actually breaking into the White House without being stopped by security. That’s why The Atlantic published a piece in 2014 entitled, The White House Needs a Bigger Fence. An independent panel actually made this recommendation after there were several security breaches at or near the White House. The current fence is 7 and a half feet tall, and surrounds the 18 acre perimeter of the property. In summer 2015, spikes were installed on the fence as a deterrent to keep unauthorized personnel out of the president’s house.
2. President Truman Ordered A $54 Million Renovation
One day while President Truman was taking a bath in the White House, his bathtub almost fell through the floor. If the tub had completely fallen through the floor, it would have crushed the 1,200 pound chandelier that was directly underneath the tub. Needless to say, this blunder could have changed history significantly. The president could have gotten hurt, and the damage of the incident could have changed the way the White House looks today. President Truman decided to have some construction work done before a disaster like this happened again. According to the Daily Mail, he ordered the construction work to improve the White House in 1949.
1. Bill Clinton Had The White House Track Built
President Bill Clinton is responsible for having a track built around the White House. In the 1990s, there were lots of news stories surrounding Clinton’s weight, so it was assumed that he had the track constructed in order to be more physically active. However, it is not known for sure whether Clinton actually used the track. As you recall, he got a bit of “exercise” in other parts of the White House. These days, the 42nd President of the United States stays at a healthy weight by following a mostly vegan diet. He’s also pretty busy supporting his wife Hillary, as she runs for president.