1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

(202) 456-1111

Status: Government Building; Residence and Executive Ofice of the President of the United States of America



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By <a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="">Rob Young</a> from United Kingdom - <a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="">The White House</a>, CC BY 2.0Link

By <a href="//" title="User:Zrudisin">Zach Rudisin</a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en">Own work</span>, CC BY-SA 3.0Link


In April of 1789 when George Washington was inaugurated as the First President of the United States of America his executive mansion and office were 2 houses in New York City. This was, of course, during the 2 year term when New York City was the Capital of the Country.

The Capital was then moved to Philadelphia for a 10 year period while the 1790 Residence Act allowed the new Federal District to be built on the shores of the Potomac River. President Washington retired after 2 terms and was replaced by John Adams who continued to live in Philadelphia until November 1, 1800.

The corner stone for The White House was laid at noon on October 13, 1792. Designed by James Hoban the building was built mostly by African-Americans – both enslaved and free – as well as European laborers. The structure was ready for occupancy on November 1, 1800 – at a cost of $232,371 (3,710,000 in 2021 USD) and President Adams moved in with his family and staff.

Originally, there were many names for the building including the President’s House, the President’s Palace and the Presidential Mansion. The first recorded use of The White House was after the burning of Washington starting a rumor that it was painted white to hide the burn scars on the walls. The first President to refer to it as The White House was the 26th – President Theodore Roosevelt.

President Thomas Jefferson replaced Adams in 1801 and – despite remarking many times that the house was already too big – added the colonnades on either side that now link the main building to the East and West Wings.

In 1814 the British set Washington and The White House on fire in retaliation for the burning of York (now called Toronto) in Upper Canada. Thus began another legend that the Canadians burned The White House which is both true and untrue.

The British burned The White House but they were troops from British North America which would become Canada in 1867.

The fire was not put out until both a hurricane and a tornado passed through the city.

The interior of the building was completely gutted leaving only the exterior walls; which were unstable and torn down excepting the South Wall. The house was rebuilt between 1814 and 1817. President James Madison lived in the Octagon House and then the Seven Buildings while The White House was re-built during the rest of his term.

By the term of President Abraham Lincoln The White House was becoming very crowded and the location near swamplands was considered dangerous to the health of the President and his family and staff; due to malaria from the mosquitos. At first multiple sites were put up to move the residence to but all were eventually rejected by Congress.

In 1881 when President Chester A Arthur took office, he began major renovations including removing almost all the furniture and selling it at auction.

In 1902 the West Wing was built – the East Wing wasn’t built until 1942 – and first used only for official functions. When President William Howard Taft took office in 1909 he increased the size of the West Wing including building the first Oval Office.

In the 1930’s President Franklin Roosevelt added a second story to the West Wing and moved the Oval Office to it’s current position: beside the Rose Garden.

By 1948 – during the term of President Harry Truman – age and sloppy maintenance had brought the house to a state where it was declared in imminent danger of completely collapsing. President Truman moved to the Blair House and The White House was gutted and completely reconstructed with a new steel frame, new interior and sub-basements including a bomb shelter.

In the early 1960’s First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy – wife of President John Kennedy – undertook a massive redecoration and restoration of The White House.

In 1961 Congress declared The White House a museum meaning the President could declare anything inside of historic or artistic value and, therefore, could never be sold. Anything labeled as such would have to be stored in the Smithsonian Institute and could be brought back to The White House at any time.

There have been no major changes – ie gutting and total re-building – of The White House since the Truman Administration and any major changes now have to be run by a Congressional Committee.

President Richard Nixon built the existing Press Room over President Franklin Roosevelt’s swimming pool and added a bowling alley. President Jimmy Carter added the first computers and laser printers. President HW Bush added solar panels for heating water and President Barack Obama added solar panels for heating the President’s living quarters.


Paranormal Activity

The ghost of President Abraham Lincoln is, by far, the most famous haunting of The White House. It is thought he haunts The White House due to unfinished business as his life was cut short by his assassination. His ghost is also said to be available in times of great need.

Lincoln was first reported as being seen by First Lady Grace Coolidge – wife of President Calvin Coolidge – standing in the Yellow Oval Room. He was looking over the Potomac River toward what would have been Civil War Battlefields in his time.

During the term of President Franklin Roosevelt(which included both Great Depression and World War II), Lincoln was felt and seen multiple times. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt used the Lincoln Bedroom as her study and reported feeling the former President’s presence many times when she was up working late into the night. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom and reported emerging from his evening bath naked, lighting a cigar and seeing Lincoln sitting by the fireplace. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands heard a knock at the bedroom and opened to find Lincoln standing there – she fainted from the experience.

Margaret Truman – daughter of President Harry Truman – used the Lincoln Bedroom as her bedroom and reported being woken many times by phantom knocks at the door.

First Lady “Lady” Bird Johnson – wife of President Lyndon Johnson – is said to have felt Lincoln’s presence in the room with her when she was watching a tv show about his death.

President Ronald Reagan is reported to have said that his dog would go into any room in The White House except for one; the Lincoln Bedroom. The dog would just stand outside of the bedroom and bark.

President Theodore Roosevelt, Maureen Reagan – daughter of President Ronald Reagan – Lynda Bird Johnson – daughter of President Lyndon Johnson - and Mary Eben – Eleanor Roosevelt’s Press Secretary – have all reported seeing Lincoln’s ghost in the White House.

Lincoln is most often said to appear when the United States is in peril – as in World War II in the time of Franklin Roosevelt – and is most commonly seen and heard walking the second floor hallways, in his former bedroom and staring out of windows.

First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln – who was very spiritual and interested in the occult – held many seances in The White House attempting to communicate with her son who had passed away is said to have heard the ghost of President Andrew Jackson swearing and stomping around. The Rose Room – which was Jackson’s bedroom – is said to be one of the most active rooms in the entire building. She also heard President Thomas Jefferson playing his violin.

President Harry Truman – based on his writings at least – was very aware of the ghosts in the building. He wrote of phantom footsteps, drapes and other objects moving on their own, phantom knocks on his bedroom door and the floors creaking when no one alive was walking on them.

The ghost of President William Henry Harrison – he was only President for 31 days – is said to haunt The White House attic and his phantom footsteps are heard as walks around up there seemingly looking for something.

The Blue Room is haunted by President John Tyler and First Lady Frances Cleveland – wife of President Groover Cleveland – both of whom are seen in the room.

The ghost of First Lady Abagail Adams – wife of President John Adams – has been seen since 1818 (shortly after her death) heading towards the East Room her arms outstretched as if she were still carrying laundry. She is clothed in a cap and lace shawl. In the early 19th century, the East Room was the warmest in The White House so Mrs. Adams used it to dry the laundry. Often, she is accompanied with the smell of wet laundry and/or lavender soap.

When Woodrow Wilson was President, he wanted to move the famous Rose Garden but the plans were quickly abandoned when people began to see the ghost of First Lady Dolly Madison – wife of President James Madison – in the garden and thought she was showing her disapproval.

Barbara and Jenna Bush – daughters of President George W Bush - heard the ghostly sounds of a piano playing in their room. This is thought to be the ghost of President Harry Truman.

The ghost of David Burnes – the original owner of the land that is now Washington DC – haunts the building although there are no reports of his apparition being seen. Rather he is known for telling people who he is; a disembodied voice that has been heard many times saying, “I’m Mr Burnes”.

The ghost of Annie Surratt is said to knock on the front doors every July 6 eternally pleading for her mother’s life to be spared. Annie’s mother, Mary, was convicted of helping plan President Lincoln’s assassination and hung to death for the crime.

The apparition of a British soldier has been seen on the grounds holding a burning torch.