It has been the residence of every U.S. president since John Adams in 1800.
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.
The White House was designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban in the 1790s in the Neoclassical style. Rebuilt after a British attack in 1814, the “President’s House” evolved with the personal touches of its residents, and accommodated such technological changes as the installation of electricity. The building underwent major structural changes in the early 1900s under Teddy Roosevelt, who also officially established the “White House” moniker, and again under Harry Truman after WWII.
The White House and grounds cover just over 18 acres (about 7.3 hectares).
The modern-day White House complex includes the Executive Residence, West Wing, East Wing, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building—the former State Department, which now houses offices for the President’s staff and the Vice President—and Blair House, a guest residence.
The building is is 51.2 meters (168 feet) long. It is 26.1 meters (85 feet 6 inches) wide without porticoes; 46.3 meters (152 feet) wide with porticoes.
The overall height of the White House (to the top of the roof) is 70 feet (21.3 meters) on the south and (18.4 meters) 60 feet 4 inches on the north; the façade (grade of lawn to parapet) is 18.3 meters (60 feet) on the south (lawn at 16.4 meters (54 feet) above sea level) and 15.3 meters (50 feet 4 inches) on the north.
The White House has 5,110 square meters (55,000 square feet) of floorspace.
There are 132 rooms, 32 bathrooms, and 6 stories — the Ground Floor, State Floor, Second Floor, and Third Floor, as well as a two-story basement.
There are also 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 7 staircases, and 3 elevators.
The West Wing houses the President’s office (the Oval Office) [photo below] and offices of his senior staff, with room for about 50 employees.
For recreation, the White House has a variety of facilities available to its residents, including a tennis court, jogging track, swimming pool, movie theater, billiard room, putting green and a bowling lane.
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.
The White House is said to receive 65,000 letters per week, 2,500-3,500 calls. 1,000 faxes and 100,000 emails per day.
The White House receives up to 30,000 visitors each week.
The White House Complex is protected by the United States Secret Service and the United States Park Police.
Urban legend says that the White House has a secret laser defense system and anti-aircraft missiles on the roof.
In February 1974, a stolen army helicopter landed without authorization on the White House’s grounds. Twenty years later, in 1994, a light plane crashed on the White House grounds, and the pilot died instantly.
The land that became Washington, DC was acquired from Virginia and Maryland, where slavery was practiced. Historic payroll reports document that many of the workers hired to build the White House were African Americans – some free and some slave.
The initial construction took place over a period of eight years, at a reported cost of $232,371.83 (equal to $3,279,177 today).
The White House is constructed of gray-colored sandstone from a quarry in Aquia, Virginia. The sandstone walls weren’t painted white until the White House was reconstructed after the British fires.
The White House requires 2,150 liters (570 gallons) of paint to cover its outside surface.
The property is a National Heritage Site owned by the National Park Service and is part of the President’s Park.
In 2007, it was ranked second on the American Institute of Architects list of “America’s Favorite Architecture”.
Some real-estate pros think that the White House value is more than $100 million. And if all of the artwork, historic artifacts, and American memorabilia were included in the sale, the asking price would soar—to upwards of $250 million.
The White House has twin buildings – one in France and one in Ireland. The building in France is a tourist attraction and the building in Ireland is for the Irish Parliament.
There is a persistent rumour that President Abraham Lincoln’s ghost, also known as ‘the White House Ghost’, has haunted the building since his death in 1865.
The White House is regularly featured in film and TV, most notably the American series ‘The West Wing’ and the 1996 blockbuster ‘Independence Day’ in which it is shown being destroyed by an alien spaceship.