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White House – Wikipedia

White House – Wikipedia

The White House [1] is the official residence and office of the President of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington. The Aquia Creek sandstone building, painted white, built between 1792 and 1800, is inspired by the Georgian style. It has been the place of residence, work and reception of all American presidents since John Adams, second president of the United States, who entered it in 1800.

The term “White House” is often used to refer, by metonymy, to the administration of the president. It is the symbol of executive power and American political power. Its current resident is Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.

From its inauguration in 1800 to the year 1942, the house underwent many modifications: reconstructions following fires (1814 and 1929 [2]), functional rearrangements by successive presidents or extensions, notably with construction from the west wing in 1901 and from the east wing in 1942. From this date, except for the modernization of the facilities and the construction of some safety or leisure facilities (swimming pool, golf course and gardens in particular), the appearance of the White House hardly changes any more. Its footprint grows over time with the addition, to the south, of gardens located in a formerly public space. Today the White House complex includes the Presidential Residence (Executive Residence, the historic central building in which the Presidential family resides and where a number of official receptions and a few meetings are held), the West Wing (where find the offices of the presidential administration, including the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room and the Roosevelt Room) and the East Wing (where the First Lady’s office and the White House social secretariat are located), as well as the Old Executive Office Building, a large building located just across the West Wing that houses presidential administration offices and the office of the Vice President of the United States. The complex also includes a garden to the north overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue and a park to the south, including the south lawn, on which the presidential helicopter Marine One lands.

The White House and its gardens are part of a larger complex, the President’s Park which also includes Lafayette Square to the north, on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Ellipse to the south (the two open to the public) and managed by the National Park Service.

White House - Wikipedia forcing Truman

First official residences [edit | change code]

Old Executive Office Building Pennsylvania Avenue General view of the White House with the executive residence in the center facing the south lawn, the West wing on the left (with the oval office with the white roof of the same shape) and the East wing at right, both connected by colonnades (red roof) to the main building. Lesur on the far left and Lafayette Park at the top separated from the north garden of the White House by the

After his inauguration in April 1789, President George Washington occupied two mansions in New York: the Samuel Osgood mansion at 3 Cherry Street (from April 1789 to February 1790) and the Alexander Macomb mansion at 39-41 Broadway (from February to August 1790). A federal law dating from July 1790, the Residence Act, designates the city of Philadelphia as provisional capital for a period of ten years. This delay corresponds to the time necessary for the construction of the new federal capital: Washington. The city of Philadelphia then rents Robert Morris’ mansion at 190 High Street (now 524-30 Market Street) to become the official residence of President Washington. At the same time, the state of Pennsylvania built a presidential palace a few blocks away in the hope that Philadelphia would eventually be designated as the permanent federal capital. George Washington occupied the Hotel on Market Street from November 1790 to March 1797, making changes that influenced the style of the future White House. President Adams also decides to occupy this hotel after refusing to settle in the presidential palace (ultimately bought by the University of Pennsylvania).

The new capital of the young Republic is located on land ceded by the States of Virginia and Maryland. The latter transferred ownership of the land to the federal government following the compromise reached with President George Washington. Congress instructed the Commissioners of the District of Columbia to build the new city under the direction of the President. The architect of the White House was chosen in a competition which opposed nine proposals, one of which was submitted anonymously by Thomas Jefferson [3]. President Washington went there to make his decision, with the town planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant [4]. According to the registers, the review of the different projects and the selection of the finalist were very brief. The choice fell on the project of James Hoban, an Irishman from Charleston [5]. The majority of other architectural projects were clumsy and naive. Washington was not entirely satisfied with the original work of Hoban, because he found the building to be too small, lacked ornaments and would not be worthy of a head of state. On his recommendations, the house was enlarged by almost 30% and a large reception hall, the current East Room, was added. The construction of the latter is probably inspired by the large reception hall at Mount Vernon.

The building is of classical inspiration, the sources of which could be sought directly or indirectly from the Roman architect Vitruve or even Andrea Palladio, Italian Renaissance architect who had a considerable influence on all Western architecture. The building designed by Hoban is largely inspired by the first two floors of Leinster House [6], a ducal palace located in Dublin and which is now the seat of the Lower House of the Irish Parliament [7]. Many other Irish country houses from the Georgian period have been designated as probable sources of inspiration for the arc-shaped south facade, or even for interior details such as the old niches of the Blue Room. Although there are no documents proving these influences, they are officially cited in the White House guide and in publications of the Historical White House Association.

The first official White House guide, published in 1962, suggests a link between Hoban’s plan for the southern portico, and the Château de Rastignac, a neoclassical residence located in La Bachellerie, in the Dordogne. This building was built between 1812 and 1817, on the basis of the previous plans of the Maison Carrée d’Arlac, in the suburbs of Bordeaux (1785-1789) [8]. The link between the two buildings has been disputed by the fact that Hoban never visited France. However, it turned out that Thomas Jefferson visited the Special School of Architecture in Bordeaux in 1789 where he saw the sketches of Mathurin Salat, the architect of the château de Rastignac [9]. Upon his return to the United States, he shared his discovery with Washington, Hoban, Monroe and Benjamin Henry Latrobe [10].

We must also think of the Hôtel de Salm, built from 1782 to 1787 in Paris by the architect Pierre Rousseau, which is the current Palace of the Legion of Honor, and which Thomas Jefferson had known when he was ambassador to Paris.

Construction began with the laying of the foundation stone on, although there were no official ceremonies [11], [6]. The newspaper kept by the Commissioner of Construction for the District of Columbia reports that the foundations were laid by slaves and The White House Historical Association notes that the proximity of the two slave states of Virginia and Maryland “influenced the choice of workers “in this then sparsely populated region and those in charge of construction” turned to African-Americans, slaves or free, to make up the main work force that built the White House, the Capitol, and others government buildings ”[12], [13]. Much of the work on the house was carried out by European immigrants who, for the most part, did not yet have American nationality [13]. The sandstone walls were erected by Scottish immigrants, as was the rose in high relief and the garlands that overlook the north entrance [14]. As for the bricks and plasterwork, they were made by Irish and Italian immigrants.

The initial construction was spread over eight years at a cost of 232,371.83 US dollars (which would correspond to approximately 2.4 million dollars, in 2005 value). The White House welcomed its first tenant, President John Adams as early as [6], when construction was not yet completed [15], [16]. Once the work was finished, the porous sandstone was coated with a mixture of lime, glue, casein and lead, to finally give the building its color and its name [17].

Originally, the house was called “presidential palace” or “presidential manor” [18]. President Madison’s wife, Dolley Madison, called it “President’s Castle”. The first appearance of the term “White House” appeared in 1811 [19]. During the War of 1812, the building was partially destroyed by fire, and a myth sees the origin of the name “White House” in the white paint used for reconstruction. The name “Executive Manor” was often used in official contexts until President Theodore Roosevelt established the formal name in 1901 by including “White House-Washington” on the header of his writing paper [20], [21]. President Franklin Roosevelt later changed it to “The White House” with the inscription “Washington” centered below. This convention continues today.

Although it was only built several years after the presidency of George Washington, some, and in the first place the county of New Kent in Virginia, suggest that the name comes from that of the house where Washington’s wife Martha lived Custis Washington: White House Plantation located in the county. Indeed, it was, it seems, a place dear to the spouses. [22]

Evolution of the building change code]

From the inauguration in 1800 to the fire of 1814 [edit | change code]

The White House after the fire of August 24, 1814.

John Adams was the first president to reside in the building, from [14]. Two days after moving in, he wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, in which there is a prayer for the building:

“I pray to Heaven to grant its best blessing to this House and to all those who will live in it in the future. May he only honest and wise men reign under this roof [23]. ”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had Adams’ blessing placed on the curtains of the State Dining Room. Adams lived there only very briefly before Thomas Jefferson, who became very interested in improvements to the White House, moved in. With the help of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, he drew up the plans for the East and West colonnades: small wings that keep domestic activities out of sight. [14] Nowadays, Jefferson’s vestibules connect the residence to the East and West wings.

In August 1814, during the Anglo-American War of 1812, a very large part of the city was burnt down by British troops in retaliation for the fire of the Parliament of Upper Canada, during the Battle of York (now Toronto). ) [24]. The White House was badly damaged and only the exterior walls remained standing. Legend has it that after an interior reconstruction, the walls of the facades were painted white to hide the damage caused by the smoke [25] giving it suddenly the name “White House”. However, it is claimed that this was not the case since the masonry was so weakened by the fire that these walls had to be torn down. [26]

Among the rubble of the White House, only two objects were able to be saved: a painting of George Washington saved by the future first lady, Dolley Madison [16], and a jewelry box returned to President Roosevelt, in 1939, by a Canadian who admitted that his father had stolen it in Washington [24]. Most of the debris was irretrievably lost during the sinking of the British fleet led by HMS Fantome. The ships that connected Prospect to Halifax were indeed caught in the middle of a storm on the night of [27], [28].

After the fire, Latrobe and Hoban devised a new plan and followed the progress of the reconstruction work. The south portico was built in 1824 and the north portico in 1830, and, although similar porticoes were proposed by Latrobe during reconstruction after the fire of 1814, those which were built were designed by Hoban [14 ], [29]. Contrary to popular belief, the north portico was not copied from another building in Dublin, the Viceregal Lodge (now the residence of the President of Ireland), whose portico is after the design of the House porticoes -Blanche. We can note a variation of the ionic order on the columns of the north portico, by the incorporation of roses between the scrolls. This was done to connect the new portico to the entrance, above which are engraved roses. The southern portico was built in 1829. The similarity between this portico and an elliptical portico with the curved staircases of the Château de Rastignac is frequently pointed out as a probable source [30]. The decorations for the two porticoes were made by Italian artisans who came to Washington to help build the United States Capitol.

The construction of the West wing [edit | change code]

The White House was the target of attack on August 16, 1841 when the then president, John Tyler, vetoed a bill concerning the establishment of the second bank in the United States. The angry rally of Liberal Party members outside the White House turned into a riot. This is to date the most violent show of force ever before the White House in the history of the United States.

At the time of the American Civil War, the White House began to run out of space. There were also disputes about its location, just north of a canal and a swampy area, conducive to the development of malaria and other diseases [31]. Brigadier General Nathaniel Michler was charged with finding solutions to these questions. [31] He proposed to abandon the White House as a residence, so that it would only be used for administration. He then recommended that the presidential family settle on a new estate, in Meridian Hill Park, in Washington [31]. This plan was rejected by Congress.

When Chester Alan Arthur took office in 1881, he ordered that a renovation of the White House be carried out as soon as the widow of the previous president, Lucretia Garfield, moved. Arthur inspects the work almost every night and makes several suggestions. Louis Comfort Tiffany is asked to send designers to help him. Over twenty cars of furniture and household goods are removed from the building and sold at public auction. [32] Only the portraits of John Adams and Martin Van Buren are saved. [33] A proposal even emerges to build a new residence south of the White House, but it fails for lack of support. In the fall of 1882, the work carried out on the main corridor included the tinting of the pale olive-colored walls with squares of gold leaf and the decoration of the ceiling in gold and silver with colored tracings which represent the letters “USA”. The Red Room is painted in dark Pomeranian red and its ceiling is decorated with gold, silver and copper stars, as well as red, white and blue stripes. A fifteen-meter mirror, adorned with Tiffany stones, supported by faux marble columns, replaces the glass doors that separate the main corridor from the northern vestibule [34]

In 1891, the wife of President Benjamin Harrison, Caroline, proposed to build extensions to the White House: a national wing in the east for a historic art gallery and a wing for official functions in the west. ]. The design was entrusted to Colonel Theodore A. Bingham, who scrupulously followed the recommendations of Mrs. Harrison [31]. In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt moved into the House with his large family, revealing a crying lack of space. [31] McKim, Mead and White was hired to renovate and build the extensions, including the West Wing. During the works, which lasted nearly four months in 1902 [6], the presidential family had taken up residence at 22 Jackson Place [31]. As early as 1909, President Taft required more space. The architect Nathan Wyeth was responsible for enlarging the West wing, with the addition of the oval office in 1910 [31], [6]. Under Coolidge’s tenure, a fourth floor is raised. [35] In 1942, during the Second World War and under the Roosevelt administration, the East wing and a bunker (Presidential Emergency Operations Center) were built. [35]

The reconstruction of Truman [edit | change code]

The works lasted from 1949 to 1952. After dismantling and storing the interior of each office, the structure was reconstructed using concrete and metal beams in place of the original wooden structure.

After decades of poor maintenance and the construction of a fourth floor under the Coolidge administration, the brick and sandstone structure was in poor condition, threatening to collapse. [14], [36] In August 1948, a section of the floor even collapsed, leading to the closure of Truman’s own bedroom and bathroom, due to their dangerousness. A reconstruction requiring the complete dismantling of the interior spaces, the construction of a new steel frame and the reconstruction of the original rooms in the new structure was essential [36]. The work will be led by contractor John McShain from 1949 to 1951, obliging in 1948, President Truman to temporarily abandon the White House to settle across the street, at Blair House [37]. Only the new West Wing remained operational during the works, forcing Truman to cross Pennsylvania Avenue every morning and afternoon to reach the Oval Office.

We took advantage of this restructuring to make some modifications to the initial plan (especially on the ground floor), the most important being the reconfiguration of the main staircase (Grand Staircase), the landing of which now leads to the entrance hall ( Entrance Hall), instead of the central hall (Cross Hall) [36]. Air conditioning was also added, while two additional basements were dug to provide space for work rooms, a storage room and an air raid shelter. [14]

Although the White House was saved by this reconstruction, almost all of the elements of historical value were nevertheless sacrificed. Thus, the majority of the original plasters, some of which dated from works of 1814-1816, were too damaged to be able to be reinstalled (just like the robust original paneling in Beaux-Arts style, in the East Room). While the original wooden frame of the house was used for the paneling of the Vermeil room, the library, the Porcelain room and the Card room [38].

The Truman family repossessed the White House from [14].

The Kennedy restoration [edit | change code]

Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961-1963), led the most significant redecorations of the interior of the White House. She had the interior of many rooms transformed in order to restore their 19th century appearance, often using high-quality furniture stored and forgotten in the basements. [39] Henry Francis du Pont, of the Winterthur Museum, chaired the White House Fine Arts Committee. Research was conducted for the use and decoration of the first main rooms of the house. Each room was decorated in a style corresponding to different periods of the beginnings of the Republic: the federal style for the Green Room, the French Empire style for the Blue Room, the American Empire style for the Red Room, the Louis XVI style for the Yellow Oval Room and Victorian style for the Treaty Room [39]. Antique furniture, as well as fabrics and decorative items were acquired, based on historical documents from each period. Much of the antiques, paintings, and other improvements from the Kennedy period come from wealthy donors, including the Crowninshield family, Jane Engelhard, Jayne Wrightsman, and the Oppenheimer family.

The White House Office of the Curator is created.

The Kennedy restoration resulted in (re) birth of a majestic White House which recalled the interest of Presidents Madison and Monroe for France. Almost all of the French inspiration comes from the interior decorator, Stéphane Boudin of the Maison Jansen in Paris [39]. This interior design firm also designed the interiors for Elsie de Wolfe, Lady Olive Baillie, the royal families of Belgium and Iran, the German Reichsbank during the period of National Socialism and Leeds Castle in Kent . The first White House guide was produced under the direction of curator Lorraine Waxman Pearce, under the supervision of Jacqueline Kennedy [40]. The sale of these guides helps finance the restorations.

Creation of the White House Preservation Committee [edit | change code]

The Kennedy Fine Arts Committee became by executive order of Lyndon B. Johnson, after approval by Congress, the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. Its mission is to maintain the historic integrity of the White House. [41] The committee works in collaboration with the president’s family, represented by the first lady, the curator and the chief bailiff of the White House. Since the committee was created, each of the presidential families has made changes within the family apartments. [42] However, changes to the state halls must be approved in advance by the committee.

Under the Nixon administration, Pat Nixon completely refurbished the Green Room, the Blue Room and the Red Room, in collaboration with Clement Conger [43]. With more than 600 newly introduced objects, this is the largest acquisition made under administration [44]. Her husband chose to create a modern press room on the site of the former swimming pool of Franklin Delano Roosevelt [45]. Nixon also added a bowling alley in the basement of the White House. [46] Under the Carter administration, computers and the first laser printer were installed in the White House. Computer use increased more and more under the Reagan administration [47]. Reagan also removed an innovation from the Carter era: a set of solar panels mounted on the roof and supplying a water heater [48], [49]. New transformations were undertaken in the 1980s by Nancy Reagan, the wife of President Ronald Reagan [50]. The White House obtained museum status in 1988 [50]. In the 1990s, Hillary Clinton had certain pieces redone by an Arkansas decorator, Kaki Hockersmith [51]. The Clinton administration thus saw a renovation of the East Room, the Blue Room, the State Dining Room and the Lincoln Sitting Room. A new restoration of the Lincoln Bedroom, the Green Room and the East Room under the administration of President George W. Bush [51].

The White House is one of the few government buildings in Washington that is wheelchair accessible. Adjustments were made during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had to move in a wheelchair, following a polio. Moreover, in the 1990s, on the initiative of the director of the Visitors’ Office, an access ramp was added to the corridor of the East wing. It facilitates access for people with reduced mobility for visits and special events, via the secure entrance on the east side. The president leaves the residence only in convoys of cars or by helicopter. President Dwight David Eisenhower was the first president to travel by helicopter from the White House. [52]

Composition of the building change code]

White House Complex [edit | change code]

General plan of the building.

Old Executive Office Building Plan of the White House area with the White House in yellow and the President’s Park in green.

Today, the small group of presidential buildings is known as the White House Complex. It includes the central building called the Executive Residence, framed by the East Wing (East Wing) and the West Wing (West Wing). The Old Executive Office Building, a large building that houses the Executive Office of the President of the United States and the Office of the Vice President and located in the immediate vicinity of the West Wing, is sometimes included under this term.

Day-to-day operation of the White House is coordinated by the White House Chief Usher.

Despite an area of ​​more than 5,100 m2 [53], [35], it is nevertheless difficult to realize the size of the White House, because a large part is underground or hidden by the landscape. In fact, it includes [54]:

132 rooms [35] on 4 levels in the Executive Residence; 2 levels in the East wing; 2 levels in the West wing;

over 35 bathrooms;

dozens of offices, including that of the president (the famous oval office);

412 doors;

147 windows;

28 fireplaces;

8 stairs;

3 elevators;

a tennis court / basketball court;

a bowling alley;

a movie theater ;

a jogging track;

a golf green;

swimming pool ;

16 bedrooms;

1 bunker.

About 1,800 people in sixteen departments work at the White House [35]. Five chefs work full time in the residence’s kitchens.

White House - Wikipedia certain pieces redone

The executive residence [edit | change code]

The original and historic White House building is located in the center of the complex. The two colonnades (East and West), designed by Thomas Jefferson, are used to connect the main building to the two side wings. The executive residence houses the President’s apartments, as well as the rooms for ceremonies and official receptions. It includes four levels plus two levels of technical and storage basement.

Plan of the main rooms on the ground floor.

The ground floor, the Ground Floor (ground floor on the south side but in the basement on the north side, the executive residence having been built on a hillock). This level includes [55]:

During the Truman renovation, the ground floor was enlarged, digging spaces under the north portico which house various workshops (carpentry, florist, etc.) and reserves, as well as a bowling alley. Access to the West wing (via the Palm Room) and to the East wing (via the Visitor Foyer) is on this floor.

1st floor (the State Floor). Plan of main floor rooms.

The first floor, the State Floor is the reception floor. It is composed [56]:

It opens on one side to the North portico (main entrance on the ground floor) and on the other side to the South balcony on the 1st floor with access to the garden by a double staircase.

2nd floor. Plan of main floor rooms.

The second floor, the Second Floor, is the residence floor of the presidential family. It welcomes [57]:

To the south, it opens onto the Truman Balcony, which was added to the South portico under the Truman presidency. Before the West Wing was built, the President’s office and the Cabinet meeting room were on this floor.

The third floor, the Third Floor, is the relaxation floor for the presidential family. It welcomes [58]:

bedrooms, private kitchen, summer lounge;

a billiard room, a gym, a music room, a greenhouse, and a few utility rooms.

Hardly visible from the outside, it opens onto the roof terrace surrounding the first floor. At the outset, these were simple attics used as accommodation for servants and for storage. It was gradually fitted out and enlarged for the private use of the presidential family.

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge it.

West wing basement plan.

Plan of the ground floor of the West wing.

Plan of the first floor of the West wing.

The West Wing houses the office of the president and his main collaborators (nearly 50 people). The rest of the presidential team has an office in an adjacent building, but outside the White House, the Old Executive Office Building, now officially known as the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and a few in the East Wing. The West wing has a ground floor where the main rooms are located including the oval office and the Cabinet Room, a small floor (which does not cover the oval office or the Cabinet Room) and a basement where finds the Situation Room.