White House Facts & Trivia
Fun facts about square footage, paint, gardens and more
- George Washington is the only president never to have slept in the White House.
- Construction began in 1792, and the home first was occupied by John Adams and his wife, Abigail, in 1800.
- Total cost of the original structure was $232,372.
- On Aug. 24, 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops burned the White House in retaliation for an earlier burning of Canadian government buildings in York, Ontario, by the United States. James Monroe moved into the rebuilt White House in 1817.
- The White House was the largest house in the United States until after the Civil War.
- Running water was piped into the residence in 1833, a central heating system was installed in 1837, and electricity lit up the home beginning in 1891.
- Today, the home’s square footage is about 55,000. It features six levels, eight staircases, three elevators, 28 fireplaces and 132 rooms, including 35 bathrooms.
- The White House fence encloses 18 acres of land. The grounds and garden crew consist of 13 full-time staff members.
- The nation’s Executive Mansion officially became known as the White House during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, who directed that all government correspondence use the title.
- It takes 570 gallons of white paint to cover the exterior.
- In 1825, John Quincy Adams developed the first flower garden on the grounds and planted ornamental trees.
- Benjamin Harrison brought the first Christmas tree inside in 1889.
- Seventeen White House weddings have been documented. The first, in 1812, was for the sister of first lady Dolley Madison. The most recent, in 1994, was for the brother of first lady Hillary Clinton. Grover Cleveland became the only president married in the White House when he wed Frances Folsom in the Blue Room in 1886.
- The present Oval Office was built as part of an expansion of executive offices in 1934.
- A Secret Service report during World War II declared the White House a firetrap, prompting a massive four-year modernization during Harry Truman’s administration.
- The property features a tennis court, a bowling alley, a movie theater, a beauty salon, a physician’s office, a florist’s shop, a swimming pool and a golf putting green. Dwight Eisenhower had the first putting green installed. Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, were avid bowlers. A jogging track was added around the driveway of the South grounds during Bill Clinton’s first term.
- The White House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
- First lady Jacqueline Kennedy led a campaign to revive the historic character of the White House and acquire authentic Early American furnishings. In 1962, she led a tour of the restored White House broadcast by the three major television networks at the time. More than 46 million Americans tuned in, a record TV audience, and Mrs. Kennedy was awarded an honorary Emmy for the broadcast.
- The White House pays homage to past presidents, and each new one sits for an official portrait that is left to the mansion.
- The Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, obtained in 1800, is the mansion’s oldest furnishing.
- In 1988, the American Association of Museums accredited the White House as a museum.
- To see what the north façade of the White House looks like, look on the back of a $20 bill.
Source: The White House Historical Association
Pennsylvania Avenue residence is America’s most famous home