Since John Adams moved in on Nov. 1, 1800, the White House has been the residence of every sitting president except George Washington. And while its occupants are subject to change every four years, the stately stone structure at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C., remains the permanent symbol of the U.S. presidency—and the most famous home in America—both as a worldwide stage for government business and a private refuge for its prominent occupants.
Built on a site selected by the nation’s first president, the first White House was burned by the British during the War of 1812. America’s rebuilt Executive Mansion has undergone numerous expansions and restorations so that, today, the president’s home is about five times as large as the original designed by architect James Hoban.
During the last two centuries, the property has been the site of top-level negotiations, news conferences, protests, state dinners, Easter egg rolls, family weddings and presidential funeral processions. Its famous East Room, the largest room in the house, is where Calvin Coolidge renounced war in 1929, John F. Kennedy met with religious leaders after the Birmingham, Alabama, bombings of 1963, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Ronald Reagan joined Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to sign an arms treaty in 1987. The room also is where Abraham Lincoln’s son, Tad, played with his pet goats, Theodore Roosevelt’s children roller-skated, and Abigail Adams hung her wet clothes to dry.
One of the most photographed homes in the world, the White House and its residents are chronicled visually in “The White House: The President’s Home in Photographs and History” (Little, Brown and Company, 2011) by Vicki Goldberg, in cooperation with the White House Historical Association. Together, these images offer a snapshot of a symbol of the American presidency.