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10 amazing facts you never knew about the white house

From its grandeur and size to its unique features and presidential legacies, the White House stands as a symbol of American democracy and resilience.
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“Welcome to a journey through the storied halls of the White House, the iconic mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Beyond its distinguished facade lies a treasure trove of history, architectural marvels, and captivating tales. From its grandeur and size to its unique features and presidential legacies, the White House stands as a symbol of American democracy and resilience. Join us as we uncover ten remarkable facts that illuminate the fascinating world within the walls of this historic residence.”

1 The White House Is Big…Big
First and foremost, the White House is a mansion. Consider this: The White House Residence spans six floors and includes 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms. That makes for 412 doors, 28 fireplaces, eight staircases, three elevators, and the setup for an epic game of hide-and-seek. Wondering how much a place like that would cost? A recent appraisal valued the property at just under $400 million.

2. The White House’s Architect Wasn’t American. The White House was designed by James Hoban, an Irish architect who began his stateside career in Philadelphia in 1785.

3 It Didn’t Always Have an Official Name
The name wasn’t officially adopted until 1901 when Teddy Roosevelt decided to change it from the “Executive Residence.” He noted that state governors had executive residences, and he wanted to make sure that the POTUS’s residence had a more distinguished title.

4 | John Adams Was the First President to Live in It
Though George Washington was responsible for commissioning the construction of the White House, choosing the site, and approving its design, he never actually lived there. That honour went to president number two, John Adams.

Washington’s term ended in 1797, three years before the White House was completed in 1800. He died in 1799, meaning he never even set foot in the completed building. He is the only U.S. President to have not lived in the White House.

5. Moving Day is Hectic, to Say the Least

Nobody likes moving day, but you can bet yours is nowhere near as stressful as moving day at the White House. It all takes place as soon as the sitting president leaves the White House for the president-elect’s inauguration ceremony. From then, staffers and movers have five hours to move out all of the sitting president’s belongings and move in the belongings of the president-elect. Not only is furniture changed and artwork swapped, but the walls are even repainted too, as per the requests of the incoming first family. All in five hours!

Elevation of the North Side of the White House, by James Hoban, c. 1793. Progress drawing after having won the competition for architect of the White House. Collection of the Maryland Historical Society.

6 It Was, Indeed, Built by Slaves
Since Michelle Obama struck a nerve by expressing her feelings about waking up every day in a house built by slaves, this White House fact has become common knowledge. And it shouldn’t be surprising considering the state of the U.S. at the time the White House was built. White House records show that African American slaves were trained on the spot to fill certain capacities, such as quarryman, brick-maker, and carpenter.

7 | Room Is Free, But Board Is Not
Sure, one of the perks of being president is living rent-free, but that hardly makes up for the hefty expenses that come with moving into the White House. Despite making a six-figure salary, the President is still responsible for paying for all meals, at the White House and elsewhere, all events (and the wages for those working the events), and even transportation. Many presidents have left the White House in serious debt, such as Bill Clinton, whose debt totalled between $2.28 million and $10.6 million by the time he left office.

8 | The White House Has Been Home to Several Deaths
Presidents William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor both died in the White House. Three First Ladies—Letitia Tyler, Caroline Harrison, and Ellen Wilson—passed away there, too. To date, a total of 10 people have died within the White House walls.

9 | And There’s Supposedly a Ghost Still Living in It
If there’s anything to be learned from horror movies, it’s that old buildings are often haunted. This doesn’t bode well for the White House. Staffers, guests, presidents, and first ladies have all claimed to have experienced paranormal activity during their time there. Rumour has it that Abraham Lincoln’s ghost still haunts the home. There have been reported sightings of our sixteenth President’s spectre in the White House since 1903.

10 It’s Full of Fun, Lesser-Known Rooms

What purpose could 132 different rooms possibly serve? Well, it turns out some of the past residents have come up with quite creative ways to fill these spaces. Harry Truman, for example, commissioned the White House’s first bowling alley. FDR oversaw the transformation of a cloakroom into a 42-seat movie theatre. Hillary Clinton even converted one sitting room into the Music Room so that her husband could play the saxophone.

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