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.
The White House was designed by James Hoban, an Irish architect who began his stateside career in Philadelphia in 1785.
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.
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 honor 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 set even set foot in the completed building. He is the only U.S. President to have not lived in the White House.
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!
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.
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 totaled between $2.28 million and $10.6 million by the time he left office.
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.
If there's anything to be learned from horror movies, it's that old buildings are often haunted. Obviously, 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. Rumor has it that Abraham Lincoln's ghost still haunts the home. In fact, there have been reported sightings of our sixteenth President's specter in the White House since 1903.
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 theater. Hillary Clinton even converted one sitting room into the Music Room so that her husband could play the saxophone.
While the White House still has an exterior pool, its interior pool is now hidden beneath the floors. The indoor pool, which opened in 1933 for use by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is underneath the current James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.
If anyone in the White House deserves caffeine, it's the press (not including the President, of course). So you can imagine Tom Hanks' shock when, on his first tour of the White House in 2004, he found the press room to be missing a coffee machine. And as the kind man he is, he bought them one. Six years later, he sent them a new one after noticing it was getting run down. Finally, in 2017, he sent the White House press corps a third gift. This time, it was a $1,700 espresso machine, along with a note reading "Keep up the good fight for truth, justice, and the American way. Especially for the truth part."
The White House was entirely lit by gas lights until 1891, when electricity was first installed. And as electric lighting was still a fairly new concept, the leader at that time, President Benjamin Harrison, was skeptical of the dangers and worried he would be shocked if he touched a light switch. His solution? He never once touched one himself.
While George Washington never lived in the White House and was long dead before the Oval Office was first used in 1909, Washington was an inspiration for the room's unusual shape. Washington reportedly insisted upon having rounded walls in his Philadelphia home so that it would be suitable for hosting formal gatherings, or levees. This design was followed when the Oval Office was constructed, although such formal receptions are no longer hosted in the space.
While John Adams moved into the White House in 1800, it wasn't until 1833 that indoor plumbing was installed. However, it wasn't until 1853 that all of its bathrooms had hot and cold water run to them.
The executive residence has hosted its fair share of parties, including many banquets. The State Dining Room is the larger of two dining rooms in the White House and can seat up to 140 guests. Otherwise, the kitchen can serve hors-d'oeuvres to as many as 1,000 people. The White House kitchen is staffed by some of America's greatest chefs, who adjust their menus to the President's taste. Some requests include pork rinds covered in Tabasco for George H.W. Bush and Coca Cola-flavored jelly for Bill Clinton.
If you think back long and hard to your middle school history lessons, you'll remember that during an invasion in 1814, the British burned the White House down. Only 14 years after the original construction was finished, the same architect, James Hoban, was tasked with rebuilding. The White House 2.0 finally finished in 1817, though Hoban would return on occasion in the following years to add porticos on the north and south sides.
While it's unlikely that you can host your own nuptials there, there have been a number of weddings at the White House since it was first built. In fact, eighteen couples have gotten married at the White House, the most recent of whom tied the knot in 2013.
When Michelle Obama's biography was recently published, readers were shocked to learn about the lonely, confining rules of living in the White House. In one detail, she revealed how she was never allowed to open a window in her own home. Residents are constantly monitored and not allowed to go anywhere alone, which can feel quite straining. President Truman called it a "great white jail" and a "glamorous prison." Julie Nixon complained of a lack of privacy due to the press and the guards.
Like all high-profile buildings, the White House has a secret entrance for the president and secret visitors. It opens onto H street in Washington D.C. and passes through two tunnels and an alleyway before arriving at the White House basement. This secret entrance was designed in part as a response to World War II, as was an underground bomb-shelter the was built beneath the White House.