The White House is the official home of the United States President and is sometimes referred to as the “President’s House”, “President’s Palace”, and most commonly the “Executive Mansion”. Even today, the White House remains the only private resident used by a Head of State that is open free of charge to the general public.
White House History
Construction started in 1792 under George Washington following plans dating back to 1789, though it wasn’t until 1800 that John Adams became the first President to reside in it. The architect of the White House was chosen from a pool of contestants with Irish-born James Hoban having the winning design. Hoban’s design was inspired by the Leinster House, an Anglo-Irish villa in Dublin, Ireland.
The name for the building comes from the whitewash coating formula that was applied to the exterior, though it wasn’t until 1901 that it official earned its name from President Theodore Roosevelt when the building underwent major renovations.
The White House was the largest house in the United States up until the start of the Civil War standing 60 feet-4inches tall on the North Side while an even 70 feet on the South Face. The White House is 152 feet wide by approximately 168 feet long in the main section. Due to the size of the building it can take as much as 570 gallons of paint to complete cover the outside surface of the White House.
The White House has survived two major incidents, the first during the War of 1812 when it was set on fire deliberately, and again in 1929, when a fire erupted in the West Wing. It has continually been renovated with the most modern technologies since being rebuilt in 1814, getting running water and central heating in 1835. Though it took more than a decade after the invention of the electric light bulb for the White House to get electric lighting in 1891.
While there are four stories visible from the outside, only the bottom two are available to the public. The top two floors are reserved for the first family. There are two floors in the basement, and a bomb proof shelter in case of an emergency. The entire building occupies approximately 55,000 square feet of floor space consisting of 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators inside the White House Residence.
The West Wing is off to the west of the main building, as the name implies, where the Oval Office is situated. The Oval Office is the official office of the President of the United States and is one of the most famous rooms at the White House. The Oval Office measures approximately 25 feet long by 21 feet wide with 13 feet high ceilings.
While the grounds are restricted to the more than 7,000 daily visitors, the White House sits on 18 acres with a Rose Garden. The White House grounds also consist of a tennis court, putting green, outdoor swimming pool, and basketball court.
White House Tours and Events
Free public tours must be requested by constituents by submitted a request with their Member of Congress. Tours of the White House are self-guided and available between the hours of 7:30 A.M. and 11:30 A.M. Tuesday through Thursday, and 7:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. Fridays and Saturdays, excluding federal holidays. Be aware that you must submit a request for a tour at least 21 days in advance. Tours can be scheduled up to six months in advanced. There are a limited number of openings like most tourist destinations, so plan accordingly and as far in advance when booking your trip to the Capitol. Those who do not have the ability to visit the white house in person can now experience it online via a virtual tour on the official website whitehouse.gov.
When visiting the White House remember to bring a valid, government-issued photo identification. If you are a foreign national, you will be required to present your passport.
The following items should be left at home when visiting the White House:
- Video Recorders
- Handbags, book bags, backpacks or purses
- Food or beverages, tobacco products, personal grooming items (i.e. makeup, lotion, etc.)
- Any pointed objects
- Aerosol containers
- Guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts weapons/devices, or knives of any size
You can however bring your smartphones and other compact cameras with lenses less than 3 inches long to take photos or selfies along the public tour routes. Though, as always you should be courteous to your fellow visitors when taking lots of photos.
There are no storage lockers while visiting the White House, so leave any bags behind and pack light.
As there are no on-street parking options nearby the major government buildings, especially the White House, we recommend that you use the Metrorail service to get you to your tour via the Federal Triangle station (blue and orange lines). You can also get off at the Metro Center station (blue, orange, and red lines), or McPherson Square station (blue and orange lines).
Telephone: +1 (202)-456-7041