On October 13th, 1792 (222 years ago today) the cornerstone of the White House was laid. The building’s architect was James Hoban, an Irish immigrant whose previous work on the Charleston County Courthouse caught the eye of George Washington and gave him a leg up in the design competition. The house would not become livable until 1800 and the first President to actually inhabit the home was the nation’s second Chief Executive, John Adams. His wife, Abigail, would famously hang their laundry to dry in the mansion’s East Room as she didn’t think it proper to air the President’s garments in view of the public.
Originally, it was not referred to as the White House but variously known as the Executive Mansion, Presidential Palace or President’s House. The earliest informal reference to the building as the ‘White House’ dates back to President Madison’s administration as the sandstone mansion’s whitewashed exterior became increasingly recognizable to the locals. The nickname continued to grow in usage and popularity, eventually receiving official recognition during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, at which time the West Wing was also added.
During the 1800s, most presidents used the Yellow Oval Room on the building’s second story as a private office or study. The now iconic Oval Office was not constructed in 1909 during the tenure of President William Howard Taft.
Burned by the British in 1814, rebuilt shortly thereafter, endlessly renovated, restored, restructured and expanded a multiplicity of times, the White House has (like Madonna throughout her career) gone through a lot of looks; but she’s still here, and her story began on this very day more than two centuries ago.
If you decide to jump the fence and pay visit, please don’t.