Curious to learn all that you need to know about the White House? You basically have two choices: you can either raise hundreds of millions of dollars, win the Democratic or Republican Party nomination, go on the campaign trail for months on end, and then hopefully convince around 70 million people to vote for you. Alternatively, you can just read this article. Personally, we recommend the former, but completely understand if you’d prefer the easy way out and choose the latter.
1. The White House wasn’t originally white
Who just blew your mind? We did. When the construction of the White House was being completed, the exterior was actually grey. But in 1798 the sandstone was given a white, limestone coating so that the building would be protected from moisture and cracking during those cold, harsh D.C. winters.
2. Before Theodore Roosevelt changed its name to the White House, its formal name had been the Executive Mansion.
The White House had been a nickname for the US President’s residence, but in 1901 Teddy Roosevelt decided to make it official to distinguish it from the governors’ homes, which were also typically called that state’s Executive Mansion.
3. George Washington never lived in the White House
The first stone was laid on October 13, 1792, more than three years into Washington’s first term, but it wasn’t ready for move-in until November 1, 1800, three years after America’s first president had left office. Thus John Adams was the first resident. However, he wasn’t for long as he lost re-election a few months later to Thomas Jefferson.
4. Benjamin Harrison had hoped to turn the White House into a castle
Harrison had grand designs, which included quadrupling the size of the building and creating separation between the private residence and public areas. Along with creating an enclosed courtyard and offices for staff, he had wanted to build an art wing for visiting tourists. But when he asked Congress for funding, they were like, “Nope” and he had to settle for the 132 behemoths of a mansion that it is today.
5. When he was a guest, Winston Churchill claimed to have been visited by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln
According to Churchill, he had just stepped out of the bath when the ghost of Abraham Lincoln dropped by. Ever the polite British chap, Churchill greeted the apparition with, “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” Creepy!
6. Living in the White House is free, but the meals and lavish functions are not
One of the perks that come with being president is that you get free housing while you serve. However, it doesn’t mean you’re completely living large. The taxpayers aren’t responsible for making sure you’re well-fed. This explains why Bill Clinton left his presidency millions of dollars in debt. At the end of the month, the president receives a bill for groceries and is even responsible for paying the waitstaff when hosting extravagant parties whenever the prime minister of Andorra comes for a visit.
7. The White House Red Phone is a myth
After the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev decided it would probably be a good idea to create a direct communication hotline since the last thing either of them wanted was to create the sequel Cuban Missile Crisis Two: Electric Boogaloo in which the matter would be settled through breakdancing. However, it didn’t consist of a phone; rather, it consisted of a pair of electromechanical teletype machines linked together by a 10,000-mile (16,000km) transatlantic cable. If you have absolutely no idea what that is, imagine a communication device that’s exactly halfway between cave art cerca 20,000 BCE and 28th century mental telepathy technology.
8. Richard Nixon had a bowling lane built in the basement
Nixon and his wife were avid bowlers, although if the photos are any indication, the President wasn’t well versed on the actual rules of the game. Aside from the bowling alley, the White House basement includes the Situation Room where the most classified meetings are held, a dentist office, a dressing room for performers, and even a flower shop because why the hell not?
9. The Lincoln Bedroom never actually served as Abraham Lincoln’s bedroom
During its first 100 years of existence, the White House didn’t have any designated offices. Instead, the president just had to choose whatever room felt right. In most cases, they’d opt for a bedroom and convert it into a workspace. Thus the famous Lincoln Bedroom where honored White House guests today spend the night was actually where Lincoln got his work done, not where he himself slept.
10. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, a hot tub built for seven was installed next to the swimming pool
Before any impure thoughts appear in your mind, rest assured that the hot tub wasn’t put there so that Clinton could mingle with a bunch of young Spring Breakers. The folks who installed it insist that it served a legit, therapeutic purpose. But ultimately it all comes down to how you define “therapeutic.”