Did you know that the cornerstone, the base stone that forms the corner of a building, of the White House was laid on October 13, 1792? Work on Washington D.C. itself had begun the previous year after it was decided the decision to move the nation’s capital from Philadelphia to a more centralized location.
It was Irish-born architect James Hoban who designed the “President’s House”, which would come to be known as the White House. Hoban was chosen in a contest to find a builder for the monumental project where architects submitted their designs and a winner was chosen from the proposals. It would take eight years for a team of both enslaved and freed African Americans and European immigrants to complete the building. Constructed from Aquia Creek sandstone, the structure was coated in lime-based whitewash in 1798; this led to the nickname “White House” due to the color and its stark contrast to the brick buildings that surrounded it.
On November 1, 1800, John and Abigail Adams took up residence in the official home of the U.S. President even though construction was not complete. Subsequent presidents have added their own personal touches to the building, though some more obviously than others. For example, Thomas Jefferson had two water closets (bathrooms) installed along with terrace-pavilions designed by architect Benjamin Latrobe. We can also thank Jefferson for opening the White House to public tours and receptions; it remains the only private residence of a head of state that is open to the public, free of charge.
Unfortunately, as we all learned in school, much of the original structure was lost to fire when the building was burned by the British in August of 1814. However, some of the original charred walls were salvaged and the White House was rebuilt. John Quincy Adams added the first flower garden on the grounds; and in 1824 and 1829 the North and South Porticoes were added.
Other additions include the library that was added in the second-floor oval room by Millard and Abigail Fillmore in the 1850s; the redecoration of the east, blue, red, and state dining rooms by Louis Tiffany, the famed decorator, at the direction of Chester and Ellen Arthur in the 1880s. In 1909, William Taft had architect Nathan Wyeth design and oversee the enlargement of the executive wing, which created the Oval Office that we are familiar with today. And in 1913, the Rose Garden, which has held many an event since its creation, was added to the grounds by Ellen Wilson.
As I’m running short of space, I’ll have to breeze over the remaining additions and changes, including the 1929 fire which led to renovations that spanned both the Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt administrations. A swimming pool and movie theater were added in the 1940s. Many rooms were redesigned by the Trumans after a major renovation project to deal with structural issues. In 1969-70, the circular drive and a porte-cochere, along with a new press briefing room, were added. And finally, the White House entered the modern age of technology by first adding computers during Truman’s tenure and then internet in 1992 with George H.W. Bush. As it stands today, the White House is approximately 55,000 square feet, containing 142 rooms on six floors.
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All library branches open for Grab-&-Go Quick Services along with Curbside Pickup, Monday – Thursday, 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Plain Dealing and Tooke Branch: Monday – Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
• Aulds Branch: 3950 Wayne Ave, Bossier City, 318.742.2337
• Benton Branch: 115 Courthouse Dr, Benton, 318.965.2751
• Central Library: 2206 Beckett St, Bossier City, 318.746.1693
• East 80 Branch: 1050 Bellevue Rd, Haughton, 318.949.2665
• History Center: 2206 Beckett St, Bossier City, 318.746.7717
• Plain Dealing Branch: 208 E Mary Lee Ave, Plain Dealing, 318.326.4233
• Tooke Branch:451 Fairview Point Rd, Elm Grove, 318.987.3915
Annie Gilmer is Community Engagement Librarian at Bossier Parish Public Libraries.
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