12 Facts About the White House You Missed in History Class

4 min read
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1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the home of the President of the United States of America, otherwise known as the White House, is an iconic landmark to American citizens and people around the globe.

There is an enormous amount of fascinating information on the White House that many people don’t know. We know that it represents the center of American politics and a place where history takes place.

What do you know about the White House? What would you like to know? Continue reading to learn 12 facts you probably missed in history class.

12. The White House is Bigger Than You Think

west wing white house residents

Did you know that the White House is a mansion? It may look like a stately home from afar, but it’s actually really huge! The estate spans six floors and boasts an astounding 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms. That makes a total of 412 doors!

There is an interesting array of 28 fireplaces, eight staircases and three elevators. You can probably imagine how many excellent hiding spots there are for some epic games of hide-and-seek. For this grand piece of real estate, a recent appraisal puts it close to $400 million.

11. President John Adams Was the First President To Live There

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The first US president, George Washington, commissioned and approved the white house’s design and construction. George Washington died before the building was completed and never saw the end product nor set foot there. President number two, John Adams, had that honor. George Washington was the only president who never lived in the White House.

10. Slaves Built the White House


It has become better-known knowledge that slaves built the White House ever since Michele Obama discussed it in a speech at the Democratic National Convention.  At the time the residence was under construction, slavery was still in full swing.

Records in the White House reveal that African-Americans slaves got training on the spot in various construction jobs. They were brick-makers, carpenters and quarry-men.

9. They Have To Pay for Many Things On Their Own

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Moving into the White House comes with some high expenses. The President lives rent-free, but he is responsible for paying for groceries, vacation accommodations, events outside the White House and more. So, although presidents receive a six-figure salary, they can leave office broke.

Fun fact: President Clinton left office in $16 million in debt!

8. A Ghost Supposedly Lives in the White House

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There is a rumor that Abraham Lincoln’s ghost haunts the mansion! Sightings of the 16th president’s specter have been going on since 1903. The ongoing ghostly occurrences don’t usually bode well with occupants. The Presidents, First Ladies, staffers and guests, often have fantastic stories about paranormal activities at the mansion.

7. The Hidden Pool Beneath the Press Room

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The convenient indoor pool opened in 1933. It was used by the president at the time, Franklyn D. Roosevelt. The pool is under the current James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, but there is an exterior pool for residents.

6. For Nearly a Century, the White House Didn’t Have Electricity


Up until 1891, the White House was lit by strictly gas-lighting. When electricity finally came, President Benjamin Harrison was skeptical of the new lighting system and was afraid he would be shocked by a light bulb. He never touched a light bulb himself.

5. The Secret Entrance

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As the high profile of all high-profile buildings, there’s a secret entrance at the White House. Only the president and his personal visitors use it.

The entrance opens onto H Street and goes through an alleyway and two tunnels, then ends at the white house basement. The dubious entry was a response to World War II, along with a bomb shelter beneath the White House.

4. Keeping the White House White

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It’s quite a task to keep 1600 Pennsylvania Street up to its name and maintain the sparkling white exterior. It takes 570 gallons of paint to cover the 55,000 square footage of the mansion. Between $ 76,000 and $1.6 million is spent on maintaining the Presidential Building each year.

3. The West Wing Came Long After

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Most of the presidential matters take place on the West Wing of the White House. There you will find the Cabinet Room, the Oval Office and the Situation Room.

None of this existed before Teddy Roosevelt called for an executive office to go alongside the presidential home in 1902. He did not hesitate to move his cabinet into the West Wing. The Oval Office was added by President Taft in 1909 when he doubled the wing’s size.

2. This White House is Not the Original One

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Come on, history students. You’ll remember that in 1814, the British burnt the White House to the ground, and the Irish architect James Hoban, who did the job 14 years before, was tasked with rebuilding. The House was finished, once again, in 1817.

The residence suspiciously resembles the Leiner House in Dublin, Ireland, which is said to be the White House Twin. It also has exact features as the Chateau de Rastignac in France, where Thomas Jefferson spent significant time working as the US Minister Plenipotentiary.

1. Fun in the Lesser-Known Rooms

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Michelle Obama said in her book that the mansion gets lonely. So, many residents make the most out of their time spent there. With 132 different rooms, some past residents got creative.

For example, Harry Truman turned one room into a bowling alley, FDR turned a cloakroom into a 42-seat movie theater and Hilary Clinton created a music room for her husband to play his Saxophone.

There are so many fascinating stories about the historic White House. It’s part of American history’s culmination and the different stages of the nation’s growth resulting in America—the land of the free.