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When Was The White House Built? History, Renovations, & Value

White house

The White House is one of the most famous buildings in the world, and while most people know that it is the residence and workplace of the President of the United States, they don’t know much more about the building beyond that. Set on 18 acres of land, the site was chosen by the first president, George Washington.

He chose the location in keeping with the Residence Act of 1790, which stated that the building, which would be the head of the federal government, would be located in an area “not exceeding ten miles square” and “on the river Potomac”. The first cornerstone was laid in October 1792. Although Washington was responsible for choosing the location, he is the only president who has not lived in the White House.

The building was not completed until 1800 when President John Adams moved in with his wife Abigail. In its more than 320-year history, the White House has undergone a lot of changes, with every president making some changes to the layout or the use of the rooms. It has also survived two fires, had to undergo substantial structural work after being deemed unfit for habitation, and includes some unique rooms and spaces that many would not expect.

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Choosing the Site and Laying the Cornerstone

southern facade of the white house
Image By: JumpStory

On July 16th, 1790, President George Washington signed the Residence Act, which is more properly known as an act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United States.

This act declared that the seat must be in a location “not exceeding ten miles square on the river Potomac.” Washington himself, with the aid of Pierre L’Enfant, a state planner, chose the site and opened a competition to find a builder. The competition was won by James Hoban, an Irish-born architect. The first cornerstone was laid in October 1792 and the work started.


The White House has survived two fires. One was started by the British in 1814 as part of the War of 1812. The original architect, James Hoban, was chosen to rebuild the White House. And, in 1929, there was a fire in the West Wing when Herbert Hoover was in power. The fire occurred on Christmas Eve and was said to have been started by faulty electrics.


Over the long history of the White House, there have been several renovations and major works. The South Portico was added during James Monroe’s residency, with the North Portico added in 1829 by Andrew Jackson. Although proposals were put forward to further extend the building in the late 19th Century, this never came to fruition.

President Theodore Roosevelt had massive renovations done to the White House in 1902, and this is when the President’s Offices were moved from the second floor to their current location in the West Wing. It was Roosevelt’s successor, William Howard Taft, that had the Oval Office built.

President Harry S. Truman discovered that the property had major structural problems and the building was deemed unfit. Truman moved out and major renovations were started. The entire building was gutted, although the original exterior blocks did remain in place. Truman and his family moved back into the finished White House in 1952.

Rooms of the White House

barack obama taking oath at the white house
Image By: janeb13, Pixabay

The rooms and their purpose have changed considerably over the years. Each president has left their stamp on the building, which is not surprising considering the White House is their residence for the duration of their term in office.

There are 132 rooms, including 16 guest bedrooms and 35 bathrooms. There are also 8 staircases and three kitchens. Other rooms include a home cinema room, a gym, an indoor swimming pool, and both a chocolate shop and a flower shop.

Other Names

Most of the world now knows of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the White House, but it hasn’t always had this name. It has been called the President’s Palace, President’s House, and Executive Mansion.

It was officially named the White House in 1901 by Theodore Roosevelt. It is called the White House because of the white-painted stone walls, which take 570 gallons of paint to completely cover when the walls are painted roughly every 5 years.

Today’s Value

Although the White House will never come up for sale, it has an estimated value of around $400 million. The building is, primarily, a large mansion, and the price is based on this and its location, as well as its number of rooms and other features.

These features include tennis courts, a jogging track, and a bowling alley, although it’s unclear if the property would come with the existing fixtures and fittings for that price.

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The White House is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world and the most famous residence in the U.S. It is primarily a very large mansion, spread over six floors, including two floors below the ground level. It has more than 130 rooms, multiple kitchens, and 35 bathrooms.

Work started on the building in 1792 and was finished around 1800, and, other than George Washington who selected the site for the building and the architect that would design it, every president has lived in the building for at least some of the time they were in power.

Featured Image Credit: JumpStory


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