The White House in Washington D.C. has been the official residence and workplace of every president of the United States since John Adams in 1800. The president and their family live in the White House, along with household staff. The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. and contains 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the main residence.
History of the White House
The White House was designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban in the neoclassical style and was constructed between 1792 and 1800 using white-painted Aquia Creek sandstone. It was built on a site selected by President George Washington and the cornerstone was laid in 1793. Washington never lived in the White House as it was not completed until after his death in 1799. John Adams and his wife Abigail were the first residents of the White House, moving into the unfinished mansion in 1800. Since that time, each President has made their own changes and additions. The White House was almost completely destroyed by fire during the War of 1812 when British forces burned the capital city in 1814. James Hoban was appointed to rebuild the residence, which retained the original exterior walls. Decades later, another fire broke out in the White House in 1929 during President Herbert Hoover’s administration. Following reconstruction and modernization, the White House was expanded significantly in 1902 under Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. Today, the White House Complex covers 18 acres with the Executive Residence, West Wing, East Wing, Cabinet Room, Roosevelt Room, and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Layout of the White House Residence
The White House residence contains six levels: the Ground Floor, State Floor, Second Floor, Third Floor, and Fourth Floor. There are also two basement levels.
The Ground Floor contains the common areas used for various purposes. These rooms include:
- The Map Room – Used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a situation room during World War II. Now used as an office.
- The Vermeil Room – Contains a collection of gilded silver serving pieces from the nineteenth century.
- The China Room – Houses the White House china collection.
- The Diplomatic Reception Room – Originally the servants’ quarters, now used to receive foreign ambassadors before White House events.
- The Library – Originally housed the book collection of Thomas Jefferson. Now used for teas and meetings.
The State Floor contains the main state rooms used for official and receptions. Key rooms are:
- The East Room – The largest room in the White House, used for press conferences, bill signings, banquets, ceremonies, dances, and receptions.
- The Green Room – A parlor used for small teas and receptions.
- The Blue Room – An oval-shaped reception room used as the president’s formal entry hall.
- The Red Room – A parlor used for small receptions and teas.
- The State Dining Room – Seats 140 guests for formal dinners honoring foreign heads of state.
- The Family Dining Room – Seats around 30 guests for private dinners with the First Family.
The Second Floor contains the private living quarters of the First Family, including:
- The Yellow Oval Room – First Lady’s sitting room and informal gathering room.
- The Treaty Room – President’s private study and office.
- The Lincoln Bedroom – Originally the president’s business office, now a guest suite with Lincoln artifacts.
- Queens’ Bedroom – Originally bedroom for visiting dignitaries, now a guest suite.
- West Sitting Hall – Living room for the First Family.
- The President’s Bedroom – Main bedroom suite of the president and first lady.
- The President’s Dining Room – Small private dining room for the First Family.
The Third Floor houses guest suites and rooms for household staff, including:
- Solarium – Sun room facing south.
- East Sitting Hall – Living area for residents on the third floor.
- Linen Room – Storage for linens, tablecloths, towels, etc.
- Guest Bedrooms – 14 rooms named after colors for overnight guests of the First Family.
The Fourth Floor contains more private living spaces, including:
- The Trump Family Room – Living area for the Trump family.
- Additional Guest Rooms – For overnight White House guests.
Key Rooms and Areas Used by the President
In addition to the private living quarters, the president uses many rooms and offices to conduct daily business and meetings. These include:
The Oval Office is the president’s formal workspace and office. It is located in the West Wing and contains the president’s desk and chairs for meetings. The room has distinctive oval shape and windows overlooking the South Lawn. Every president since Howard Taft in 1909 has worked from the Oval Office.
The Cabinet Room is the meeting room for the president’s Cabinet members. The rectangular room contains a large mahogany table surrounded by leather chairs. It adjoins the Oval Office in the West Wing.
The Roosevelt Room is a meeting room in the West Wing used by the president for staff meetings. It contains portraits of both Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt.
The Situation Room is a conference room and intelligence management center in the basement of the West Wing. It is run by the National Security Council and used for sensitive national security meetings and military/intelligence briefings.
White House Mess
The White House Mess, or President’s Dining Room, is a small dining room in the West Wing used as the president’s private dining room. The room can seat around 50 guests.
Center Hall is the primary hall and entryway on the State Floor used for ceremonies and events. Marine guards are posted here, and it contains portraits of recent presidents.
The Entrance Hall, also called the Grand Foyer, is the primary entry hall for all tour guests to the White House. Located on the State Floor, it contains portraits of early American presidents.
The East Colonnade is the open-air walkway on the east side of the White House Residence. It connects the East Wing to the Residence and Rose Garden.
The Rose Garden is an outdoor garden bordered by the Oval Office and East Colonnade. Presidents often host ceremonies and events here. It contains a variety of roses and other flowers.
Private Areas for the First Family
In addition to the Second Floor private residence, the First Family has access to other private rooms and outdoor areas, including:
White House Movie Theater
A small movie theater with around 40 seats is located in the East Wing for screening movies and videos. Multiple presidents have used the theater, which has red decor.
An outdoor swimming pool was installed in 1975 for President Gerald Ford. It is located on the South Lawn and is for use by the First Family.
There is a full tennis court located on the South Lawn maintained for use by the First Family. It was installed originally in 1909.
A small golf putting green was built on the South Lawn in 1954 under President Eisenhower. It allows presidents to practice their putting skills.
Around a quarter-mile asphalt running track was installed in 1993 on the South Lawn. It is used by presidents for jogging and running.
There are small vegetable and flower gardens maintained by the First Lady on the west side of the South Lawn. Michelle Obama planted a larger White House kitchen garden.
The South Balcony is located on the second floor of the White House overlooking the South Lawn. It has been used by presidents for speeches, announcements, and receptions.
The Solarium is a glass-enclosed porch and sunroom on the third floor overlooking the South Lawn and Washington Monument.
The Truman Balcony is located on the south side of the second floor overlooking the South Lawn. It was added in 1948 during Truman’s presidency.
Security Throughout the White House
Extensive security is in place at the White House to protect the First Family and all workers and visitors to the complex. Security measures include:
Tall metal perimeter fencing surrounds the entire White House complex. Spikes were added to the top of the fence to deter climbers after multiple breaches.
Armed Secret Service agents staff security checkpoints for all visitors entering the White House complex at the gates.
All visitors must pass through metal detectors when entering the White House. Bags are screened by x-ray machines.
Marine guards are posted at exterior doors around the White House complex. Interior entry points have Secret Service agents.
State-of-the-art alarm, monitoring, and surveillance systems are in place throughout the White House and grounds.
Strict flight restrictions are in place over the White House, enforced by the FAA and Secret Service. Only authorized aircraft can fly in the restricted zone.
A secure underground bunker and operations center is located below the White House for use in national emergencies.
Restricted Access Rooms
Sensitive locations like the Situation Room have restricted access. Only staff with proper clearances and credentials can access.
Visiting the White House
The White House is a busy hub full of government business and work. However, it is also a famous historic site that offers limited opportunities for public tours. Here is some key information for visitors wishing to tour the White House:
Public Tour Information
- Free self-guided tours are available for groups of 10-12 people.
- Tours are scheduled through members of Congress on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Requests must be submitted through a congressional representative 6-21 months in advance.
- Tours are typically available Tuesday through Saturday (excluding holidays).
- All visitors must pass background checks to be cleared for entry.
Areas on the Public Tour
The public tours include the following areas:
- East Wing
- East Garden
- Green Room
- Blue Room
- Red Room
- State Dining Room
Private and VIP White House Tours
Smaller private tours are sometimes arranged for VIP groups, dignitaries, and others. These tours may visit additional areas not included on the public tour.
Virtual Tours Online
Those not able to visit in person can take a virtual tour of many White House rooms on the official White House website. This provides great insights from anywhere.
Notable Events at the White House Over the Years
Throughout history, the White House has been the site of many notable events, celebrations, tragedies, and scandals. Some key events include:
- 1801 – John Adams becomes first president to live in the White House
- 1814 – British troops burn White House during War of 1812
- 1817 – James Monroe moves into rebuilt White House
- 1867 – First White House stable, laundry facility built
- 1902 – West Wing built; Theodore Roosevelt first president to work there
- 1929 – Fire breaks out in West Wing during Hoover presidency
- 1948 – Harry Truman adds south balcony during renovation
- 1963 – John F. Kennedy assassinated while riding in motorcade from White House
- 1974 – Richard Nixon becomes first president to resign while in office during Watergate scandal
- 1976 – Bicentennial celebrations held at White House
- 1995 – Bill Clinton affair with Monica Lewinsky in White House
- 2009 – Barack Obama first African American president to take residence
- 2021 – Joe Biden moves in as 46th president; Kamala Harris first woman VP
Interesting White House Facts
Here are some intriguing facts about the White House:
|Construction Time||It took 8 years to build the White House, from 1792-1800.|
|Architect||Irishman James Hoban designed the White House in the Neoclassical style.|
|Cornerstone||The cornerstone was laid in a Masonic ceremony on October 13, 1792.|
|Building Materials||Sandstone walls are coated with white limestone paint to give the White House its color.|
|First Residents||John Adams and Abigail Adams in 1800 were the first to live in the White House.|
|Room Count||There are 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the Residence.|
|Secret Tunnels||Underground tunnels allow the First Family to access other buildings safely.|
|Wings Added||The East and West Wings were added in 1902 and 1909 respectively.|
|Pets||Many First Family pets, including dogs, cats, and exotic animals have lived on the grounds.|
|Vegetable Garden||A vegetable garden provides produce for the First Family and White House kitchen.|
For over 200 years, the White House has been an iconic global symbol as the official residence of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., it has been the home of every U.S. president since John Adams. Today, it contains 132 rooms and serves not just as a private home for the First Family, but also a place to conduct official business. While parts of the White House are private, visitors can take public tours to see many of the historic state rooms and learn about presidential history and events that have happened there over the years. Security at the White House is extremely tight, given