The White House is the only private residence of a head of state that is open to the public, free of charge. (White House)
During President Andrew Jackson’s open house inauguration in 1829 (illustration above), a horde of 20,000 celebrants forced President Jackson to flee to a nearby hotel while his aides filled washtubs with orange juice and whiskey to lure the mob out of the overrun White House and onto the lawn. (Washington Post )
In 1840, Martin Van Buren hired a live-in fireman to manage the boilers of a monstrous new furnace. (White House History )
Electricity was installed in the White House in 1891 and President Benjamin Harrison and his family often went to bed and left all the new electric lights burning because they were afraid to touch the switches. He used to have White House staff turn them on and off. (Classroomhelp.com )
Throughout history, the White House was known as the “President’s Palace,” the “President’s House,” and the “Executive Mansion.” President Theodore Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name in 1901. (White House )
Under the press briefing room is an indoor pool, which was installed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt who used it for therapy for his polio. Forty years later, a growing press corps pushed President Richard Nixon’s administration into building the press briefing room over the pool. Hillary Clinton wanted to return the pool to use and find another space for the press briefing room, but the idea was never put into action. (White House Museum.org )
Lincoln’s ghost is said to be the most active in the White House. Others include Dolley Madison, Andrew Jackson, Abigail Adams, a menacing British soldier with a torch and Washington’s “Demon Cat.
1.Who Had the Outdoor Swimming Pool Built?
National Archives / Ford Library Collection
President Gerald Ford was quite athletic and an avid swimmer. In 1975 an inground outdoor swimming pool was built on the White House grounds, near the tennis courts. President Ford tried to make swimming a daily habit, and even conducted press conferences while swimming laps in the pool. Ford's son Jack took scuba diving lessons in the pool; while later, young Amy Carter perfected her diving technique when her father, Jimmy Carter, was in office.
To make the White House more efficient, in 2002, the outdoor swimming pool cabana was renovated - more windows were added, the roof was raised, solar thermal array uses water heated in pipes by and a solar array was installed on the roof. Thethe sun and provides hot water to the cabana. Two of the systems deliver thermal energy for hot water and pool and hot tub heating and one produces electricity directly from the sun with photovoltaics .
3. Party Like It's 1829
In simpler times, presidents would often open up the White House for public tours and receptions, where they would personally greet well-wishers on occasions like New Year's Day, the Fourth of July and the Inaugural. When a crowd of "callers" on President Andrew Jackson's Inauguration Day in 1829 swelled to 20,000, the leader had to make a quick exit to a local hotel. To appease the throngs, White House staff reportedly lured them out to the lawn by filling washtubs filled with oranges (perhaps from the Orangery? See No. 13) and whiskey. While the revelers celebrated with their makeshift cocktails on the lawn, staff closed the doors and cleaned up the muddy floors of the White House.
4. The Mystery of the Swimming Pool Beneath the Press Room
President Franklin D. Roosevelt had an indoor swimming pool built at the White House as therapy for his polio. President Nixon had it covered over to turn it into a press room. In July 2007, the basement that still has the intact pool walls was redesigned, along with the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room above it to accommodate all the wires and cables for the electronic press. A trap door was replaced with a staircase that leads down to the basement.
The tile sides of the FDR pool remain as part of the walls of the basement and have been signed by the press, celebrities, dignitaries and of course, members of the administration. Famous signatures include Bono, Sugar Ray Leonard and former First Lady Laura Bush.
In August 2008, the then-wildly popular boy band the Jonas Brothers showed up at the White House to attend a press conference about diabetes and record a public service announcement about National Parks. The teen idols, Nick (a diabetes patient), Joe and Kevin Jonas, left a permanent memento at the White House by autographing the abovementioned wall of the swimming pool that's below the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.
"There's other names up there that are just astounding, some of our favorite artists and politicians," Joe Jonas told CNN. "But it's going to be really cool to see that in 10 years, 20 years from now."
Wonder if Joe Jonas checked out his signature when he and his brothers stopped by the White House on Inauguration Night? To refresh your memory, the Jonases performed a few of their songs at a welcome-to-the-White House slumber party for Sasha and Malia Obama and friends.
6. Oval Office Terrace
On the south side of the West Wing, just outside the Oval Office, is a patio that's actually a large, multilevel terrace. Weather permitting, the president can enjoy having lunch on the terrace or conduct meetings with staff, or invited guests.
7. Which President Swam Naked?
Library of Congress
Andrew Jackson - the president who had the Orangery built and whose inaugural reception became a bacchanal on the lawn - apparently enjoyed early-morning swims au natural in the nearby Potomac River, followed by some weeding and digging around in the White House gardens.
If he'd had an inground swimming pool built on the White House grounds, it would have saved him the jaunt down to the chilly waters of the Potomac. On the other hand, skinny-dipping may have been just what he needed to kick-off his day. Do you suppose he ever gathered a crowd during those early-morning dips?
8. Hot Tubbin' at the White House
Grandee Photo Courtesy of Hot Spring® Portable Spas
In 1997, during the Clinton administration, an outdoor spa was installed next to the inground swimming pool. As reported in The New York Times, the above-ground tub, the "Grandee" model by the Watkins Manufacturing Corporation, had seven seats, held 500 gallons of water and had 25 adjustable jets. The hot tub was donated by Watkins as a gift and, as is routine, was processed through the National Park Service.
"Every once in a while, there may be a photo taken in that product, and it may be a good thing for our business," Watkins president Steve Hammock told The Times. Hammock was pleased that the White House would use the tub, because Watkins had donated a hot tub during the Reagan years. "I don't know where that one ended up," he said.
10. Wait - Another President Swam in the Raw?9. Walls of Stone
While there have been many changes throughout the years, the exterior stone walls are the same ones that were built under the leadership of President Thomas Jefferson , who was involved in the design and planning of many improvements to the White House exterior and grounds starting in 1801. Whatever the "recipe" was for stone and mortar is obviously a resilient one - maybe something that could be shared with stone masons or serious do-it-yourselfers today.
In presidential lore, it's often mentioned that John Quincy Adams - not Andrew Jackson - swam in the nude. Well, Adams did too t not intentionally.
According to a passage in Adams' diary, on June 18, 1825, he and an aide went for a canoe ride in Tiber Creek, near the Potomac. The canoe became waterlogged, and the two bailed and swam for shore. Their clothing was weighed down by the unexpected soak, so Adams stripped off his duds and gave them to his aide, who then went to get help. In the meantime, Adams' son went swimming in the Tiber in search of his dad. When they met up, both went swimming and sat "...naked basking on the bank" until the aide returned with a carriage. Adams was simply thankful that "no injury befell our persons."
11. Important Dates
White House Photo / Samantha Appleton
1824: South Portico is completed
1829: North Portico is completed
1833: Running water is installed
1848: Natural gas lighting installed
1891: Electric lighting installed
1902: West Wing constructed
1909: Oval Office (off the West Wing) built
1913: Rose garden created
1933: Indoor swimming pool built
1975: Outdoor inground swimming pool built
1989: A horseshoe pitch is created beside the outdoor swimming pool. It's removed in 1993, then rebuilt in 2001.
1991: A basketball half-court is built on the South Grounds
1993: A jogging track is installed
2009: The White House Kitchen Garden is created
13. The Orangery and Greenhouses12. Secret Passage to the Pool: No More Peeking From the West Wing
Photo Courtesy of whitehousemuseum.org
After the outdoor swimming pool was built in 1976, a pool cabana was added to provide swimmers with a place to shower and change their clothes. The cabana also serves double duty as a privacy screen for the pool, which could otherwise be seen from those inside the West Wing. It gets even better: an underground passage was created to allow the first family and guests to reach the cabana from the ground floor of the West Wing without going outside.
Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston / Library of Congress
President Andrew Jackson - the one who enjoyed those crack-of-dawn swims in the Potomac and early-morning gardening - created the White House orangery, a type of greenhouse in which tropical fruit trees and flowers can be grown. Some 18 years later, during President Franklin Pierce's administration, Jackson's orangery was expanded into a greenhouse.
In 1857, the orangery was torn down to accommodate a new wing for the Treasury Department. Another greenhouse was built on the west side of the White House, next to the State Floor.
14. The Small Plane on the Portico Incident
At 2 a.m. on September 13, 1994, a small plane aimed for the White House bedroom ofPresident Clinton, barely missing secret service agents stationed in the South Portico.
Reported The New York Times: "...the Cessna passed the fountain and the red cannas blooming on the South Lawn, bounced off the grass just short of the White House, crashed through the branches of a magnolia tree planted by Andrew Jackson and came to rest in a crumpled heap...below the bedroom."
Luckily, the Clintons were away while the White House's ventilation system was being repaired. The pilot died in the crash. The wreckage was right next to a set of white, cast-iron patio furniture, further emphasizing how close it came to the presidential living quarters.
15. The Treehouse That Jimmy Carter Built
The very versatile and handy President Jimmy Carter designed and built a treehouse on the grounds of the White House for his tween daughter, Amy. Not surprisingly, when Amy and her friends had sleepovers in the treehouse, Secret Service agents monitored the festivities from the ground.
16. Which First Lady Swam Outside in Winter?
Photo Courtesy of The White House
First Lady Barbara Bush (that would be H.W.'s spouse) used to swim in the outdoor heated pool even on cold winter days, and would sometimes come back to the White House with icicles in her hair. She also reportedly once discovered an uninvited guest in the White House pool - a rat (not sure if it was dead or alive).
17. Grant's Pools
Library of Congress
In the 1870s, President Ulysses S. Grant oversaw the expansion of the south grounds and had round reflection pools built on the North and South lawns. These pools and fountains are frequently photographed.
18. Lots of Groundskeepers
Photo Courtesy of the White House.
According to Dale Haney, Grounds Superintendent for the White House, the outside crew consists of 20 grounds employees, including gardeners, maintenance workers, electricians and plumbers. Haney has also been seen taking care of the presidential pets on the grounds, including walking the President Bush's Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley and the Obama family's dog, Bo.
20. Playtime at the White House19. Weddings in the Rose Garden
On June 12, 1971, Tricia Nixon was the first and only president's daughter to be married in the Rose Garden, which was designed as an outdoor extension of the West Wing during Kennedy's presidency. She wed Edward Finch Cox.
The only other outdoor White House wedding took place during the Clinton administration. On May 28, 1994, then-First Lady (and current Secretary of State) Hillary Rodham Clinton's brother, Anthony Rodham, married Nicole Boxer, daughter of Senator Barbara Boxer.
With frequent visits from their 13 grandchildren, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had swings, sandboxes and slides built on the South Lawn.
In 1961, a swing set and jungle gym was installed on the west side of the South Lawn for Caroline and John F. Kennedy, Jr.
First Daughters Malia and Sasha Obama receive their first-ever swing set, situated on the lawn near the Oval Office.