Ward is interested in all things travel and runs the Castles in America website. He's also currently working on a fantasy novel.
The White House in our nation’s capital needs no introduction as it’s talked about in halls and capitals far away from our own. One of the most recognizable homes not just in America but the world and a symbol of American democracy, the White House is a neoclassical structure with iconic marble pillars at both the North and South Porticos. The entire exterior is made out of Aquia Creek sandstone painted white, and the grounds encompasses 52 acres of prime DC land including the famous North and South Lawns with the Ellipse to the south making for spectacular views of both the city and the Washington Monument. For leisure activities, there’s a tennis court and a putting green right on site as well as Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ Rose Garden and the most recent addition to the grounds, the White House Vegetable Garden inaugurated by former First Lady Michelle Obama.
At nearly 55,000 square feet, the six-story White House is a true mega mansion. The People’s mega-house includes the Harry S. Truman bowling alley, a jogging track, a swimming pool, a library, a flower shop, and a movie theater. The Ground, State, Third, and Fourth floors houses the Executive Residence of the President and his family, and for visiting dignitaries and guests, the White House Entrance Hall will make the other mega mansions’ jaws drop. The Entrance Hall, also called the Grand Foyer that was renovated during Teddy Roosevelt’s administration, has guests enter through the colonnaded North Portico and into the vast 31 by 44 feet room with tesselated Westbury cream and Vermont marble floor. A rare Steinway Grand Piano graces the Entrance Hall where US Marines stand guard during state visits.
The West Wing holds the important business of the President. If you’ve watched The West Wing, don’t take it as a guide because they’ve taken liberties with the design. The real West Wing has the Press Briefing Room where the White House Press Secretary deals with the pesky press, offices for all the President’s men (and women), the Cabinet Room made iconic during the multitude of photo ops where the President sits at the center of a long table while his Cabinet and/or important members of Congress sit on both of his sides, and of course, the West Wing. Other mega mansions’ home offices can’t beat that!
Don’t’ tell Ivanka but the East Wing holds the offices of the First Lady and her staff. There, the East Wing Garden Room, because of views of the Rose Garden, is housed as well as the Office of the Social Secretary, the person responsible for the smooth running of the White House’s social functions and events. If a woman is ever elected to Pennsylvania Avenue, who knows how the East Wing will change with the arrival of a First Gentleman.
Then there’s the White House Residence Staff. The WH Residence Staff including the Chief Usher, who manages the operations of the Staff like the White House butlers and maids. These men and women take their jobs seriously often serving multiple Presidents spanning decades and keep the White House functioning regardless of who is in power. The White House’s world class chefs serve the President and his guests in their very own chef’s kitchen but other mega moguls take note, the President has to pay for his and his family’s personal meals, which is charged to his paycheck every month but not including meals served during state functions. First Lady Nancy Reagan was said to be taken aback by this practice but got used to it during their eight-year stay.
The White House was first designed by James Hoban finishing construction in 1800. The First President George Washington never lived there, and it was the second President, John Adams, who first moved in. During the War of 1812, the British invaded DC and burned down the White House. Afterwards, architects painted it white to hide the scorch marks. President Jackson added the North Portico during his tenure, and with time, technological advancements from electricity to the internet were added as well. During its existence, it seen its share of Presidents. If these walls could talk!
President Nixon used to talk to himself … or to the paintings of dead Presidents during the loneliness of the Watergate scandal. Bill and Hillary Clinton had explosive arguments inside its walls during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. A distraught Jackie Kennedy relived her husband’s assassination over and over again and woke up screaming from nightmares during her remaining days in the White House.
There were lighter moments as well. President Johnson installed a shower system so punishing, it sprayed water in every direction. President Nixon ripped it out afterwards. Christmases were celebrated inside its halls with the first Christmas tree put up by President Benjamin Harrison for his grandchildren. President Carter loved to watch movies in the White House theater. And the Presidential pets! The First Dog Barney Bush, President George W. Bush’s Scottish Terrier, famously scampered around in the White House and so did President Clinton’s Buddy and President Obama’s Bo. You know what they say, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog! President Trump has chosen to not get a First Pet, the first President to do so since William McKinley a hundred years ago. Maybe First Lady Melania Trump didn’t want a dog traipsing through her East Wing, which is said to be immaculately furnished.
Like other mansions, security is an issue and the White House’s is top notch. The Secret Service protects the White House including snipers on top of the roof, and as Commander in Chief, the President has all the latest gadgets and the facilities to use them. He can order drone strikes in the President’s Situation Room. It’s more Situation Rooms really as it’s an underground complex of rooms where the President and his National Security Team hears the latest news from crises at home and threats overseas. The mahogany lined Situation Room was recently renovated and outfitted with the latest in encrypted audio/visual equipment including a viewscreen controlled by the President through a touch panel on the conference table.
And the White House’s National Security infrastructure just got bigger. The new West Wing Underground Command Center has been completed in 2013 and all we know about it is that it’s the President’s own secret underground bunker under the West Wing to protect him, his family, and staff in the event of an emergency. The rest of the details remain classified except that this secret bunker will have technology that can connect to all major branches of the armed forces as well as the outside world. Eat your heart out other mega mansions!
The White House is a beacon of power eclipsing all other presidential palaces of foreign heads of state in prominence and stature. When crises erupt, all the world’s eyes turn to the White House one of the greatest mansions in America and one of the most impregnable mega-homes in history!