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The White House: The History of the American Symbol

This name is known all over the world. Even in the most distant parts of the planet, we hear or read daily: “According to information from the White House ...”, “The White House has denied the message ...” or “The White House has made a final decision ...”. At the center of international politics and influence, it is one of America’s main symbols. its power, stability and prosperity, as well as an expression of the strength, strength and unity of the nation. In many countries, this phrase is used to refer to local governments, thereby emphasizing their special status. However, this is not about an abstract concept, but about a specific building, which is the official residence of the President of the United States and located in Washington (DC) at the following address: Pennsylvania Avenue 1600 (Pennsylvania Avenue), which has its own prototypes and an interesting story surrounded by curious legends. The White House, depicted on the 20 dollar bill, in the ranking of US attractions deservedly occupies the second position, second only to the Empire State Building in New York. But it was not always so…

Фото: Depositphotos

Fast forward to the end of the nineteenth century. After the end of the war of independence and the proclamation of the United States, the new country somewhere had to place its public services and at first had several temporary capitals. Most often, these functions were assumed by the locality where the Congress met. In different years, the role of the main city of the country was played by Baltimore, Lancaster, York, New York, Princeton, Trenton and Annapolis. And Philadelphia was awarded this honor five times. However, starting from 1788 of the year, the issue of building a completely new city for the capital, independent of any state, began to be debated in Congress. The first US president, George Washington, elected in 1789, also believed that none of the administrative centers that existed at that time should be declared the capital. He did not want this or that state to consider itself to be “capital” and thereby claim to primacy and special status in a federal state. Not to mention the contradictions on this issue between the southern and northern states. Therefore, on July 16 of July 1790, Congress decided to entrust George Washington to personally choose a place for the construction of a new capital. He was offered the area in the form of a square with a side of ten miles - on the border between the states of Maryland and Virginia, on the banks of the Potomac River. And on 9 of September 1791, it was decided to name the future capital city in the name of Washington itself. And the district, which will report directly to Congress, is Colombia, in honor of the well-known female image that personifies the country.

There is a legend that the place for the future capital was chosen by Washington, taking into account the fact that it was easy for him to get from it to his estate. As a last resort, using a horse-drawn carriage. So, supposedly, his attachment to his plantations was great. Indeed, Mount Vernon Estate is located only 24 km from the capital. In 1791-1792, the architect Andrew Ellicott and his assistants went around the city border and secured it by installing 40 large stones around the perimeter. Many of them still stand there and are original national monuments. And the competition for the development of the master plan of the city was won by French engineer and architect Pierre Charles Lanfan, known for the restructuring of the Federal Hall in New York on the occasion of Washington's assumption of office. According to his plan, city buildings were supposed to be built in the Baroque style, and the avenues were supposed to come radially from rectangular quarters to provide open spaces and the necessary landscaping. The architect's plan also included the organization of a large avenue, approximately one mile long and about 400 feet wide. However, this project was only partially implemented, in its initial stage. Only at the beginning of the 20th century, Lanfang's plans were used in the development of the central part of the city, including the construction of the aforementioned National Alley. It is believed that it was these ideas that made it possible to build one of the most “non-American" cities in the country, which eventually became the main political center of America.

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It is here that the main representative offices of the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government (the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the White House and the Pentagon headquarters), 174 foreign embassies, the management of major banks and foreign exchange funds are located. At the same time, the city also became one of the recognized cultural centers of the country: the largest museum complex in the world operates here, combining 12 museums, as well as the Library of Congress - the largest book depository in the world. According to the American Institute of Architects, such buildings in Washington as the Cathedral, the Jefferson Memorial, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, are rightfully included in the top ten most recognized and beloved architectural masterpieces of the country. And the first among them, of course, is the White House.

Construction of a structure

We can assume that the history of the White House began with the plan of George Washington, who independently chose a place for a “presidential house” and signed an act of Congress prescribing the residence of the American government to be “no more than 10 miles from the Potomac River”. Then he acted no less vigorously. Fully rejected as a project by Pierre Charles Langfang, on which the White House was conceived in the image of the majestic palace residences of the French kings, and the architect himself. As a result, a competition was announced, for which nine projects were submitted. It is curious that Thomas Jefferson was one of the contest participants, who sent a sketch without mentioning his real name. The winner was James Hoban, an Irish American who was educated in Dublin. Well aware of the reasons for the failure of Langfan, he proposed a building project of much smaller dimensions and pompousness, sustained within the framework of the Palladino style, which is based on strict adherence to symmetry, taking into account the prospects and borrowing the principles of classical temple architecture of ancient Greece and Rome.

In those days, all this was in line with the general approach to the architecture of the new city. A vivid example of this is the construction of the Capitol (the building of the US Congress), the very name of which pointed to following these traditions. Many scholars are inclined to believe that Hoban took one of Dublin's palaces, Leinster House, which is currently the seat of the Irish Parliament, as the basis of his project. However, Washington made adjustments to this project as well, insisting now on its increase by about a third, compared with the proposed option. Thus, the first president of the country can be safely considered not only the initiator, but also one of the co-authors of the project. And therefore, on 13 of October 1792 of the year, he laid the first stone in the foundation of the official residence of American presidents, known throughout the world as the White House.

White House project. Photo: screenshot

The construction involved a large number of black workers, most of whom were slaves leased by their masters. They worked along with whites: they mined sandstone at a field in Virginia, dug a foundation pit and laid the foundation of the White House, burned bricks for building interior walls. Invited European craftsmen and immigrant workers worked actively: Scottish masons erected sandstone walls, Scottish craftsmen carved a stone ornament from roses and garlands that adorn the western entrance today, and Italian craftsmen carved decorative stone elements decorating the columns of the White House , etc. Construction lasted more than eight years. 4 June 1800 year, the construction of the White House was completed. Unfortunately, the protracted construction deprived George Washington of the right to become the first tenant of the "Presidential Palace." At the time of its opening, on November 1 of 1800, the country was led for several years by the second president of the country - John Adams, who drove into a luxurious mansion with his wife Abigail. At that time, his construction work was not yet completed, so Abigail Adams could afford to use the East Room to dry the washed laundry. During the work of the Jefferson administration, East and West terraces were built to cover an unsightly view of the stables and courtyard. It was he who made the rule to open the White House every morning for everyone who wants to visit him, which is valid to this day.

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A decade passed, and in the 1812 year, the Anglo-American War began, which ended three years later. In the summer of 1814, the English squadron entered the Potomac River and, having allocated a special detachment for operations against Baltimore, moved to Washington, while taking American militia units to flight. On the evening of 24 on August 1814, the British entered the city, plundered it, and set fire to the best government buildings (Capitol, White House, Treasury and Shipyard) in retaliation for the American ruin of York (Toronto). Of the artifacts stolen after the fire by looters, the American state managed to save only two: the portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stewart and a jewelry box. The latter was returned in 1939 to the then Roosevelt-reigning certain Canadian citizen, who said that the jewelry had been taken out of Washington by his grandfather. The British stayed in the city only a day, but captured a huge military booty, including more than 200 guns. True, private buildings were hardly affected, as the British command ordered them not to be touched. To restore the White House in its original form, its architect Hoban was again invited, who completed all the work by the time of the inauguration of President James Monroe in 1817. And in 1824, he will carry out the extension of the rounded southern portico, presumably repeating the shape of the colonnade of Château de Rastignac (an elegant French mansion), and in 1829, and the northern portico with load-bearing columns.

In 1833, water was launched in the building and a bathroom is equipped inside the house. Gas lighting installed in 1848-m. And during the reign of Franklin Pierce (1853 g.) Launched the first efficient heating system. On the second floor, bathrooms and toilets were also equipped.

In the 1901 year, Theodore Roosevelt, the 26 American president, enters the White House. He immediately added a western wing and a small eastern wing to the complex, which initially served as the entrance to the White House. But Roosevelt's main merit was that he legislatively gave the entire complex its final name - the White House. There are many legends about this. The fact that in fact the limestone from which the house was laid out was gray, and allegedly after the 1814 fire of the year it was painted white to hide the soot. Or that the name White House was mentioned quite often in private letters and newspaper articles at the end of the 19th century, since the inhabitants of the city used this term for a long time, because this building was sharply different in color from the surrounding buildings in its whiteness. Oddly enough, but this is all correct. The walls of the building were indeed lined with gray porous limestone, which was protected from the very beginning with a special white color to protect it from atmospheric effects and temperature changes, the composition of which changed over the years. This did not stop for a century to call this complex of buildings the President’s House, Palace, or Residence. And then Roosevelt, knowing that each state has its own “residence” of a local government representative, decided that the special name WHITE HOUSE would become the real difference between the official residence of the President of the United States and the rest. Since then, with the light hand of Theodore Roosevelt, the whole world knows this name.

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In 1909, US President William Taft expanded the western wing of the White House and created the first Oval Office. In 1927, under US President Calvin Coolidge, the attic of the main building was rebuilt into residential premises. And on December 24 of 1929, due to a short circuit in the western wing, another fire broke out, which caused the clogging of all internal ducts and sewers. Fire broke out in the attic during the Christmas ball. An employee who discovered him immediately reported this to the president and his assistants. They were able to save the office and many of the president’s personal belongings from a raging fire. The press center suffered the most, since many of its materials were lost.

Photo: Library of Congress

In 1942, during the Second World War under the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, the eastern wing was rebuilt. It was erected over a new underground emergency operations center.

When President Harry Truman moved his family to the White House in 1945, he was incredibly annoyed by the dilapidated structure, the creaking of floors and the mysterious sounds that permeated the old building. Over the course of 145 years, it survived two major fires, unsystematic reconstructions, and was designed without taking into account water supply and electricity, which were carried out after its construction. All this significantly weakened the construction of the building. It turned out that the foundations were sagging, the walls were peeling off, and the rusted gas and water pipes were constantly creating problems. The building became more and more fire hazard. But when in June 1948, the leg of a piano belonging to Truman's daughter Margaret fell through rotten floorboards, it became clear that radical measures were needed. And the Truman left the White House for 22 months, during which the building was completely renovated with the replacement of supporting structures and preservation of the historic facade.

In this updated form, we can see it today. Now the White House, together with the adjacent territory, covers an area of ​​about 7,2 hectare. It has 6 floors, 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 147 fireplaces, 28 stairs and 8 elevators, tennis courts, a golf course, several jogging paths, a pool, a bowling alley and a movie theater.

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Every four years, the US Congress allocates $ 100 thousand from the budget to design and maintain the White House in good condition. The residential part, located on the upper two floors of the mansion, is almost entirely at the disposal of the first lady - there she can repaint the walls, change furniture, hang paintings or tapestries to her liking. However, if the presidential couple decides to make changes in the guest apartments or in any part of the mansion open to public, she will need to consult with the White House Conservation Committee. The “state floors” of the presidential residence are renovated about once every ten years, usually at the expense of the White House Historical Association. Often, a new presidential couple makes very significant changes to the White House: Kennedy dug new gardens, the Nixons reinstalled the bowling alley (it originally appeared under President Harry Truman), the Carters installed solar panels, and the Reagans dismantled these batteries. Former President Barack Obama has refitted the tennis court so that it can play basketball.

Earlier, Grace Coolidge made changes to the landscape of the residence - by her order, a lily pond was dug near the White House. Ten years earlier, Helen Taft, the first lady of the United States from 1909 to 1913, ordered that thousands of Japanese cherry trees be planted in Washington, 3. They adorn the surroundings of the presidential mansion to this day. As you know, Michelle Obama loved agriculture near the White House most of all, smashing vegetable beds on the South Lawn of the White House. But long before her, Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the President of the United States (and her distant relative) Franklin Roosevelt, did the same. And a few years earlier, sheep grazed on the lawns of the White House - they were raised by the first lady Edith Wilson, the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson. By the way, in a country where almost half of all families keep dogs, their presidents always took them for granted. 37 of the 43 American presidents had dogs or other four-legged friends in the White House. In America, a special presidential pet museum was even created, which contains comprehensive information about all their pets, starting with Nelson, George Washington's beloved horse, and ending with George W. Bush's dogs and cat. But 30 President Calvin Coolidge had raccoons, songbirds, geese and even a donkey, in addition to dogs.

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In subsequent years, a canary, a rabbit, a pony lived on the territory of the White House, and horses, pigs, turkeys, geese and cows sometimes grazed on the lawns. More exotic animals lived here: crocodile, cubs, hippopotamus, raccoon, owl, pony and others. So inside the White House there was an ordinary family life with its habits and addictions. Not without noisy informal events. So, 17 times here the weddings were celebrated by the closest relatives of the presidents. But only in the 1886 year, the only president who married at the White House was Grover Cleveland, who, at the age of 49, was married to 21-year-old Francis Falls. Once Andrew Johnson held a “cheese party” at the White House for more than ten thousand guests. And Susan Ford, the daughter of Gerald Ford, invited her classmates to the residence to celebrate the prom. But no matter how the interior of the White House changes and whatever events take place inside its walls, for more than two centuries it continues to remain the main house of the country, its fame, pride and symbol.

Key dates for the construction of the White House

  • 1790 - architect James Hoban, with the assistance of President George Washington, is developing a project for a presidential residence;
  • 1792 - the first stone is laid at its base;
  • 1801 - complete the western and eastern terraces;
  • 1814 - the residence was burned by the British, work has begun on its restoration;
  • 1817 - completion of the reconstruction. Two new underground floors were built for operational management of the headquarters;
  • 1824 - an extension of the southern semicircular portico;
  • 1829 - an extension of the northern portico of a rectangular shape;
  • 1901 - construction of the West and East wings;
  • 1901 - the residence is called the White House;
  • 1909 - the Oval Office is founded;
  • 1927 - reconstruction of attic spaces for housing;
  • 1929 - restoration of the West wing;
  • 1942 - the complex takes on the final modern shape;
  • 1949-1952 - major repairs of the building: the wooden frame is replaced by steel. The balcony is built. The reconstruction of the interior;
  • 1961-1963 - subsequent reconstruction of the interior.

Journey to the White House

As you can see in the diagram, the White House complex of buildings consists of the main building - the Presidential Residence, as well as the West and East wings, connected to the Residence by two colonnade galleries.

Infographics: Chrontime

In the two-story East wing the office of the first lady of the USA is located, at the disposal of which a whole staff of employees is involved in conducting all public and special events in the White House. These include a spokesperson, florist designer, chief calligrapher, chef and other professionals. The White House Social Secretary is in charge of their work. As a rule, visitors to the White House pass through its hall, on the walls of which portraits of the presidents and first ladies of the USA are hung. On the underground floor of the East Wing is the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, designed to defend against a nuclear strike.

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Three-story West Wing - This is the "working" part of the White House. It is here, in the Oval Office, that the US president works. The office hall, the office of the vice president of the United States, the offices of the heads of the president’s office and auxiliary personnel are located here. There are also premises of the White House journalist corps and a hall in which briefings and press conferences are held. In the basement of the West Wing is a situation room designed to work during crises, secret service premises, a dining room, a swimming pool, etc. The western wing is located below the central part of the White House and is hidden by trees from the eyes of curious and tourists.

Of greatest interest to city guests during their trip to the White House are the premises of the West Wing and the Presidential Residence. It is with her that we will begin our walk in the White House. The residence's mansion has six floors, but only four rise above the ground. The basement and ground floors are occupied by technical services (air conditioning and heating, laundry, etc.). The first two ground floors are intended for public receptions, and two more for the residence of the president’s family. On the last, fourth, elevated floor of the White House there is a music room, a solarium, as well as guest rooms and office rooms of the president. Therefore, in the most detail we will tell you only about the premises of its first three floors.

Presidential Residence Ground Floor Plan

Infographics: Chrontime

The first floor of the White House was originally intended to house auxiliary services (kitchen, laundry, etc.) with rooms for servants. At the beginning of the 20th century, under the 26 President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, and also after the Second World War, during the reign of the 33 President of the United States, Harry Truman, the first floor of the central part of the White House was rebuilt as a result of reconstruction work. The first floor, on which 10 rooms are located, actually connects the western wing with the eastern one. Now here are the Library, the Hall of Diplomatic Receptions, the Card Room, the Chinese Room, the Gilded Room and other rooms. In addition, on the ground floor of the White House there is a bowling alley and a number of office rooms - a kitchen, a doctor’s office and others.

Hall of diplomatic receptions (Diplomatic Reception Room) is one of the three oval rooms in the central part of the White House and serves as the entrance to the building from the South Lawn. This is where the reception of foreign ambassadors presenting their credentials takes place. It is furnished like a cabinet of the Federal period. Symbols of 50 states are marked on the carpet. Wallpaper printed in France in 1834 shows Niagara Falls, Boston Harbor, West Point, Virgin Natural Bridge and New York Bay. It was from this room that the broadcasts of the famous “conversations by the fireplace” of President Roosevelt were conducted.

Photo: YouTube screenshot of Foreign Policy Association

Card room (Map Room). The former billiard room during the Second World War was used by the 32-th US President Franklin Roosevelt to work with operational military maps in it. At the time of Kennedy, it was an office building, and now serves for conducting television interviews with the president and other events, as well as for meeting the president and first lady with guests in a one-on-one mode. At least it was here, and not in the Oval Office, on February 18 2010 Barack Obama met with the 14 Dalai Lama. The two armchairs in the room are presumably the work of Thomas Afflecom, the famous Philadelphia cabinetmaker.

Chinese or Porcelain Room (China Room) was once a pantry, a stoker room and a dressing room. Since 1917, a collection of porcelain and glass has been exhibited here, which is replenished with each new president: from the Chinese export porcelain of George Washington to the ivory products of Bill Clinton. It was named so because it contains a unique collection of Chinese art samples (porcelain, ivory, jewelry, etc.). It began to be collected in the 19th century by the wife of the twenty-third US president Caroline Harrison. It was furnished in the 1917 year by the efforts of Edith Wilson (wife of President Woodrow Wilson) to display the china and glassware used by the presidents. The portrait on the south wall depicts Grace Coolidge (wife of President Calvin Coolidge) and was painted in 1924 by Howard Chandler Christie. In this regard, the interior is traditionally decorated in red tones, the color of the dress of the first lady Grace Coolidge in her portrait. The room was last reconstructed in 1970 at the initiative of Pat Nixon. Here, often the first ladies of the USA hold receptions, tea parties and other events, and the dishes from here are sometimes used for dinner in a narrow circle in the presidential dining room on the second floor.

Gilded room (Vermeil Room), which was once used as a billiard room, contains an extensive collection of gilding (gilded silver), which was handed over to the White House in the 1956 year and used here for various needs. It is also known under the names "Scarlet" or "Room of the first ladies", since portraits of some presidential wives are presented here. For example, a portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Aaron Schickler hangs on the south wall.

Library (White House Library). Until 1935, a laundry was located in this room, and then a service locker room. The room found its present interior under Bush Jr., as it had previously been decorated in green tones. It contains historical and scientific books, biographies, fiction, but only by American authors. The furniture of the American Federal period (late XVII - early XIX centuries) and chandeliers in the Library once belonged to the family of James Fenimore Cooper. Portraits of five Indians painted by Charles Bird King were painted in 1821-1822 years, when these Native American leaders visited James Monroe. The lining of this room, as well as the lining of the Gilded and Chinese rooms, is made of old lumber of the 1817 of the year, which was preserved during the reconstruction of the 1948-1952 of the years.

Presidential Residence Ground Floor Plan

Infographics: Chrontime

The second floor, which is called the "state floor", is used for various official events - receptions, dinners, press conferences. There are 8 rooms here, including the East Hall, Green Hall, Blue Hall, Red Hall, Front and Family Dining Rooms. On this floor there are offices of heads of technical services of the White House.

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Blue Hall (Blue Room) is considered one of the most beautiful rooms of the White House and is often used by the president for receiving guests or small dinners. This is one of three oval-shaped rooms. Above it is the Yellow Oval room, and below the Diplomatic Reception Room. The furniture dates back to the reign of James Monroe, who acquired the decor of the room after the 1814 fire of the year. A set of a sofa and seven French armchairs was personally bought by Monroe for this room. Portraits depicting George Washington, John Adams, James Madison and John Quincy, as well as French watches on the mantelpiece with a sculpture of Hannibal, were purchased in 1817. And in 1971, three new works were added to them: portraits of Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and Andrew Jackson, as well as black and gilded French candlesticks from the time of the empire and a crystal chandelier in the center of the ceiling. Blue was first chosen for the decoration of the room under the administration of Martin van Buren. However, Jacqueline Kennedy, when she was the first lady of the state, tried to change the interior design of the White House literally in the bud, as a result of which, according to her desire, many of the historic rooms of the palace changed color. The red room turned dark cherry, the green one got the color of chartreuse liquor, and the oval blue room turned white. And only when Hillary Clinton entered the White House, did the Blue Room regain its sapphire color. 2 June 1886 year in this room the wedding of President Grover Cleveland took place, as we know, the only presidential wedding in the White House. By the way traditionally in the winter here set the main Christmas tree of the country. As decorations for the Christmas tree, small mock-ups of memorials are hung, which are symbols of each of the American states. These toys are made by artists of each state, and the best craftsmen of the country compete for the right to make a Christmas mock-up for the next holiday.

Red Hall (Red Room) - one of the three public rooms on the second floor of the building of the Presidential Administration of the White House. Even during the administration of James Madison, his daughter Dolly ordered a piano, and this room began to be used as a music salon. However, most of the furniture and antiques currently in the Red Room were acquired during the presidency of Truman, Kennedy, and Nixon. Thus, the mantelpiece French watch 1775-1780 of the years in the style of Louis XVI was presented to Truman by the French president Vincent Oriolene in the 1954 year. Jacqueline Kennedy acquired the Empire-style sofa, which previously belonged to Nelly Custis, daughter of Martha Washington. At the same time, the cream-colored French 1815 rug was also acquired with an ornament in the form of a medallion, red roses, laurel leaves, which combined well with the red lining of walls and furniture. At the time of Pet Nixon, a bust of President Martin van Buren was carved between the two windows, carved by the sculptor Hiram Powers, and a portrait of President Buren Angelica's daughter, painted in 1842 by artist Henry Inman, was hung over the fireplace. Madison, Lincoln, Grande and Kennedy most often used this room as a music salon. He played the piano, guitar and piano. Today, the musical stand by the fireplace recalls that once the hall was the musical center of the White House. Eleanor Roosevelt used him to meet with the press. After the state funeral of President Kennedy, his wife received here the heads of foreign states. Reagan often used the room as a room for general filming with the heads of state. Clinton had small parties in the room. The last presidents held small dinners in it, and now the hall serves as a living room and music room.

Front dining room (State Dining Room) is used for official receptions and large state dinners during visits of heads of foreign states. Holds 140 people. Has an area of ​​48 by 36 feet (160,5 square meters). For a long time, a library, offices and offices were located on its squares. In reality, it turned into a ceremonial dining room only from the 1902 year, when Theodore Roosevelt doubled its area. During the reign of Franklin Roosevelt, a new fireplace was built here, on the board of which an inscription was engraved from the letter of President John Adams to his wife Abigail written in 1800. It is she who will go down in history under the name “Prayer of the White House”. And later, F. Roosevelt will place a picture of the American artist George Healy over the fireplace with a portrait of the 16-th US President Abraham Lincoln, transferred to the White House after the death of Mary Harlan Lincoln. After that, the room was reconstructed and modified several more times, and reached the modern look only in the 1999 year.

Family dining room (Family Dining Room) is located next to the main dining room and connected to it. In 1800, it was used as a dining room for the president’s family. Then more and more often - for business lunches and small dinners. Nowadays, when the president’s family uses the Presidential Canteen, the Family Canteen in most cases serves as a utility room for better dinners and lunches in the Main Canteen.

Green hall (Green Room). It is used for meetings and small receptions. It was once the dining room of Thomas Jefferson, and now it is furnished as an office. Almost all the furniture was produced in New York by Duncan Fife in 1810. The walls are decorated with green silk with a wavy pattern resembling a damask or damask pattern. A mantelpiece made of Italian white marble was purchased in 1818 for the State Dining Room and moved here to 1902. In this room is a coffee pot owned by John Adams. On the sides of it are two candlesticks used by James Madison. In 2007, the interior was renovated under the leadership of First Lady Laura Bush: the walls were covered with silk, the brick upholstery of the chairs was replaced with scarlet. The Turkish rug laid under Nixon was replaced with a new one in the style of the French Savonry.

East Hall (East Room) - the largest hall in the White House. Used for dances, receptions, press conferences, ceremonies, concerts and banquets. It has been the venue for several wedding ceremonies, including the weddings of Nelly Grant, Alice Roosevelt and Linda Bird Johnson. The bodies of seven presidents were exhibited here for public farewell: William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, Warren Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and several family members of the presidents. The eastern room served as the venue for many important ceremonies, signing of contracts, agreements and other important events. For example, here were signed:

  • 21 June 1973 - President Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union, Scientific and technical agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy between the United States and the USSR.
  • 28 May 1976 - President Ford Peaceful Nuclear Explosion Agreement, while at the same time the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signed this agreement in Moscow.
  • 17 September 1978 - President David Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin Camp David Accords.
  • 8 December 1987 - President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev a nuclear agreement of medium-range forces (INF Agreement), and in 1990 there were five more agreements.
  • And 8 May 2011, President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden.

Reagan and Gorbachev. Photo:, public domain

Carter, Sadat and Begin. Photo:, public domain

The ornate ceiling of this room is adorned with huge glass chandeliers made back in 1902. A large concert grand piano, decorated with folk dance scenes and with legs in the form of eagles, donated by Steinway in the 1938 year, was immediately installed. Here is the most significant portrait in the White House - the portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stewart, painted in 1797. It has been hanging in the White House since 1800. Dolly Madison saved this picture when the British burned the White House in 1814.

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Presidential Residence Ground Floor Plan

Infographics: Chrontime

On the floor plan, it can be seen that most of the premises here are residential premises of the President’s family: a dining room, a bedroom, a living room, a dressing room and a number of other rooms. The Treaty Room, so named because the twenty-fifth US President William McKinley signed a peace treaty with Spain in 1898, is used as the president’s private office. However, some of the premises can also serve for official purposes.

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В Yellow Oval Office (Yellow Oval Room) hold small receptions and meetings with heads of foreign states. 1 January 1801 President John Adams held his first presidential reception in this room (then known as the "oval room above"). Since then, it has been used as a library, office and family room. In 1889, the first Christmas tree was placed here in the White House. Franklin D. Roosevelt often used it as a bureau, and it was in this room on December 7 of 1941 that he learned about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1948, during the complete reconstruction of the White House, Truman expanded the scope of the room by building a balcony to it, immediately called the “Truman's balcony”. Later presidents used it both for small receptions and for greeting the heads of state before the official dinner.

Royal bedroom (Queens' Bedroom) was initially used as an office for the president’s personal secretaries. Upon completion of the construction of the western wing, it sometimes served as a bedroom for relatives and sons of the presidents. Over time, she turned into a kind of sleeping suite, in which it became possible to even accept the Queen of Great Britain. Hence the name of the bedroom. They say that when her son John and his wife came to visit the first lady of the country, Mamie Eisenhower, she did not want to settle them in this room, believing that only queens and similar state guests could live in her.

Lincoln Bedroom (Lincoln Bedroom) - another room that can be offered to guests of the White House as a luxury bedroom. The room is named for President Abraham Lincoln, who once used this room as an office. His true bedroom was located in those days on the site of the current presidential dining room.

Photo: White House Museum

Plan the first floor of the west wing of the White House


Of course, the most famous and recognizable space not only here, but throughout the White House, is Oval office (Oval Office) - The working office of the President of the United States, located in the southeast corner of the western wing of the White House. It has three huge windows that open onto the Capitol Hill. Naturally, with bulletproof glass. One door from the office opens into the Rose Garden, the second - into the room where the secretary works, the third - into the corridor, the fourth - into the dining room and study. The White House has several oval rooms, but this is the only name that emphasizes its shape. It was built in the 1909 year, under President William Taft, and has since been the main workplace of the head of state. From here, the president often turns to the nation, here he receives his colleagues and partners, and also meets with foreign leaders. Only Franklin Roosevelt rebuilt the room a bit due to the need to move around it in a wheelchair. With it, instead of a pendant chandelier or a ceiling lamp, the room was lit with bulbs hidden in the eaves.

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Since then, only the situation has changed in the office. Each president furnishes it to his liking. However, since the time of Nixon’s presidency, the traditional in the Cabinet is an oval carpet on the floor, the design of which is changing, but the image of the presidential seal remains unchanged - with an eagle holding an olive branch and arrows in its paws. An equally obligatory attribute of the office is the fireplace, installed against the wall opposite the windows, and the presidential table, located next to them. Throughout the history of the US presidency, the Oval Office has seen six desktops, but the most famous of them, “Rezolyut,” lasted the most years and is still there. The table was made of the wood of the barbecue “Rezolyut” (hence its name) —the British naval ship, which was abandoned in the Arctic in 1853. Later, an American whaling ship discovered the ship and restored it at the New York Naval Shipyard. After that, the bark was returned to the UK, and in 1879 it was dismantled there. Queen Victoria ordered three tables to be made of its wood, one of which was presented to the United States as a thank-you “for the warm-hearted kindness that made Resolyut return home.” During his stay in the White House, changes were made to it twice. In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the front panels to be depicted with the U.S. Great Seal with an eagle so that his wheelchair would not be visible. (The photograph of President R. Kennedy’s children peering out of these curtain panels is widely known.)

The second change was made under President R. Reagan, who, having moved to the White House, took his chair from California with him; he was so tall that the president’s knees rested on the table. As a result, a uniform base was added to the table, which increased its height by two inches (5 cm).

Unfortunately, visiting the Oval Office is not possible as part of an excursion group. To see all this, you have to get special permission. Indeed, how can you imagine that you, without coordination, appear in the Oval Office, where at this time the president can play golf with any of his guests. Not to mention various incidents, such as the case of Monica Lewinsky.

Cabinet room (Cabinet Room) - its very name indicates that it is a kind of meeting place for ministers, cabinet secretaries and advisers serving the President of the United States. It is also located in the western wing of the White House and, adjacent to the Oval Office, overlooks the Rose Garden. The room was completed in the 1934 year and is made in the Georgian style. Interestingly, the back of the presidential chair installed here is two inches higher than the back of the other members of the cabinet. Each sitting in this room has his own personal chair, on the back of which a bronze tablet with the name and title of the owner is screwed. So, in the presidential chair you can read the "President". By the way, after members of the government leave their post, they can take the chair with them. But not for free. It should be redeemed. However, most often this is done by former boss employees, in gratitude. One more thing. Places of all cabinet members are strictly regulated. So, the US vice president is always sitting across the table, exactly opposite the president. The Secretary of State is only to the right, and the Minister of Defense is only to the left of the head of state.

Cabinet Roosevelt (Roosevelt Room) is currently used for office meetings, as well as for meetings of large delegations in front of their entrance to the Oval Office. It is located inside the building and therefore does not have direct window lighting. This issue is resolved thanks to special lighting from above. Franklin Roosevelt, using this room for meetings with members of Congress and his advisers, established an aquarium here, after which the office was jokingly called the "fish room". Until the reign of Kennedy. But in 1969, thanks to President Richard Nixon, she got her modern name - Roosevelt’s Cabinet. In honor of two US presidents - Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt (the first built the Western wing, the second expanded it). It is curious that in the room hang portraits of both presidents, periodically changing places. When the Republican President is in power, the portrait of Theodore hangs over the fireplace, and Franklin - on the south wall. Under the President Democrat, the opposite is true. This tradition was broken only once - under Bill Clinton, who decided to leave Theodore Roosevelt over the fireplace, without changing anything.

Press conference room (The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room) and Press room.

This is a small room in the west wing of the White House, where his spokesperson gives briefings to news media, and the President of the United States sometimes addresses the press and the country. The first presidential press conference was held on March 15 1913 of the year in the Oval Office during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Subsequently, until 1969, general press conferences took place in various rooms of the White House. In 1969, President Richard Nixon decided to close the swimming pool built for Franklin D. Roosevelt and set up a Press Room and Press Room in his place to meet the demands of a growing number of reporters seeking to enter the White House. In 2000, he was renamed the James S. Brady Briefing Room in honor of James Brady, a spokesman who was badly wounded during the assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981 and became disabled. In 2007, due to the development of technology, these rooms were reconstructed again, and the new podium already contained video screens for organizing teleconferences and multimedia shows. But when the president himself appears in the hall, a different podium is set for him than for the spokesperson. In fact, this beautiful tribune, which is called the "blue goose", is a unique engineering structure, a kind of armored mini-fortress.

In connection with the ever-increasing number of publications and journalists seeking to attend briefings, recently the question has been raised more often about the need for a radical increase in the hall premises or about moving it to another place.

President George W. Bush attends the opening of the new 11 Hall on July 2007. Photo:, public domain

Instead of an epilogue

Having made this journey through the White House, you more sharply and clearly begin to understand the special role that he plays in the life of the country, continent and the world. As the Capitol symbolizes the freedom and ideals of the nation, so the White House is the power of its executive branch. Each country has similar institutions of power, but the White House stands out against the general background with its special unique aura, traditions and features.

So, in a parliamentary monarchy UK The main presentation complex of the country is Buckingham Palace - the Queen's residence in London. Only during August and September, when she leaves him, the palace becomes accessible to visitors. The working residence of the Prime Minister of Great Britain is located in London at Downing Street, 10, in a building that combines three mansions of the XVI century. The prime minister himself traditionally lives in one of the neighboring buildings. Visiting the residence by tourists is currently not possible.

In the republican France the president’s residence is located in Paris, in Elysee Palace, the former mansion of Count Evreux, 1718-1722 years of construction. By tradition, the president lives in special rooms in the palace. Visiting the residence is possible only once a year, on one Sunday of September.

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In the Federal Republic Germany, after the government moved from Bonn to Berlin, the usual modern office building was built Federal Chancellery of Germany with an apartment for the chancellor on the upper floors. However, today's German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not live in it, having a rented apartment in Berlin. A visit to the department is possible once a year on a designated day. Federal President of Germany since 2005, he lives and works in Berlin at the Bellevue Palace, the former summer residence of Prince August Ferdinand.

В Russia, presidential-parliamentary republic, the official residence of the president is housed in a complex of structures The Moscow Kremlin. The president himself does not live in the Kremlin, but most often is located in one of his many summer or winter residences. Those wishing to visit the president’s residence are given the opportunity to inspect only its front part, located in the Grand Kremlin Palace.

From this it can be seen that the main feature of the White House is that it is not located in an old mansion or palace, converted for current needs, but built specially, according to a special project, precisely as the residence of the US President.

According to the traditions that have developed over two centuries, the White House is the only residence of the current head of state in the world, in which free and constant access for visitors is open year-round.

The residence is also one of the few buildings of this kind in which the president of the country can not only work productively, but also live fully with his family.

Is it possible to imagine that in Paris in the Champs Elysees the wife of the president would decide to set up a garden in the yard in order to grow fresh vegetables and fruits there? Or in Germany, in the halls of the Office of the General Chancellor, would someone dare to have a wedding or prom for her daughter? And in Russia, on the floor of one of the main premises of the residence, could the president afford to start a game of golf with senators? But would someone in London, on Downing Street, dare to set up 33 Christmas trees and receive 60 of thousands of visitors by feeding them asparagus, crab, shrimp, cookies and cakes during the Christmas holidays? And in the White House, all this is possible. After all, he lives only according to his established, observed and understandable only to him laws and rules.

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In the ancient monarchical countries of Europe since ancient times, such a traditional motif of folklore and mythology as the "sleeping hero" is widely known. It turns out that he did not once die in a mortal battle, as the descendants believed, but was miraculously saved and sleeps now in a deep cave on remote islands, or somewhere in the other world. But when the homeland experiences difficulties, it will certainly wake up, come and save its nation in the days of mortal danger. The German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa sleeps soundly in a cave beneath Mount Keeheuser. King Arthur was taken away by the four queens from the battlefield to the island of Avalon. Sir Francis Drake is waiting until his drum sounds wake up. Waiting for its time in the attic of the Prague synagogue Golem, to perk up and protect the Jewish people. High in the Carpathian mountains, he hopes that his time will come soon, Oleksa Dovbush is a Hutsul national hero.

But in Republican America, born in the 19th century, there are different hopes and other priorities. Heroes do not sleep to wake up and save the country tomorrow, but live and act today. And the main thing here is not to stumble, not to be mistaken and to find the right path for sure. And now the spiritual message of the second US President John Adams to his descendants is carved on the fireplace in the White House Parade: “I pray for the blessing of this house, all its future residents and that only honest and wise people rule under this roof.”

But where is the guarantee that such will be elected to the White House, that they will hear his prayer. Or busy with meals and their worries, they won’t even look at the carved text on the fireplace. And then, without fail, in the corridors of the White House that have quieted down at night, ghosts that have long lived there will appear. Already in a hurry up the stairs with a basin of washed linen, the wife of John Adams, as if between cases reminding of the covenants of the founding fathers. And if things get worse, then the spirit of President Abraham Lincoln appears in the corridors of the White House. He once visited his bedroom with his advice when Queen of the Netherlands Wilhelmina stayed there, but scared her to death. And even more - the Prime Minister of Great Britain Winston Churchill. So much so that he never agreed to stay overnight at the White House. And the White House servants are so used to these night ghost walks that they no longer even pay any attention to them. And while the ghosts of the great presidents, their wives and the big black cat with huge, all-seeing green eyes walk around the White House, we can be calm. They will come when it is necessary to follow, remind and prompt for everything.

Фото: Depositphotos

And so in the White House everything will certainly be fine. After all, this is not only our symbol or hope, but also the whole country that has managed to become great. And even the whole of humanity, which looks at it with confidence and hope, even from the farthest ends of the planet. So, as our White House correspondents report, “Everything is under control. There is no cause for concern! ”

And soon the foggy night will go away, a new day will be reborn, the sun will appear from behind the clouds, highlighting the walls of the White House. And he will wake up and continue his daily and difficult work: to always be and remain - the main hope and symbol of the country! Her White House!

This article by ForumDaily author, journalist Leonid Rajewski is part of the “History of American Symbols” series.

история White House loudspeakers speakers

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