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Wishing You a Safe and Pleasant Washington's Birthday

ANSWERS

 

How much do you know about the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?1) Well, sure, now it is. Though informal references to the “White House” date back as far as 1811, the official presidential residence was typically called the “Executive Mansion” up until the two-term presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, who formalized the usage of “White House” by having it embossed on official executive letterhead.

 

2) After President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson had determined that the design of the presidential residence would be chosen via competition, Irish architect James Hoban submitted the winning architectural sketch.

 

3) The presidential residence was built from Aquia Creek sandstone, named for the site in Virginia’s Stafford County where it was quarried. There is reason to believe that imported sandstone from Croatia may also have been used.

 

4) The presidential residence was built over a period eight years, from 1792 to 1800, largely by black slaves, as well as some free black and European laborers.

 

5) In 1939, a Canadian citizen returned a jewelry box to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that he claimed had been taken from the White House by his grandfather in 1814. A painting of George Washington — saved, according to legend, by then-incumbent First Lady Dolley Madison — is the only other item removed from the White House at the time of its sacking and subsequent destruction by fire, to ever be returned to the building.

 

6) Water was first piped into the presidential residence in 1833 while Andrew Jackson was president. Jackson also oversaw construction of the first White House “bathing room.”

 

7) Noted photographic entrepreneur John Plumbe Jr. photographed the White House in 1846, while President James K. Polk was in office.

 

8) The famous Resolute desk was a gift from Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. The desk was constructed of oak timbers repurposed from the Arctic exploration vessel HMS Resolute. Initially abandoned by the British in 1854, the Resolute drifted several hundred miles through Arctic waters before being discovered by an American whaling ship the following year. The United States salvaged and repaired the Resolute before restoring it to the British as a gesture of international goodwill. It was formally decommissioned in 1879, whereupon Queen Victory decreed a competition to build an item of furniture from ship timbers that could be sent as a gift to the U.S. president.

 

9) Yes. The White House Family Theater, which seats 42, was converted from a cloakroom during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

10) Though President Donald J. Trump’s habit of summoning a Diet Coke (on a silver platter, reportedly) at the touch of a button has generated a great deal of recent publicity, President Lyndon B. Johnson used three different desktop buttons to summon his beverage of choice, one each for black coffee, tea, and (drum roll) Fresca. Of note, Johnson’s buttons were not installed in the famous Resolute desk, which was part of a touring exhibition during his presidency before being put on display in the Smithsonian Institution. (President Jimmy Carter brought the Resolute Desk back to the Oval Office in