Our first president, George Washington, selected the site for the White House in 1791. The cornerstone was laid in 1792 and a competition design submitted by Irish-born architect James Hoban was chosen. After eight years of construction, President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, moved into the unfinished house in 1800. During the War of 1812, the British set fire to the President’s House in 1814. James Hoban was appointed to rebuild the house, and President James Monroe moved into the building in 1817. During Monroe’s administration, the South Portico was constructed in 1824, and Andrew Jackson oversaw the addition of the North Portico in 1829. During the late 19th century, various proposals were made to significantly expand the President’s House or to build an entirely new house for the president, but these plans were never realized.
In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt began a major renovation of the White House, including the relocation of the president’s offices from the Second Floor of the Residence to the newly constructed temporary Executive Office Building (now known as the West Wing). The Roosevelt renovation was planned and carried out by the famous New York architectural firm McKim, Mead and White. Roosevelt’s successor, President William Howard Taft, had the Oval Office constructed within an enlarged office wing.
Less than fifty years after the Roosevelt renovation, the White House was showing signs of serious structural weakness. President Harry S. Truman began a renovation of the building in which everything but the outer walls were dismantled. The reconstruction was overseen by architect Lorenzo Winslow, and the Truman family moved back into the White House in 1952.
Every president since John Adams has occupied the White House, and the history of this building extends far beyond the construction of its walls. From the Ground Floor Corridor rooms, transformed from their early use as service areas, to the State Floor rooms, where countless leaders and dignitaries have been entertained, the White House is both the home of the President of the United States his family and a museum of American history. The White House is a place where history continues to unfold.
The Oval Office is the official office of the President of the United States.
The office was designed by the architect Nathan C. Wyeth at the order of President William Howard Taft in 1909. Named for its distinctive oval shape, the Oval Office is part of the complex of offices that make up the West Wing of the White House. Badly damaged by a fire in 1929, the office was rebuilt by President Herbert C. Hoover. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enlarged the West Wing and added today’s Oval Office, designed by Eric Gugler.
The architectural features of the Oval Office, which draw from baroque, neoclassical, and Georgian traditions, have become symbolic of the power and prestige of the Presidency in the minds of Americans and people across the world. There are three large south-facing windows behind the President’s desk, as well as four doors into different parts of the West Wing. The ceiling is adorned with an elaborate molding around the edge, and features elements of the Seal of the President.
Presidents generally change the office to suit their personal taste, choosing new furniture, new drapery, and designing their own oval-shaped carpet to take up most of the floor. Paintings are selected from the White House’s own collection, or borrowed from other museums for the President’s term in office.
The President uses the Oval Office as his primary place of work. It is positioned to provide easy access to his staff in the West Wing and to allow him to retire easily to the White House residence at the end of the day. The President commonly chooses the Oval Office as the backdrop for televised addresses to the nation, and countless foreign leaders have traveled to the office to meet with the President.
White House Tours
Public tour requests must be submitted through one’s Member of Congress. These self-guided tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (excluding federal holidays or unless otherwise noted). Tour hours will be extended when possible based on the official White House schedule. Tours are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. Requests can be submitted up to six months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance. You are encouraged to submit your request as early as possible as a limited number of spaces are available. All White House tours are free of charge. (Please note that White House tours may be subject to last minute cancellation.)
If you wish to visit the White House and are a citizen of a foreign country, please contact your embassy in Washington, DC for assistance in submitting a tour request.
Information Courtesy of – http://www.whitehouse.gov/
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