Today in History: October 13
I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.
Letter from President John Adams to First Lady Abigail Adams,
November 2, 1800.
The cornerstone of the White House was laid on October 13, 1792. President John Adams and his wife Abigail moved into the unfinished structure on November 1, 1800, keeping to the scheduled relocation of the capital from Philadelphia. Congress declared the city of Washington in the District of Columbia the permanent capital of the United States on July 16, 1790. President George Washington and Charles L'Enfant, the French planner of the federal city, chose the site for the residence. Congress selected a design by James Hoban, an Irish emigrant architect living in Charleston, South Carolina for the structure. Modeled after Leister House in Dublin, Ireland, Hoban's plan featured the Palladian style popular in Europe. It was chosen over several other proposals including one submitted by Thomas Jefferson.
Constructed of white-grey sandstone that contrasted sharply with the red brick used in nearby buildings, the presidential mansion was called the White House as early as 1809. President Theodore Roosevelt officially adopted the term in 1902.
The next major expansion of the executive mansion took place during Theodore Roosevelt's presidency when second-floor rooms were converted from offices into living quarters for the president's family. The West Wing was also built during this period to house the expanding presidential staff. For over six months in 1927, President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge lived in nearby Dupont Circle while the White House was renovated and the roof raised and replaced. During the Truman years, the structure of the building was reinforced with steel beams.
Learn more about the White House:
- Visit the White House online.
- Locate additional photographs of the executive mansion by searching the American Memory pictorial collections on White House. To view examples of the architectural style used in the White House, search on Palladian. More material on American architecture and design is available in these collections:
- Search the Today in History Archive on president to learn more about illustrious White House residents including James Monroe, James Polk, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
- Search Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929 on White House to view images of the executive mansion during the Coolidge years.