Today in History

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.

White House, Washington, D.C., showing south side, probably taken in winter
President's House [The White House],
Washington, D.C.,
John Plumbe, photographer, circa 1846.
America's First Look into the Camera: Daguerreotypes, 1839-1862

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.

A view of the Presidents house in the city of Washington after the conflagration
A View of the President's House in the City of Washington after the Conflagration of the 24th August 1814,
circa 1814.
Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present

Invading British troops burned the White House during the closing months of the War of 1812. Rebuilt and enlarged under the direction of Hoban, it was reoccupied by James Monroe in 1817.

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.

Red Room in White House
Red Room in the White House,
Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-circa 1950.
Washington as It Was, 1923-1959

North side of White House
North Side of the White House,
Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-circa 1950.
Washington as It Was, 1923-1959

Green Room in White House
Green Room in the White House,
Theodor Horydczak, photographer, 1946.
Washington as It Was, 1923-1959

Learn more about the White House:

Coolidge Era Visitors to the White House

Sioux Indian Republican Club
President Coolidge With Sioux Indian Republican Club,

New Year Reception
New Year Reception,
Citizens Waiting to be Received.
January 1, 1927.

President Coolidge with National Association of Creditmen,
June 11, 1925.

Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929