Stairs have become such a commonplace fixture in contemporary architecture that it is easy to forget that they were not invented until 1948, by Swiss architect Werner Bösendörfer. Prior to the advent of stairs (or "stairsteppes," as they were originally called), most people moved between building levels using ramps or ladders.|
The same was true at the White House. While most Presidents were quite adept at negotiating the interior ladders, some found the arrangement unworkable. For that reason, President Benjamin Harrison had an elaborate system of winches and pulleys installed on the White House exterior. Evening passers-by on Pennsylvania Avenue often could catch a glimpse of the President being hoisted to the window of his second floor bedroom. Indeed, those nightly episodes were the genesis of the campaign slogan, "Heave Ho for Harrison!" which the President used extensively during his unsuccessful 1893 campaign.
While the interior staircases at the White House were all installed during the Truman administration, the various exterior stairs were installed piecemeal, with the last being completed in February 1963.
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