Saturday, October 13, 2007

October 13, 1792:

The White House Begins Construction

The cornerstone of the President's House -- known later the Executive Mansion and later still the White House -- was laid on October 13, 1792, on a site picked by President Washington and the architect of the new capital city, Charles L'Enfant. Irish-born architect James Hoban's design was selected, besting other submissions, including one by Thomas Jefferson.

Washington oversaw the construction, but never lived in the structure. John Adams was the first president to move in, at the end of 1800, though his stay was only until Jefferson became president in March 1801.

According to the White House web site: "...It survived a fire at the hands of the British in 1814 (during the War of 1812) and another fire in the West Wing in 1929, while Herbert Hoover was President. Throughout much of Harry S. Truman’s presidency, the interior of the house, with the exception of the third floor, was completely gutted and renovated while the Trumans lived at Blair House, right across Pennsylvania Avenue. Nonetheless, the exterior stone walls are those first put in place when the White House was constructed two centuries ago.

"... Thomas Jefferson held the first Inaugural open house in 1805. Many of those who attended the swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol simply followed him home, where he greeted them in the Blue Room. President Jefferson also opened the house for public tours, and it has remained open, except during wartime, ever since. In addition, he welcomed visitors to annual receptions on New Year’s Day and on the Fourth of July. In 1829, a horde of 20,000 Inaugural callers forced President Andrew Jackson to flee to the safety of a hotel while, on the lawn, aides filled washtubs with orange juice and whiskey to lure the mob out of the mud-tracked White House.

"After Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, Inaugural crowds became far too large for the White House to accommodate them comfortably. However, not until Grover Cleveland’s first presidency did this unsafe practice change. He held a presidential review of the troops from a flag-draped grandstand built in front of the White House. This procession evolved into the official Inaugural parade we know today. Receptions on New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July continued to be held until the early 1930s..."

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