11 Structures that Define America


The White House

The history of the White House began when President George Washington and city planner Pierre L'Enfant chose the site for the presidential residence, now listed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Irish-born architect James Hoban's design was chosen in a competition to find a builder of the "President's House." Construction began in October 1792. Although Washington oversaw the building of the house, he never lived in it. When the White House was completed in 1800, President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, moved in as the first residents. Since then, each president has made his own changes and additions. It survived a fire at the hands of the British in 1814 during the War of 1812 and another blaze in the West Wing in 1929 when Herbert Hoover was president. President Harry Truman gutted and renovated the building during his time there. Encompassing approximately 55,000 square feet, the White House has 132 rooms, including 35 bathrooms and 16 family and guest rooms. It is the world's only private residence of a head of state that is open to the public.