We cannot tell a lie…Every home needs maintenance and occasional improvement, no matter how famous the address. As we approach President’s Day, it’s a good time to consider the construction and renovation history of America’s “Money Pit” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C!
Like any other period home, The White House has seen its share of construction delays, renovations and do-overs through the years:
- George Washington launched construction of the White House in October of 1792, but he never actually got to enjoy living in the building project he started. It wasn’t ready for residents until 1800, when John Adams and wife Abigail moved in.
- Fourteen years later, the British set fire to the White House, prompting its first major reconstruction.
- A 1929 West Wing fire during the Hoover administration was cause for more restoration.
- The biggest White House overhaul happened during Harry Truman’s presidency, when the structure’s load-bearing walls were found to be close to failure. The Trumans had to move across the street while the interior was gutted and a new load-bearing steel frame was constructed inside the walls.
- With 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms and six levels in the residence, you can just imagine how many times over your own home to-do list would be multiplied. Then add in 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, eight staircases and three elevators. No wonder the White House has a team of plumbers, carpenters, electricians and 33 handymen to handle it all!
- The White House is a perpetual residential painting project. It has a permanent, year-round staff of painters who keep the finish chip-free at all times. And they need 570 gallons of paint to complete just one coat on all those exterior walls.
Like any historic home, the White House has also had its share of behind-the-scenes system upgrades as times and technologies have changed. Better insulation, safer electrical wiring, and more efficient plumbing are just a few of the less-glamorous but critical improvements an older home requires.
If you have a historic home of your own—say, pre-1940—take a cue from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and plan for major improvements that will extend the life and livability of your abode. And if your home is a later model, be grateful that its maintenance and improvement doesn’t require the cast of hundreds that the White House does to maintain it!