The White House – WIF Fun Facts

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Fascinating Facts

About

the White House

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One of the most famous, if not the most famous, Presidential homes in the world is the White House, which is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Over 6,000 people visit it every day, and it is one of the top tourist attractions in America’s capital. Of course, besides being a famous monument, it is also a home that is steeped in history.

 These are 10 of the most fascinating facts about the White House and the people who lived in it.

10. They Had A Design Contest To Build It

In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which established Washington, D.C. as the capital of the United States. Congress also ordered that the capitol buildings, including the President’s House needed to be built within 10 years.

In order to find architectural plans for the house where the President would live, Congress held a contest. At the urging of George Washington, Irish-born architect James Hoban submitted his plans, which Encyclopedia Britannica said was influenced by Leinster House in Dublin.

Hoban won the contest and his reward was $500 and a lot in D.C. He was also hired on to oversee the construction of the President’s House, which started in 1793. The second President, John Adams, moved into the house in 1800, before it was actually finished.

The total cost of building the President’s House (its name before the White House) was$232,372, which is the equivalent of about $100 million today.

9. It Was Built By Slaves, Freed Slaves, And Immigrants

In July 2016, former First Lady Michelle Obama made some waves during her speech at the Democratic National Convention when she said “…I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” After the comment, several prominent people said it wasn’t true, or justified the use of slavery by saying they were “well-fed” slaves. However, Obama’s statement was totally correct.

According to the book The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House, about 400 of the 600 people who built the Capitol, including the White House, were slaves. The other 200 were about 50 freed slaves and the remainder were poor immigrants.

The White House Historical Association confirms that slaves did help build the White House, but they weren’t government owned. Instead, they just rented them out from slave owners. Because that totally makes it OK, right?

8. The British Burned It Down

In June 1812, the United States, which was only 36-years-old at the time, declared war on Great Britain. There were several underlying reasons for the war, but one of them was to take over Canada, which was a British colony, and make it part of America.

Throughout the war, each side had major victories and suffered terrible losses. One of the biggest military defeats for the Americans happened on August 24, 1813, when British forces invaded Washington, D.C. In retaliation for sacking York, which is now Toronto, the President’s House was relieved of a few souvenirs before it was set ablaze. The ensuing fire nearly destroyed the building. After torching the President’s House, several other prominent buildings in Washington were burned to the ground.

Rebuilding started soon afterwards and the White House was restored to its original architectural plans. In fact, James Hoban, who oversaw the original construction, was rehired to oversee the reconstruction to make it as close to the original as possible. The reconstruction was completed by 1817, just in time for President James Monroe to move in.

After the Burning of Washington, the Americans fought back against the British and won several important victories. This led to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. Part of the treaty was that any captured territory by either side would be returned.

What’s interesting is how this part of history is taught in schools in the United States and Canada, who have had uninterrupted peace with each other since the War of 1812. In the United States, students are taught that the War of 1812 was a war that earned the respect of the British and strengthened the nation as a whole, allowing them to expand westward.Canadian students, on the other hand, learn that the War of 1812 was the one time that the aggressive Americans tried to invade Canada and for their troubles, they got their capital and the White House burned down.

7. Why Is The White House White?

One myth about the White House is that it’s white to cover up the fire damage that was caused when it burned down in 1814. However, that isn’t true because it was white before it was set on fire. In 1798, a lime-based whitewash was painted on to protect the porous stone from cracking. Usually, the whitewash would have weathered and faded away. However, instead they kept reapplying the whitewash until 1818, when it was painted with lead-based white paint.

The house was originally called the President’s House, but since it was distinctively white, its nickname was the white house for almost a century. It wouldn’t officially become the White House until 1901 under President Theodore Roosevelt.

6. Pets There Have Included Alligators, Badgers, Bears, and a Dog Named Satan

Besides being home to the First Family, the White House has also had its fair share of pets. Out of 45 Presidents, there are only three Presidents who have no record of owning a pet: Chester A. Arthur, Franklin Pierce, and Donald Trump.

In most cases, the pets were dogs or cats. Abigail Adams had a dog named Satan, for instance. However, it’s also been home to some more exotic pets. Calvin Coolidge had a menagerie and the main attraction was a 600 pound pygmy hippopotamus named Billy.

Two different Presidents had alligators roam the White House grounds – Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams. Supposedly Adams kept a gator in the bathroom in the East Room and used it to scare guests.

Martin Van Buren was given two tiger cubs by the Sultan of Oman. However, supposedly Congress made him donate the cubs to a zoo.

Finally, Theodore Roosevelt had a badger named Josiah and was given a bear, which his children named Jonathan Edwards, by a group of voters in West Virginia. However, he didn’t have the proper accommodations for the bear, which Roosevelt called “queer-tempered,” and he ended up donating the bear to the Bronx Zoo.

5. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Shower

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, was a relentlessly hard worker who was known for getting things done. He was also a man with a strong sexual appetite who seemed to be obsessed with his own genitals. He was known to whip it out whenever and where ever he wanted to. So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that he had some odd requests when it came to his shower.

According to Kate Andersen Brower’s book The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, Johnson wanted to have several nozzles that switched from hot to cold. He also wanted the pressure to be intense, like a fire hose. Finally, he wanted a nozzle pointed directly at his genitals and to shoot up his rear end.

When the plumber said it couldn’t be done, Johnson himself called the plumber and chewed him out. To inspire him, Johnson said, “If I can move 10,000 troops in a day, you certainly can fix the shower.” So the plumber tinkered with the shower and it ended up with four nozzles. One time, an usher apparently tried the shower and it pinned him to the wall.

When Nixon moved into the White House in 1969, he ordered the plumber to get rid of Johnson’s shower.

4. Market Value

Before Donald Trump was elected President, we could say with certainty that the White House would never go on sale; but now, who knows what will happen? He is a real estate mogul, after all.

If he were to put it on the market, what would be a fair asking price? Well, the real estate website Zillow came up with an estimate for the house, which is a single family home with 142 rooms on six floors and about 55,000 square feet, and sits on an 18 acre lot. If you were to include all the historical artifacts with it and the hot tub that was installed under Bill Clinton (because of course Slick Willie installed a hot tub), then it would cost $398 million. Or if President Trump wanted to rent it out, it would cost $2,079,473.

3. The White House’s Deadly Water Supply

The ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison, holds two Presidential records and the common belief is that these two records are connected. The first is that Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech, which he did outside on a cold and miserable March day without a coat. The second record is that he was President for the shortest amount of time. He died on April 4, 1841, 32 days into his presidency, from what was believed to be pneumonia, which he caught while giving his long inauguration speech.

However, according to Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who did a modern-day medical investigation, Harrison most likely died of Typhoid Fever and not of pneumonia. The source of the typhoid fever was the White House’s water supply. Mackowiak also thinks that the water in the White House killed President James K. Polk, who died in 1849, three months after leaving the White House, and president Zachary Taylor, who died in office in 1850.

2. Does It Have Secret Passages?

One of the most mythical elements of the White House is its secret passages and tunnels. For example, it was rumored that John F. Kennedy used the tunnels to sneak out of the White House to meet Marilyn Monroe. However, that’s all they appear to be – myths.

While there have been renovations of the White House over the years, including additions, the White House wasn’t really designed to house things like tunnels and secret passages. The closest thing to a secret lair is the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, which was built after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time, the Council of National Defense urged Franklin D. Roosevelt to move out of the White House because they thought it was a “firetrap.” His compromise was to build a bomb shelter in the White House.

The Presidential Emergency Operations Center is in the basement of the East Wing. It serves as the communication center and it is able to withstand a nuclear blast. It’s also important to note that the shelter is not the same as the Situation Room, which is in the basement of the West Wing.

One notable time it was used was on September 11, 2001. Vice President Dick Chaney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, were evacuated from their offices into the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.

1. It Was Almost Torn Down In 1945 Because It Was In Such Bad Shape

By 1945, the White House had been lived in for 145 years and it was in rough shape. Besides being nearly destroyed in 1814, there was another fire in the White House on Christmas Eve 1929. The White House was hosting a party and when the fire started in the West Wing, Herbert Hoover left the party to oversee the removal of papers and documents from the Oval Office, while the First Lady kept the party going. The fire ended up gutting the West Wing, including the Oval Office.

Another problem was that the White House wasn’t constructed to have indoor plumbing and electricity and that was all added well after it was built. This added a lot of stress to the structure of the building. It got to be so bad that Harry S. Truman thought it was going to collapse. In fact, his daughter’s piano fell through a floor into the room below it.

The condition of the White House got to be so bad that it would have been cheaper to tear it down and build something new in its place. However, since it was a national monument Truman was against the idea. They chose to gut the interior of the White House and rebuild it as close to its original design as possible. The reconstruction took four years, during which time Harry and Bess Truman lived in Blair House, which is across the street from the White House.


The White House

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– WIF Fun Facts

Presidential Fun Facts

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 Fun Facts About American Presidents

It’s kind of a given that the President of the United States should be pretty smart. Despite what hack comedians will tell you about George W. Bush, an idiot can’t just walk into the White House and run the country. But even by the standards of the office, some of America’s most impressive minds could do some pretty ridiculous things.

10. Lyndon B. Johnson Could Find Out Everything about a Person

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At an impressive 6 ft 3 1?2 in (192 cm), Lyndon B. Johnson is the second tallest President in history. The tallest U.S. President was Abraham Lincoln at 6 ft 3 3?4in (192.4 cm). Johnson was well aware of his height, and often used it to his advantage to intimidate or coerce both political opponents and allies. He used what became colloquially known as “the treatment,” where he would use his massive frame and dominating presence to get all up in someone’s grill before making them spill their guts.

What made it so effective was Johnson’s incredible ability to find out exactlywhat made people tick. Johnson was able to find out basically everything about a person, from how they felt about political issues to their shoe size, and could recall all of it without error and with just the right tone of voice to persuade or bully someone to do whatever he wanted. This allowed Johnson to bring even staunch opponents who totally disagreed with him around to his way of thinking in a matter of minutes by overwhelming them with his intricate knowledge of their politics, ideas and flaws.

9. JFK Knew How to Shake Hands Perfectly

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Considering that John F. Kennedy allegedly slept with more beautiful women than a copy of Cosmo, it’s not going to come as a surprise that he was known as a fairly charismatic dude. However, President Kennedy wasn’t just charming and handsome — he was a borderline hypnotist when it came to influencing people.

For example, President Kennedy once commissioned an entire study on the art of shaking hands, all so that he could set the tone of a relationship from the instant he met someone. JFK’s handshake was so comforting and warming that it wasn’t uncommon for him to return after a long day of meeting people with ascratched up hand from the sheer amount of people clambering to grasp at his magical palm.

When it came to talking to people, JFK was known to be able to sway an entire crowd with nothing more than his smile, as you can see in this video of himkilling it in a question and answer session. What makes this more impressive is that JFK could reportedly turn on the charm at will, being able to influence people to his way of thinking even if they didn’t fully agree with it. We guess Magneto was right — JFK really did have a mutant superpower.

8. Teddy Roosevelt Could Read an Entire Book Before Breakfast

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There’s little we could say about how awesome Roosevelt was that wouldn’t just be us repeating ourselves, but few people realize that Roosevelt was both an unflinching badass and a huge nerd. It’s estimated that Roosevelt read in excess of 10,000 books, many of which were in foreign languages because even when it came to reading Roosevelt liked to challenge himself.

Roosevelt’s inhuman ability to eye-punch knowledge came about as a result of him teaching himself to speed-read, which allowed him to quickly gloss over a book while still retaining about 90% of the information it contained. This meant that Roosevelt could read a book or magazine in a matter of minutes or hoursand hold detailed, lengthy conversations about its contents like he’d studied it for years. Roosevelt’s thirst for knowledge was so great that he reportedly read a book before he ate breakfast every single day. Kind of makes you want to finish reading that novel you’ve had sitting around for a month and a half, huh?

7. Calvin Coolidge Only Lost One Election

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While Calvin Coolidge may not be the most well-known President, he’s noted as being one of the most electorally successful — in his entire political career he only lost once at the ballet box.

When Coolidge applied to be a member of Northampton, Massachusetts City Council in 1898, he won. A year later he was re-nominated but applied to be a City Solicitor instead, and won. This trend continued for the next few decades as Coolidge went from being a member of city council to a State Legislator, to a Mayor, to a Governor, to a Vice President and finally to being the President himself, winning almost every time by a landslide. In fact, when he became President Coolidge won the vote in every State with the sole exception of the home state of the guy running against him. When the time came for Coolidge to run again he politely declined, saying that 10 years in Washington was too much, even though many agree he would have won again. He retired with an almost flawless political record. The only loss Coolidge ever suffered was when he campaigned to be a member of a local School Board, because he didn’t have kids that went to that school.

6. James Garfield Could Write in Two Languages at the Same Time

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James Garfield is mostly remember alongside William McKinley as being one of the Presidents who was shot but didn’t have a cool hat or nice eyes. Which is a shame, because James Garfield is possibly the smartest man to ever hold office. Garfield had an exceptionally keen mind, teaching himself to be proficient in a multitude of disciplines and subjects. After just a year at college he was teaching classes on literature and ancient language, when previously he’d worked there as the janitor.

Garfield was also known to be ambidextrous, which he would show off to friends and colleagues by asking them to pose him a question before writing down the answer in Latin with one hand and Greek with the other, all while maintaining unflinching eye contact.

5. John Adams Had a Silver Tongue

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Even if your knowledge of American history is limited to whatever you managed to glean from Assassin’s Creed 3 in-between stabbing wolves, you can probably tell what happened at the Boston Massacre from the name alone. If you’re still a little fuzzy, the short version is that in 1770 eight British soldiers opened fire on a crowd of people in the middle of Boston, killing five people.

When the soldiers walked into the courtroom, almost everyone expected the sentence to be death. But with just a few words the future President was able to convince the entire jury that the men were innocent because they acted in self-defense, resulting in six of them walking free while the other two were given the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.

Just let that stew for a moment. John Adams managed to convince a jury to acquit a bunch of British soldiers charged with shooting people in the street at a time when revolutionary fervor was growingWe can’t even convince employees at Subway to give us extra ham.

4. Lincoln Trumped a 13,000 Word Speech In Two Minutes

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The Gettysburg Address is one of those speeches that will never be forgotten, mostly because you could write it on the back of a napkin. Clocking in at just 272 words and delivered in a little over two minutes, Lincoln’s speech was barely longer than the previous entry on this list and yet it’s consistently ranked as one of the greatest speeches ever given.

A fact that’s often overlooked is that Lincoln’s speech was never supposed to bethe Gettysburg Address. That honor originally belonged to the two hour, 13,000 word long speech given by Edward Everett. His speech, which is regarded as a masterpiece of oration given by a man famed for his abilities as a speaker, was trumped by little more than an off the cuff utterance from Lincoln. Immediately after Lincoln gave his speech, Everett, who’d spent weeks crafting his magnum opus, knew that he’d been bested and the next day he penned a letter to Lincoln saying that he was happy to come close with two hours to what Lincoln had accomplished in two minutes.

3. Andrew Jackson Managed to Pay Off All of America’s Debts

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Did you know that there’s only ever been one time in America’s history that the country’s been entirely debt free? It was all thanks to Andrew Jackson and how much he hated owing people money. When Jackson took office in 1829, he vowed that he’d eliminate America’s 58 million dollars of debt, the equivalent of paying off about 800 million today. Six years later, America was debt free — Jackson had somehow managed to pay off every cent through careful planning, frugal spending and telling creditors where to stick it.

Jackson’s feat has never since been equaled. Even worse is that America was only debt free for a year before it once again needed to borrow money. Still, Jackson accomplished something many thought to be impossible just because he really didn’t like the idea of running a country that owed someone money.

2. Thomas Jefferson Could Read Five Books at Once

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When it comes to smart Presidents it’s hard to top Thomas Jefferson. An expert in almost every subject he put his mind to, Jefferson could converse with anyone about anything effortlessly. President Kennedy once famously addressed a room filled with Nobel Prize winners by saying:

“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Nothing sums up Jefferson’s intelligence better than this, an invention personally created by Jefferson so that he could read five books simultaneously. Jefferson was a prolific writer who liked to consult multiple books while penning essays and letters, so to make this easier Jefferson created a revolving book stand that would allow him to read and consult multiple texts. We really think these should still be made so that we can see what happens if we stick 5 iPads to it.

1. George W. Bush Didn’t Need To Have Meetings Because He Already Knew It All

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Just to be clear, yes, we’re talking about the same President Bush who once said “Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?” the same President Bush who coined the term “Misunderestimate” and the same President Bush who once tried to exit a press conference through a locked door. Although pop culture has painted Bush as a buffoon, stupid people don’t get to be President of the United States. Part of the reason Bush is often seen as inept is his strong southern accent, which studies have shown makes someone appear less intelligent regardless of their educational background. In regards to Bush, while he wasn’t an amazing student he was by no means a poor one.

According to aides and people who’ve interviewed him George W. Bush is a remarkably smart man, with one interviewer describing him as “60 IQ points smarter in private than he was in public.” During his time as President, many commented on his ability to recall and absorb information with an extraordinary level of speed and comprehension. It’s said that Bush would often hurry people through presentations about complex policies because he’d already read through their notes and didn’t want his time wasted.

Presidential Fun Facts