The White House gets mentioned in the news arguably more often than any other edifice in the U.S. Not only is it the president’s home, office, and event space, it’s also used to refer to the president’s administration or the executive branch more generally.
The building, which is nearly as old as our government itself, has its own rich history. And based on internet search volume, people are pretty interested in learning a little more about it. Online Mortgage Advisor analyzed global search data to compile a list of the most frequently asked questions about the White House, from the simple “Where is it?” to the much more fascinating “How many bathrooms does it have?”
In honor of Presidents Day, here are the answers to those and 10 other common queries about POTUS’s pad.
1. Where is the White House?
The White House is in Washington, D.C., but the original president’s residence was actually a three-story brick house in Philadelphia. George Washington and John Adams both lived and worked there during their terms, and Washington called it “the best single house in the city.”
2. When was the White House built?
The Founding Fathers moved the U.S. capital from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in 1790, and the cornerstone for the White House was laid on October 13, 1792. According to The White House Historical Association, the site's location between two pro-slavery states led to the decision to recruit laborers from Europe to help build The White House. But they didn't get a lot of takers, so instead relied on Black workers—both free and enslaved men—to construct The White House.
As The White House Historical Association writes on its website:
"Stonemason Collen Williamson trained enslaved people on the spot at the government's quarry at Aquia, Virginia. Enslaved people quarried and cut the rough stone that was later dressed and laid by Scottish masons to erect the walls of the President's House. The slaves joined a work force that included local white laborers and artisans from Maryland and Virginia, as well as immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, and other European nations."
Though it was fit for residency by 1800, construction was sort of an ongoing process for the next few decades. British troops burned part of The White House down during the War of 1812, which necessitated a significant restoration project. James Monroe added the South Portico in 1824; and the North Portico was built in 1829, during Andrew Jackson’s term.
3. How many rooms are in the White House?
The White House comprises 132 rooms, including more than a few offbeat ones. There’s the music room, where Bill Clinton was known to practice his saxophone, and the bowling alley, which Harry Truman added in 1947 (and Richard Nixon moved in 1969). There’s also a chocolate shop, a flower shop, and a home theater.
4. Who designed the White House?
James Hoban learned carpentry in Ireland before immigrating to the U.S. to pursue a career as an architect. He designed the original White House, and he also spearheaded its reconstruction after the fire during the War of 1812.
5. How big is the White House?
The White House is 168 feet long and 85.5 feet wide (or 152 feet, if you include its porticoes), with a total floor space of about 55,000 square feet. At its highest point, the building is 70 feet tall.
6. Who was the first President to live in the White House?
John Adams and his wife Abigail moved into the mansion on November 1, 1800, but they didn’t stay for long. Almost immediately after moving into The White House, Adams lost his reelection to Thomas Jefferson, and vacated the building's premises before Jefferson’s inauguration on March 4, 1801.
7. What is the full address of the White House?
If you’re looking to send a letter to the White House (which you can do), its full address is:
The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500
8. How old is the White House?
It’s been 229 years since the cornerstone was laid in 1792, but the White House has gotten its fair share of facelifts over the years. Theodore Roosevelt launched a huge renovation in 1902, and Harry Truman had pretty much everything but the building’s exterior demolished and rebuilt between 1948 and 1952.
9. How many bathrooms are in the White House?
The White House now boasts 35 bathrooms. The first modern facility can be credited to Franklin Pierce, who in 1853 added a bathroom on the second floor with both hot and cold water taps.
10. How much is the White House worth?
According to Zillow, the White House is worth about $418 million, and renting it would cost you nearly $1.7 million per month. (No, it’s not for sale.)
11. Who owns the White House?
Technically speaking, the president’s home is a national park. The White House is owned by the National Park Service, which also maintains the grounds. Congress grants each president a stipend to cover changes to the Oval Office and the first family’s private residence, but some POTUSes —including Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama—have opted to use their own money.
12. How many floors are in the White House?
The White House has six floors, two of which are below ground level. The ground floor houses the West Wing, which includes the Oval Office and the Situation Room (among other rooms). Receptions are usually hosted on the first floor, often called the “State Floor.” The second floor is the first family’s primary residence, and the third floor is mostly recreational rooms like the gym and game room.