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15 strange secrets of the White House

01:05, Friday, 16 March, 2018
15 strange secrets of the White House

The storied 55,000 square foot mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. may go by many a name, but most Americans are unaware of all the presidential mansion's secrets.

From its architecture and design to secret rooms and the ghosts that allegedly haunt it, explore these fifteen little known facts that make the White House the residence it is today.

1. It has a twin house in Ireland

When Irish architect James Hoban entered a newspaper contest to find a builder for the “President’s House” in 1792, it’s thought that he based his winning design on the Leinster House in Dublin, Thrillist reports. Today, it’s the home of the Irish Parliament.

2. It’s absolutely massive
     With 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, 412 doors, and 147 windows spread across the six elevator-laden levels of the mansion, you could throw a seriously epic game of hide-and-go-seek...though Secret Service probably wouldn’t be cool with that.

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3. There’s tons of supercool “secret” rooms

While everyone’s familiar with White House spaces like the Oval Office, the Situation Room, and Press Briefing Room, most folks don’t realize that the mansion also houses tons of niche rooms added by the presidents through the years.

From the movie theater to the Calligraphy Office, Game Room, Music Room, and the Solarium, there’s also a Chocolate Shop, Flower Shop and dentist’s office on the ground floor, according to AOL and the White House Museum.

4. But not every president has enjoyed living there

As lush as life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may seem, not every president has called it a happy home. President Truman was quoted as describing it as "the great white jail" and "a glamorous prison,” while President Nixon famously talked with the presidential portraits during his final, alcohol-buzzed days there, The Atlantic reports.

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5. George Washington never lived there
     Though the nation's first Commander chose the site of the presidential mansion, he left office in 1797 and died in 1799, a year before construction was completed, according to the White House Historical Association. John Adams and Abigail Adams were the first residents, and all presidents since have called it home during their time in office.

6. It was built by slaves

According to Smithsonian, historic payroll documents reveal that many builders involved with constructing the White House were enslaved. The architect James Hoban employed his own slaves Ben, Daniel, and Peter as carpenters on the project.

7. Teddy Roosevelt dubbed it the “White House”
     Before the 26th president made the nickname official in 1901, the president’s home was known by several different names like the President's Palace, the President's House, and the Executive Mansion, according to the White House Historical Association.

8. The West Wing didn't exist until 1902

The iconic wing which inspired a longtime television drama was born of a humorous situation. According to the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, Teddy Roosevelt had the space constructed for quiet, interrupted work, as his six children proved too distracting.


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9. It was updated as wheelchair-accessible for FDR
     The residence was updated as wheelchair accessible when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved in in 1933, one of the first government buildings in D.C. to do so, according to the FDR Library.

10. Exotic pets have called it home
     Though the Trump family reportedly does not have any pets at the White House, they’re alone in that regard. More exoctic pets who have called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home include John Quincy Adams’ alligator that lived in the bathroom, Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter’s snake, Emily Spinach, and Calvin Coolidge’s menagerie that included a bear cub, lion cubs, a bobcat, a wallaby, and a pygmy hippopotamus, Travel + Leisure reports.

11. 570 gallons of paint are needed to cover the exterior

Keeping the executive residence in tip top shape is no small order, according to the book “The White House: The Home of the U.S. President.” 570 gallons of paint are required to keep the mansion’s exterior looking glossy and white.

12. It’s a wildly popular tourist attraction.

Every week, White House welcomes around 30,000 visitors and receives 65,000 letters, 3,500 phone calls and 100,000 emails, according to the History Channel. Visitors do have to request and book tours in advance, though.

13. 140 people can eat dinner at once.

Talk about a dinner party! Given the size of the State Dining Room and the kitchen staff's resources, National Geographic notes that the president could theoretically serve 140 people at once.

14. Staffers have just 12 hours to move in a new president's belongings on inauguration day.

While the newly elected president greets the nation and makes their inaugural address, staffers are busy around the clock moving the new leader's belongings in. According to Elle Décor, move-in begins at noon, and staffers have twelve horus to unpack, arrange all furniture and tidy up.

15. Some believe it’s haunted
     Though many former residents have reported eerie sightings at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, one story stands out. During a visit to the nation's capitol during World War I, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was shocked to spot a ghostly Lincoln sitting by the fireplace in his room as Churchill emerged naked from the bath tub, the History Channel notes.

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