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White House Travel Guide

The White House is Washington, D.C.’s oldest public building and home of the U.S. president. In fact, the only president not to have resided at the White House was George Washington. At the White House, the President signs bills into laws, meets with world leaders, entertains diplomats and political heads-of-states, and tries to live a private family life. The White House has remained true to its original appearance and design, although it was burned during the War of 1812 by the British-Canadians and had to be rebuilt.[1]

This famous building was designed by James Hoban, who employed the symmetries of Georgian manor houses in the British Isles. Since its completion in 1792, it has seen a number of expansions and renovations. The biggest of these took place from 1948 to 1952, when the White House was gutted; furniture and paneling was taken out, a new basement dug, new foundations laid, and steel framework installed. The exterior and design remained the same, but the White House was now a much safer place to live.[2]

Today, public tours of the White House can be taken, a popular attraction that draws well over two million people a year. The lines, however, are long. A reserved tour booked in advance features a close-up of inside rooms. These group tours must be booked six months in advance. Otherwise, only the public parts of the White House are seen in the regular group tours. Alternatively, you can visit the White House Visitor Center in the lobby of the Commerce Department Building where there are displays and videos on every aspect of the White House, including the architecture, furnishings, and social events.[3]

Scheduled Group Tour
If you manage to book an advanced group tour, you’ll get to tour the inside rooms. Be sure to peer through the glass-walls to get a glimpse of the modern sculptures and plants in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. This tour will allow you to walk through the State Floor where you’ll find the East Room. This is where press conferences, award ceremonies, receptions, and family weddings of former presidents have taken place. The floors are alleged smeared with skid marks caused by the children of Teddy Roosevelt roller-skating through the hall.[4]

The tour also passes through the Green Room, which was used as a dinning room and reception parlor by Thomas Jefferson. The Green Room’s furniture is primarily early 19th century. Next, the tour continues to the Blue Room where elegant furniture purchased by James Monroe decorate the oval room. Guests are still received in this room. Adjacent is the Red Room, which is where the First Ladies frequently entertain. The Red Room is furnished with an early 19th century American Empire parlor.[5]

One of the highlights of the tour is the State Dining Room, which seats 130 people. It boasts oak paneling painted in the 1902 renovation. Outside, Tennessee marble floors line the Cross Halls and a marble staircase leads to the upper floors which are open only to the First Family and their guests. Rooms up there include the Queen’s Bedroom and the Lincoln Bedroom. The West Wing features the Cabinet Room and the President’s Oval Office which is next to the Rose Garden.[6]

All told, the White House has more than 130 rooms, including an indoor swimming pool, bowling lane, tennis court, movie theatre, jogging track, and billiard room. Unfortunately, photos are prohibited.[7]

Thompson, John, and Richard T. Nowitz. Washington, DC, 2nd Edition. National Geographic Society, 2005. ISBN: 0792238877.

[1] Thompson, 108-09
[2] Id. at 109
[3] Id. at 110-11
[4] Id. at 112
[5] Id. at 113
[6] Id.
[7] Id.

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