Inside the presidential guest house — the 'world's most exclusive hotel' that's bigger than the White House where the Bushes are staying before George H.W. Bush's funeral

Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadPresident Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit with former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush at Blair House on December 4, 2018.
  • Blair House is the presidential guest house, just steps from the White House.
  • People call it the “world’s most exclusive hotel” because heads of state, royalty, and presidents-elect stay there as guests of the commander in chief.
  • Blair House was built in the 1820s as a family’s home, and then the US government bought it in 1942.
  • President Harry S. Truman even stayed there for four years while the White House was being renovated.

The White House may be the most famous building along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, but there’s a lesser-known government residence next door that has played a role in US history and American diplomacy for decades.

The Blair House, just steps from the north lawn of the White House, is the official presidential guest house.

Since World War II, it has acted as the “world’s most exclusive hotel,” hosting heads of state, royalty, and presidents-elect.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte stayed there for three days during President Donald Trump’s first official state visit.

And former President George W. Bush is staying there with his family before his father’s DC funeral.

While the White House remains the main meeting location for US presidents and their foreign visitors, the guest house carries significance. Take a look inside Blair House.

Blair House is the official presidential guesthouse.

It’s just across the street from the White House, at 1651 Pennsylvania Ave.

Blair House was built in the 1820s as a home for Joseph Lovell, the eighth surgeon general of the US Army.

Wikipedia CommonsBlair Mansion, sometime between 1918 and 1920.

In 1836, Francis Blair, a close friend and supporter of President Andrew Jackson, bought the home for $US6,500.

The US government then purchased it in 1942, while Franklin D. Roosevelt was president.

It has since served as the official guesthouse for foreign dignitaries, heads of state, and visiting delegations to Washington.

Wikipedia CommonsPresident John F. Kennedy hosted Panama’s president, Roberto F. Chiari, in June 1962.

President Harry S. Truman stayed in the house for about four years during his presidency while the White House was being renovated.

Abbie Rowe/US National Archives and Records AdministrationUK Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Blair House.

In 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists tried to assassinate Truman at the guesthouse. Police officers who stopped them from entering the home killed one and wounded the other at the scene.

Hulton Archive/GettyThe would-be assassin Oscar Collazo lies at the foot of the steps leading up the Blair House in November 1950.

Today, Blair House makes up a complex of “four seamlessly connected townhomes,” with 110 rooms across roughly 70,000 square feet.

Sources: US State Department, Blair House

It’s technically larger than the White House.

Sources: US State Department, Blair House

Each of Blair House’s 14 guest rooms has “a full bathroom, three formal dining rooms, two large conference rooms, a hot and cold kitchen overseen by an executive chef and sous chef, a fully equipped beauty salon, an exercise room, and an in-house laundry facility.”

Pete Souza/White HousePresident Barack Obama speaks with Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu before dinner at a retreat at Blair House in 2009.

Source: Blair House

There are also conference rooms, a library, and many seating areas for more intimate meetings. The finishings are traditional and luxurious.

“Since Blair House isn’t a hotel, the approach is to make guests feel like they’re staying in a personal residence,” says an article about the property in the November 2001 edition of the US Department of State’s magazine.

Source: State Magazine

Only those who are officially invited by the president are allowed to stay there.

Chris Kleponis – Pool/GettyPresident-elect Donald Trump departs Blair House to attend a church service at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Inauguration Day in 2017.

But an exception is made for presidents waiting to be sworn into office during the transition period.

The residence is officially managed by the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol. Full-time staff members are responsible for cleaning and preparing the home for visitors.

Alex Wong/GettyFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in one of the conference rooms in 2012.

Since major renovations in the 1980s, Blair House has been a frequent meeting place for bilateral negotiations and high-level talks.

A few notable guests include Queen Elizabeth II, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Michael Smith/GettyKing Juan Carlos of Spain with a member of the US-Spain Council at the Blair House on February 24, 2000.

Visitors typically meet with a wide range of US officials at the home.

Alex Wong/Blair HouseFrom left: Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji at Blair House on April 9, 1999.

After a meeting at the White House in 2015, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping walked to Blair House for a private dinner.

Rod Lamkey-Pool/GettyObama chats with Xi en route to dinner across the street from the White House on September 24, 2015.

A year later, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of Myanmar who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

When foreign dignitaries stay there, their countries’ flags are flown from the residence.

Alex Wong/GettyClinton meets with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at Blair House in 2009.

Source: Blair House

US officials frequently hosts dinners, official receptions, and parties at the residence, too.

Though few may know about the historical significance of Blair House, it has played a key role in American diplomacy over the years.

From April 23 to 25, the Macrons stayed at Blair House during their official state visit to the US — the first of Trump’s presidency.

When a former president dies, family members are also allowed to stay at the residence before the funeral.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesFormer first lady Laura Bush and former President George W. Bush greet first lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump outside Blair House on December 4, 2018.

Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush are staying there while they’re in DC for his father, former President George H.W. Bush’s, funeral. The Trumps visited them the night before the ceremony.

Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadPresident Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush at Blair House on December 4, 2018.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.