Inside Number One Observatory Circle, the often overlooked but stunning vice president's residence where the Pences live

Almost everyone knows the White House, but few people know that the vice president has an official residence of his own.

Vice President Mike Pence and his family currently live at Number One Observatory Circle, located on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.

The private complex has been the official residence of the vice president since 1974. Walter Mondale was the first VP to move into the house.

Here’s a look inside the historic residence:


The private residence at Number One Observatory Circle was built in 1893. It’s just 2.5 miles from the White House, but feels worlds away.


It is located on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory, where scientists study the sun, moon, and stars for navigational purposes.

Wikipedia CommonsThe 26-inch refracting telescope on-site that found the moons of Mars.

For 30 years, it served as the home of the superintendent of the US Naval Observatory. Then in 1923, it became the official residence for the head of the Navy.

Source: The White House


In 1974, Congress designated the house as the home of the vice president.

Wikipedia CommonsJimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter gather with Walter Mondale and Joan Mondale for dinner at the Vice-President’s residence.

But the first vice president didn’t move in until three years later, when Walter Mondale was elected second-in-command under President Jimmy Carter.

Wikipedia CommonsVice President Walter Mondale hosts a dinner party for President Jimmy Carter and his family.

The ground floor has a reception hall, living room, sitting room, dining room, garden room, lounges, pantry kitchen, and veranda.

Source: The White House Museum


On the second floor is the master suite, another bedroom, a study, and a den. The attic used to be servants’ quarters, but now has four bedrooms for children. The main kitchen is in the basement.

Official White House Photo by David LienemannAn exterior shot of the Vice President’s residence on April 2, 2012.

Source: The Washington Post


Every vice president has lived there since Mondale, bringing their own unique touch to the home’s 9,150 square feet.

George H.W. Bush Presidential Library & MuseumGeorge H.W. Bush and his wife at the Naval Observatory the day after then Vice President Bush won the 1988 presidential election.

“It really changed from one administration to another,” Charles Denyer, an historian and author of a new book about the residence, told USA Today in November.

Chip Somodevilla/GettyA military harpist plays music during a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden.

Source: USA Today


George H.W. Bush installed a horseshoe pit on the grounds when he was vice president.

David Hume Kennerly/GettyGeorge H.W. Bush answers a phone call in the residence circa 1983.

Source: USA Today


When Dick Cheney and his family moved in, they decorated the home using a neutral colour scheme of of creams and greens.

Source: The Washington Post


People can donate to the Vice President’s Residence Foundation, a non-profit organisation created in 1991, to help pay for decorating expenses.

David Hume Kennerly/GettyGeorge H.W. Bush and the Bush’s Golden Cocker Spaniel, C. Fred, at the residence circa 1983.

Source: The Center for Public Integrity


When Al Gore’s family lived there, lacrosse sticks and drumsticks were reportedly always lying around.

Source: USA Today


The house features Queen Anne-style architecture, and a gorgeous porch that wraps around the front corner.

Wikipedia CommonsThe veranda.

Dan Quayle added a swimming pool and exercise room during his tenure. In 2010, Joe Biden told reporters that Quayle was his “favourite vice president” because he helped build the pool.

@SecondLadyThe pool is heated and often used for hosting special events, like this pool party the Pences hosted for military families over the summer.

Source: USA Today


Jill Biden, Joe’s wife, was also grateful. “Each person has added something to make the home better for the next family,” she told The Washington Post.

Source: The Washington Post


She was also especially fond of the “serenity” of the place. “When times get tough, and there were some pretty tough times for the Bidens, you could sit outside and reflect. It was very healing,” she said.

Alex Wong/GettyThe Bidens host Wounded Warriors for an early Thanksgiving dinner at the massive dining table on November 19, 2012.

Numerous leaders and dignitaries have been to the residence over the years. In 2015, Biden hosted Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

@VP44Biden talks with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny over breakfast.

When the Pences moved in, Jill Biden told them that the Observatory is nothing like Washington, where she said life is truly hectic each and every day.

White HouseDonald and Melania Trump dine with Mike and Karen Pence.

But the Pences have made the Observatory their home. After moving in, they posed for Inauguration Day photos on the front porch.


They took their most recent official Christmas portrait from what looks like the sitting room. Just like the White House, the Observatory was all decked out for the holidays.


The house can be quite magical during the winter, especially when it snows.

Official White House photo by D. Myles CullenChristmas 2017 at the vice president’s residence.

Second Lady Karen Pence, a former art teacher, often paints at the living room table. Two of her paintings are on display at the house.

@SecondLady‘A piece of Indiana at the VP Residence! Douglas David delivered a beautiful painting of his artwork. The peony is the IN state flower,’ she tweeted.

Since declaring art therapy as her official cause as Second Lady, she has hosted events for US soldiers suffering from PTSD.

Wikipedia CommonsKaren Pence welcomes service members on March 23, 2017.

Sources: The New York Times, Washington Life Magazine


Just like their predecessors, the Pences have hosted a broad range of guests, including politicians and world leaders.

@SecondLady‘Enjoyed welcoming Senate spouses to the Vice President’s Residence this afternoon to celebrate the holiday season,’ Karen Pence tweeted.

In June, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue joined Karen Pence to unveil the addition of bee hives to the grounds.

US Department of AgricultureSonny Perdue and his wife Mary joined Karen Pence for a walk on the grounds in June. Carrying her shoes, the second lady walked barefoot so her heels wouldn’t get caught in the grass.

Karen also met with Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, in the garden room in October.


The Pences made use of the spacious patio by the pool in the summer.


But the public rarely gets the chance to see the property for themselves. There are no public tours and the house is hidden from the street. “If you don’t know about it, it’s not there,” historian Denyer said.

Source: USA Today

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

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