The wildest and weirdest facts about the White House, from hauntings to hot tubs

  • The White House has been home to exotic pets, weddings, deaths, and legends galore.
  • After it has hosted presidents and their families for more than two centuries, here are the most interesting facts about America’s most famous address.

Each day, scores of visitors are guided through the White House’s halls to see some of the most famous artifacts in the country’s history first-hand.

Though the White House’s many rooms and ornate decorations tell countless compelling stories, there are some lesser-known facets behind America’s most famous address.

See the deaths, additions, and legends inside the Executive Mansion:

Construction began in 1792 by a work crew comprised of slaves and immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, and other European countries.

Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty ImagesPhotograph of construction equipment outside the White House during major renovation. Dated 1950.

Source: The White House Historical Association

It is widely believed that Irish architect James Hoban won a newspaper contest to design the White House based on a design inspired by Leinster House, which houses the Irish Parliament in Dublin.

Source: Thrillist

George Washington, the first president, never actually lived in the White House. John Adams was the first president to move in on November 1, 1800, shortly before he lost re-election to Thomas Jefferson.

Wikimedia Commons

Source: The White House Historical Association

The building was known as “the Executive Mansion” until Theodore Roosevelt made the long-running nickname, “the White House” official.

Source: The White House Historical Association

A Christmas Eve fire in 1929 prompted some of the first major renovations to the interior of the White House under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They included the additions of an indoor pool, air conditioning, and wheelchair accessibility.

Source: The White House Historical Association

The White House is widely believed to be haunted, with accounts from staff and leaders spanning decades that describe sightings of figures like Andrew Jackson (who reportedly laughs and swears), Thomas Jefferson (who plays the violin), and Dolley Madison (who protects the Rose Garden).

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/GettyDecorations are seen on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013.

Sources: The Washington Post, The White House Historical Association

Former President Abraham Lincoln, who was reportedly visited by his son Willie after the 11-year-old died in the White House in 1862, has appeared to First Lady Grace Coolidge and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Lincoln, seen in the Lincoln Bedroom and Yellow Oval Room, is rumoured to appear when he thinks the country is in peril.

Sources: The Washington Post, The White House Historical Association

In 1940, Churchill was reportedly surprised by Lincoln’s ghost right after stepping out of a bath. “Good evening, Mr. President,” Churchill reportedly said to Lincoln. “You seem to have me at a disadvantage.”

Evening Standard/Getty ImagesWinston Churchill.

Source: The Washington Post

Richard Nixon had a bowling alley installed in the basement, which now also houses the Situation Room, a flower shop, carpenter’s shop, and a dentist’s office.

via Getty ImagesPresident Nixon is the picture of concentration as he releases bowling ball at Executive Office Building lanes Sept. 17. However, the camera catches Mr. Nixon’s left foot over the foul line.

Source: The White House Museum

Bill Clinton was gifted a seven-seat hot tub near the South Lawn that was installed next to the swimming pool. The owner of the company who donated the tub emphasised to the New York Times it was ”a very wholesome, legitimate therapy appliance.”

JAMAL WILSON/AFP/Getty ImagesUS President Bill Clinton pauses between practice putts the green outside the Oval Office at the White House before leaving for a golf outting 24 June in Washington DC

Source: The New York Times

To date, 10 people have died in the White House, including former presidents William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, and three first ladies.

Bettmann / Contributor via Getty ImagesDeath of William H. Harrison on April 4, 1841.

Source: The White House Historical Association

The White House is a popular wedding venue. Ulysses E. Grant put on the “first really grand White House wedding” in 1874 for his daughter, Nellie. First daughters Alice Lee Roosevelt, Lynda Bird Johnson, and Tricia Nixon are also among the 18 recorded weddings of family members and longtime staffers.

Source: The White House Historical Association

Former President Grover Cleveland, 49, married Frances Folsom, 22, in the Blue Room on June 2, 1886 in front of 50 guests before a grand dinner in the State Dining Room.

AP Photo, both

Source: White House Historical Association

Despite its popularity, weddings follow a strict code of conduct. Trump adviser Omarosa Manigault-Newman caused a stir when she brought her 39-person bridal party to the White House after her wedding at a nearby Trump Hotel for an extended photo shoot, pictures she was forbidden from posting.

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesOmarosa Manigault-Newman.

Source: Politico

Though White House functions are lavish, they aren’t free. The president is billed at the end of every month for groceries, hourly pay for waiters, cleanup crews used for private parties, and other expenses.

Source: Business Insider

Though presidents are commonly known to have dogs while in office, the White House has been home to a number of exotic pets including Tad Lincoln’s turkey (which sparked the pardoning tradition), the Roosevelt children’s pony, and Allan Hoover’s alligator.

David Valdez/White House via CNP/Getty ImagesFirst Lady Barbara Bush and her granddaughter look at the Bush’s pet dog Millie and her litter of puppies at the White House, March 18, 1989.

Source: The White House Historical Association, The Presidential Pet Museum

Many presidents have been openly miserable about living there. While Gerald Ford remarked it was the “best public housing” he had seen, Ronald Reagan said life in the White House like “a bird in a gilded cage.”

8383/Gamma-Rapho via Getty ImagesFour Presidents toast in the Blue Room prior to leaving for Egypt and President Anwar Sadat’s Funeral.

Source: The Atlantic

However, President Donald Trump has said he doesn’t have the same take on life in the Executive Mansion, telling Time Magazine that he gives tours to dinner guests to show off the classic American marvels including oil paintings and the Lincoln Bedroom.

Source: TIME

“You have to be a certain type of person,” Trump told Time, adding “people have no idea the beauty of the White House. The real beauty of the White House.”

Source: TIME

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