MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Is The White House White?

The most famous house in the country, the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in DC, is know for pristine white color (or lack thereof). Why is the White House white?

Our 1st President, George Washington, picked the site for the White House in 1791, the construction began in 1792 and, by the time Washington had completed his 2nd term in 1798, workers had finished it up. Instead of painting it with the usual paint, they actually used a lime-based whitewash to prevent water from leaking into & freezing within the porous sandstone.

The White House’s first resident, America’s 2nd President John Adams, moved in in 1800. It didn’t take long for folks to start referring to it not as “the President’s House” or “the Executive Mansion”, but by its nickname which alluded to its exterior hue…they called it “the White House”.

In August 1814, British troops set fire to the house, and not long after a rumor began circulating that the White House had been painted white to cover the damage (but it was just that, a rumor). The lime-based whitewashing that was done after the war was really just a continuation of the already-in-place tradition. Maintenance staff then switched to white lead paint (570 gallons of it) to cover the home in 1818 & keep up its beaming white facade.

The White House was still its informal nickname for the next 80-or-so years, until 1901 when President Teddy Roosevelt made it the residence’s official name. Roosevelt was also responsible for the major renovation at The White House that relocated the president’s offices to what we now know as the West Wing. And now YOU know why the White House has been, and still is, white.

If you’ve got a Mundane Mystery you’d like to know more about? Send me a message via Twitter (@AndyWebbRadio), or send an email to [email protected].

BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Berryville Graphics