The official residence and workplace of the President of the United States and a symbol of one of the most powerful nations in the world, the White House is undoubtedly one of the most famous and recognizable buildings in the world. Therefore, many things are well-known about this iconic piece of architecture. However, there are also some surprising and weird White House facts that most people are probably not aware of. From secret amenities hidden in the basement to ghosts that reportedly haunt the building, check out these 25 Interesting White House Facts You Probably Didn’t Know.
While first U.S. President, George Washington, selected the site for the White House, he actually never lived in it. Washington died in 1799, one year before the building was completed. The first residents of the White House were second U.S. President John Adams and his wife Abigail.
The White House took 8 years to complete, and it cost $232,372 which would be (adjusted for inflation) about $4 million today.
Before President Theodore Roosevelt made the White House name official in 1901, the building had been known by several other names including the President's Palace, the President's House, and the Executive Mansion.
An avid boxer and judo fighter, President Theodore Roosevelt is also famous for lining the White House basement with training mats and sparring there with anyone who was willing, including boxing champion John Sullivan and a Swiss minister.
The White House did not have running water until 1833 when it was installed under the Presidency of Andrew Jackson.
Measuring 168 ft (51.2 m) long and 86 ft (26.2 m) wide (without porticoes), the White House was the largest house in the U.S. for more than 60 years.
An indoor pool was added to the White House by disabled President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. An outdoor one was built in 1975 during the Presidency of Gerald Ford.
Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd U.S. President, was the first President to use electricity in the White House. However, he and his wife would never touch the light switches for fear of being electrocuted.
The White House is the world's only private residence of a head of state that the public can visit for free. The tours need to be booked in advance, though.
Originally, the White House was planned to be constructed by workers from Europe, but the response to recruitment was so dim that eventually African Americans (both enslaved and free) were hired for the construction.
Throughout its history, the White House has witnessed many deaths. Some of the people who have passed away in the house include President William Henry Harrison, President Zachary Taylor, Willie Lincoln (son of Abraham Lincoln), and First Lady Ellen Wilson.
In 1814, during the War of 1812, the White House was set ablaze by the British Army in the Burning of Washington, destroying the interior and charring much of the exterior.
The White House was designed by James Hoban, an Irish immigrant who came to America after the Revolutionary War. Hoban, whose design won a public competition, was inspired by the Leinster House in Dublin.
As much as 570 gallons of white paint is needed whenever the exteriors of the White House are repainted.
The White House has also been home to some unusual pets. Woodrow Wilson kept sheep, Abraham Lincoln goats, John F. Kennedy ponies, Theodor Roosevelt snakes, Calvin Coolidge lions, and Herbert Hoover alligators.
The White House is reportedly haunted by ghosts. Usually seen in the Lincoln Bedroom and Yellow Oval Room, the ghost of Abraham Lincoln is the most famous one. Many notable guests including Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands have claimed to see it.
For more details on these Lincoln sightings and more, be sure to check out 25 Frightening Paranormal Events Witnessed By People You’d Trust.
As amazing as living in the White House might sound, not all of the U.S. Presidents have really enjoyed it. President Harry Truman, for example, called it a “glamorous prison“ and “the great white jail.“
There are exactly 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators in the White House.
The famous White House jogging track was built during the Presidency of Bill Clinton, who wanted to exercise to lose weight.
Built by a Vietnamese engineer in 1995, there is an exact replica of the White House in McLean, Virginia. The McLean building was used in the movie "Independence Day" as a White House stand-in.
A plumber once had a nervous breakdown because President Lyndon Johnson's demands for high water pressure in his shower were so extreme.
The White House basement hall is full of unexpected amenities including a carpenter’s shop, florist, chocolate shop, paint shop, and even a dentist’s office.
One of the most famous Hollywood actors of all time, Tom Hanks, has already bought two espresso machines for the White House press-room to boost the journalists' efforts in their “fight for the truth.”
There is a code phrase to indicate that the President and the First Lady are having sex. The code phrase is “they are discussing the Bosnian problem.”
Even the U.S. President has to pay for his food and service in the White House. At the end of each month, the President receives a bill for himself and his family’s personal food and expenses including toiletries and dry cleaning.
Photos: 25-22. wikimedia commons (public domain), 21. pexels (public domain), 20. AgnosticPreachersKid, White House DC, CC BY-SA 3.0, 19. ABZ Private School, FreeGreatPicture.com-30424-swimming-pool, CC BY-SA 4.0, 18. wikimedia commons (public domain), 17. Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon (public domain), 16-14. wikimedia commons (public domain), 13. Tebibyte, LeinsterHouseDublin2010, CC BY-SA 3.0, 12. pexels (public domain), 11. publicdomainpictures.net (public domain), 10-8. wikimedia commons (public domain),7. us national archives via flickr, no copyright restrictions, 6. wikimedia commons (public domain), 5. publicdomainpictures.net (public domain), 4. pixabay (public domain), 3. Dick Thomas Johnson from Tokyo, Japan, Sully Japan Premiere Red Carpet- Tom Hanks (29830288395), CC BY 2.0, 2. wikimedia commons (public domain), 1. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza (public domain)