On this day in 1792, the cornerstone of what is now known as the White House was laid in the nation’s new capital city of Washington, D.C. In honor of the anniversary of this momentous event, here are 6 interesting facts about the White House. that you probably didn't know.
It Didn't Always Have an Official Name
The term "White House" first appeared in newspapers before the War of 1812, according to the White House Historical Association. But it was President Theodore Roosevelt, who, in 1901, designated the official name of the residence of the U.S. president to be the White House. (Previous names included the Presidents' House, the Executive Mansion, the Presidential Palace, and the Presidential Mansion.) It's also known as "The People's House."
It Isn't The Original White House
The British burned down the White House during an invasion in 1814. Only 14 years after the original construction was finished, the same architect, James Hoban, was tasked with rebuilding. The White House 2.0 was completed in 1817, though Hoban would return on occasion in the following years to add porticos to the north and south sides.
The White House Didn't Have Electricity for Nearly a Century The White House was entirely lit by gas lights until 1891, when electricity was first installed. And as electric lighting was still a relatively new concept, the current president at that time, Benjamin Harrison, was skeptical of the dangers and worried he would be shocked if he touched a light switch. His solution? He never once touched one himself.
Room Is Free, But Board Is Not Though it comes with a few perks like living in the White House, traveling in Air Force One, and the $400,000 annual salary — not everything is included as part of the job. Though the White House comes with its own chef, presidents and their families must pay for their own food. In fact, the presidents is also responsible for paying their own dry cleaning, hair and makeup, and all private events (and the wages for those working the private events). As such, many presidents have left the White House in serious debt.
It's Been Home To Many Animals The White House has seen its fair share of cats and dogs, but it's also housed a number of more unusual pets. When the Coolidge's were sent a raccoon to cook for Thanksgiving dinner, they opted instead to keep it as a pet, naming her Rebecca. President Harrison kept two opossums named Mr. Protection and Mr. Reciprocity. The craziest pets, though, were a pair of tiger cubs gifted to President Van Buren.
The White House Has Been Home to Several Deaths Presidents William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor both died in the White House. Three First Ladies—Letitia Tyler, Caroline Harrison, and Ellen Wilson—passed away there, too. To date, ten people have died within the confines of the White House.