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White House Facts

If you’d like to add more White House facts to your trivia repertoire, then you’ve come to the right place. The White House, along with its formal features, has a rich history that many Americans are unaware of.

Some Basic White House Facts

White House

The White House’s decorative features are an interesting part of its heritage. Some fixtures, such as the Oval Office and Rose Garden, change with the times. For example, did you know that the president can decorate the Oval Office to suit his individual preferences? The president can also borrow major works of art and place them in the White House for the duration of his administration. President Bill Clinton borrowed Auguste Rodin’s famous bronze statue The Thinker, and President George W. Bush borrowed several famous paintings to decorate his quarters.

The Rose Garden earned its place in American history. The phrase Rose Garden Strategy refers to political discussions that stay within the White House grounds, as opposed to traveling elsewhere. One particularly poignant Rose Garden Strategy occurred in July 1994 when the Rose Garden hosted the signing of a declaration of peace between Israel and Jordan.

Facts about the Oval Office

The West Wing’s Oval Office has a distinct history all its own. The original Oval Office was designed by architect Nathan Wyeth in 1909, and was damaged in a fire in 1929. Five years later, in 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt renovated the West Wing and created a new Oval Office, which is the one the president uses now. This newer office was designed by architect Eric Gugler.

The desk that sits in the middle of the Oval Office is called "The Resolute Desk," because it was built with reclaimed wood from a British ship called The HMS Resolute. A gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes, this desk has been a part of the White House since 1880. Depending on the administration, the desk occasionally resides in the president’s private study, rather than the Oval Office.

A metal plate on the desk says the following:

H.M.S. RESOLUTE forming part of the expedition sent in search of SIR JOHN FRANKLIN IN 1852, was abandoned in latitude 74 degrees 41 minutes N longitude 101 degrees 22 minutes W on 15th May 1854. She was discovered and extricated in September 1855 in latitude 67 degrees N by Captain Buddington of the United States Whaler GEORGE HENRY.

The ship was purchased, fitted out and sent to England as a gift to HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA by the PRESIDENT AND PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES as a token of goodwill & friendship. This table was made from her timbers when she was broken up, and is presented by the QUEEN OF GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND to the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES as a memorial of the courtesy and loving kindness which dictated the offer of the gift of the RESOLUTE.

Other White House Facts

These fun facts will surely improve your White House trivia score:
  • The first President to actually reside at the White House was President John Adams, with his wife Abigail.
  • George Washington never actually lived in the White House, though he oversaw its construction.
  • In order to paint the entire outside surface of the White House, it would require over 570 gallons of paint.
  • The White House comes equipped with all sorts of fun areas, such as a tennis court, a movie theater, several pool tables, and even a bowling alley.
  • There has never been a computer in the Oval Office. If he gets his way, President Barack Obama will be the first President to bring the Oval Office "online."
  • President Theodore Roosevelt gave the White House its name in 1901. Before that, it was known as "The Executive Mansion."
  • The White House welcomes over 7,000 visitors a day, including tourists, diplomats, politicians, and other White House staff.
  • There are 35 bathrooms in the White House, 28 fireplaces, and three elevators!
  • The White House has survived several fires, some of which required major repairs.

By Stephanie Stiavetti