- from Washington, D.C.
Imagine living in a house where the roof leaks, the walls aren’t plastered, and the “yard” is a large expanse of mud.
That’s what the presidential mansion was like when John and Abigail Adams became its first residents in 1800. Without a yard for drying laundry, Mrs. Adams had wet sheets hung in the large drafty reception hall at the east end of the house.
Construction on the house kept going. By the time James Madison took office in 1809, the house was presentable enough for his charming wife, Dolley, to preside over lavish parties. She often served ice cream at these events, making it a popular treat in the U.S. The Madison parties came to an abrupt end when the British attacked Washington in 1814 and burned the presidential mansion.
The rebuilt house was painted white to cover the scorched stone. From then on it was unofficially known as the White House. President Theodore Roosevelt, who served from 1901 to 1909, finally made the name official when he had it printed on his stationery.
Over the years, the White House has undergone many changes. Today, it has 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms.