White House Cornerstone Laid

October 12, 2022

October 13, 1792

“May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

The cornerstone of the White House was laid.

Not A Natural White

“… a quality of toughness without brittle hardness.”

A description of the unusual sandstone used to build the White House. The stone was not *naturally* white – but “light gray or tan, and it is streaked or clouded with buff, yellow, or red colors that give it a warm tone,” according to the United States Geological Survey.

Why “White” House?

  • The Contrast: Traditionally, buildings of the era were constructed in red brick.
  • The “Whitewash”: The original sandstone weathered poorly, and after the British burned parts of the White House in the War of 1812, repairs included whitewashing & painting the exterior.
  • The Style: An Irish-born architect modeled the White House based on a famous, grand mansion in Ireland.

“The Seat Of The Empire”

  • Pres. Washington chose the exact location of the “executive mansion,” strategically near rivers (& his home in Mount Vernon).
  • Maryland & Virginia each gave a little land to create the District of Columbia.
  • D.C.’s location straddled the North & South, unifying both regions; founders wanted wealthy southern states to feel connected to the federal government (& help pay war debt).
  • What’s inside? 28 fireplaces, 132 rooms, & 35 bathrooms over 6 levels.

Pres. John Adams was the first inhabitant of the White House in 1800 – a full 8 years after construction began. Pres. Adams wrote the line on the front of our card stack in a letter to his wife Abigail a day after moving in.

The White House was officially given its name in 1901 by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt. Before then, it had been known as the “President’s Palace,” the “President’s House,” & the “Executive Mansion.”

Thank you to the Library of Congress for flagging this special day: Today in history, LOC

Who knew sandstone was so interesting? USGS

Here’s a description of the rooms in the White House: CLICK HERE

by Jenna Lee,