White House Cornerstone

April 1, 2021

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 the build the White House. The stone was not *naturally* white – but “light gray or tan, and is streaked or clouded with buff, yellow, or red colors that give it a warm tone,” according to the U.S. geographical survey.

Why “White” House?

  • The Contrast: Traditionally, buildings of the era were constructed in red brick.
  • The “White Wash”: The original sandstone weathered poorly so after the British burned parts of the White House in the War of 1812, repairs incl. white-washing & painting the exterior.
  • The Style: Irish-born architect modeled the White House from a famous, grand mansion in Ireland.

“The Seat Of The Empire”

  • Pres. Washington chose the location of the “executive mansion”, strategically near rivers (& his home in Mt. Vernon).
  • Maryland & Virginia each gave a little land to create the District of Colombia.
  • D.C. straddles the North & South, “harnessing” wealthy southern states to help pay the federal gov’t’s war debt.
  • What’s inside: 28 fireplaces, 132 rooms, & 35 bathrooms. The President’s residence has 6 levels.

Whoever “wins the White House” this year will follow a tradition of every U.S, president since Pres. John Adams, the first inhabitant, in 1800 – a full 8 years after construction began. Adams wrote the line on the front of our card stack in a letter to his wife Abigail a day after moving in.

Thank you to the Library of Congress for flagging this special day: https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/october-13/

Who knew sandstone was so. interesting? USGS

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

by Jenna Lee,