Podcast Episodes

A White House Burns

One of the very symbols of our nation is a residence for our highest elected official, designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban in the neoclassical style, using sandstone painted white. When Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, he and architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe added low colonnades on each wing that concealed stables and storage. Not long after, the house for our Nation’s president would almost be obliterated.

Today on America’s National Parks, The White House, part of the National Park Service’s Presidents Park, in Washington DC.

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President’s Park – National Park Service Website


Transcript

One of the very symbols of our nation is a residence for our highest elected official, designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban in the neoclassical style. Hoban modeled the building on Leinster House in Dublin, a building which today houses the Oireachtas, the Irish legislature. Construction took place between 1792 and 1800 using sandstone painted white. When Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, he and architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe added low colonnades on each wing that concealed stables and storage. Not long after, the house for our Nation’s president would almost be obliterated.

Today on America’s National Parks, The White House, part of the National Park Service’s Presidents Park, in Washington DC.

With more on the early years of the enduring symbol of the leader of the free world, here’s Rosie Teverow from the National Park Service.



Burn marks are still visible on the White House today. Reconstruction began almost immediately, and President James Monroe moved into the partially reconstructed Executive Residence – it’s original name – in October 1817. Exterior construction continued with the addition of the semi-circular South portico in 1824 and the North portico in 1829.

As the presidency modernized, the White House was nearly always too small for its function. Overcrowding led President Theodore Roosevelt to have all work offices relocated to the newly constructed West Wing in 1901. Eight years later in 1909, President William Howard Taft expanded the West Wing and created the first Oval Office, which was eventually moved as the section was expanded. In the main mansion, the third-floor attic was converted to living quarters in 1927 by augmenting the existing hip roof with long shed dormers. A newly constructed East Wing was used as a reception area for social events; Jefferson’s colonnades connected the new wings. East Wing alterations were completed in 1946, creating additional office space.

By 1948, the residence’s load-bearing exterior walls and internal wood beams were found to be close to failure. Under Harry S. Truman, the interior rooms were completely dismantled and a new internal load-bearing steel frame constructed inside the walls. Once this work was completed, the interior rooms were rebuilt.

The modern-day White House complex includes the Executive Residence, the West Wing, the East Wing, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses offices for the President’s staff and the Vice President, and Blair House, a guest residence. The Executive Residence is made up of six stories—the Ground Floor, State Floor, Second Floor, and Third Floor, as well as a two-story basement. The property is a National Heritage Site owned by the National Park Service as part of the President’s Park.

If you want to visit the White House, there are some things you need to know. First off, you can’t get very close on the outside. The South Lawn can be viewed from a walkway along the fence, a good football field’s length from the actual building. Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side of the building is generally shut down to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

The National Park Service does not schedule White House tours or provide tickets to enter the White House. Public tour requests must be submitted through your Member of Congress. These self-guided tours are generally available Tuesday through Saturday (excluding federal holidays or unless otherwise noted). Tours are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. Requests can be submitted up to three months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance. You are encouraged to submit your request as early as possible as a limited number of spaces are available. The White House tour is free of charge, but also subject to last minute cancellation.

The new White House Visitor Center is a couple blocks away to the southeast. Here you’ll find an accessible building with approximately 100 historical artifacts, interpretive panels, looping videos of photos and archival footage, and interactive elements for visitors of all ages.

Even though this building is not on the White House campus, a security screening is required to enter, just like at the Airport.

This episode of America’s National Parks was hosted by me, Jason Epperson, and narrated by Abigail Trabue. If you enjoyed the show, we’d love a 5-star review wherever you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Just search “National Park Podcast.” You can also join our new America’s National Parks Facebook group. We’ll link to all of our social media, as well as National Park Service resources, music credits, and more in the show notes at National Park Podcast dot com.

If you are interested in RV travel, give us a listen over at the RV Miles Podcast. You can also follow Abigail and I as we travel the country in our converted school bus with our three boys at Our Wandering Family dot com.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #beanoutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.


Music

Provided through the generosity of the artists under a creative commons license.

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