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The White House in the 20th Century


President Theodore Roosevelt led an extensive renovation of The White House in 1902. Roosevelt’s large family put a strain on the inadequate living quarters of the house. Office space and bedrooms existed side by side. In addition, some of the support structure of the home was beginning to show its age. For safety reasons, the floors of the State Dining Room and East Room were reinforced with wooden planks whenever a large number of guests were expected for an event.

Roosevelt set out to bring The White House into the 20th century. The conservatories were razed to make room for a new office building, which is today known as The West Wing. The renovation doubled The White House’s living space, expanded the State Dining Room, and moved the visitors’ entrance from the north side to the east side. Most of what we see today was the result of the 1902 renovation.

The Oval Office was not part of this renovation. President Howard Taft hired Nathan C. Wyeth to design a new office for the President in 1909. However, this was not the current Oval Office. President Franklin Roosevelt expanded the West Wing and relocated the Oval Office to its current location in 1934.

The last major renovation of the White House took place during President Harry Truman’s administration. In 1948 he appointed a Commission on the Renovation of the Executive Mansion. During the extensive project, President Truman and the First Lady lived across Pennsylvania Avenue in Blair House.

In 1961, First Lady Jackie Kennedy redecorated many of the White House rooms, bringing more of the home’s history into its furnishings. Her efforts led to the creation of the White House curatorial staff, who works with incoming Presidents and First Ladies to preserve and decorate the home.

Fun Facts About the White House

The White House has 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms.

There are 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators.

It takes 570 gallons of paint to cover The White House’s exterior.

The White House kitchen employs five full-time chefs who can serve dinner to 140 guests and hors d'oeuvres for more than 1,000.

The White House has a tennis court, jogging track, swimming pool, movie theater, and bowling lane.

The White House features state-of-the-art security. There are radiation detectors in the walls, underground motion detectors, and panic buttons hidden in walls or as statues. Each door has a special lock with a special way to open it.

Visiting the White House

According to the official White House website, public tour requests must be made through your local Congressional office. The self-guided tours are on a first come, first served basis. As of May 2011, The White House is open for tours Tuesday through Thursday from 7:30 AM to 11:00 AM, Friday from 7:30 AM to 12:00 PM, and Saturday 7:30 AM to 1:00 PM. The White House is not open on federal holidays. Tour requests must be made at least 21 days ahead of time. There is no charge to tour The White House.

To learn more about the early history of The White House, see the article "Early History of the White House."
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Content copyright © 2014 by Kim Kenney. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Kim Kenney. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Kenney for details.

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