The White House is arguably both the most famous and mysterious home in the United States. While it’s possible to tour the historical landmark, only the first families and their trusted, confidential personnel will know what lies behind the rooms available to the public eye.
However, there are still secrets about the White House and its residents that have surfaced over time. You won’t believe the high-maintenance addition a certain president demanded (page 7).
The West Wing was supposed to be temporary
Teddy Roosevelt built the West Wing to distinctly separate the residential and office buildings in the house. He initially worked from his room of choice, which was located on the second floor of the house — the same floor as his family. Roosevelt had six kids, so it was likely he needed the separation to get work done.
It wasn’t attached until Howard Taft cleared it for use so that he could oversee more of the day-to-day operations that took place.
There’s a dentist’s office in the basement
Richard Nixon, a notable pin shark, added a pool table to the basement during his presidency. However, the fun didn’t stop there. There’s also a flower shop, carpenter’s shop, and dentist’s office hiding down there as well.
The dentist’s office was installed earlier than many think. Historical photographs show pictures of the first room in 1948.
Even the first family pays bills
The first family doesn’t pay rent, of course, but it’s not an entirely free ride like most expect. The family pays for food and grocery expenses as well as toiletries and dry cleaning.
The president receives a bill at the end of each month for these personal and incidental expenses, which is then deducted from his $400,000 salary. According to CNN, former first lady Laura Bush wrote in her memoir that she was expected to pick up the tab for every meal she ate at the White House or the presidential Camp David retreat over her husband’s two terms.
It wasn’t always called ‘White House’
Teddy Roosevelt officially named the estate the White House in 1901. The White House had been among the nicknames used to describe the president’s home, along with the Executive Mansion, which it was commonly referred to. James Madison’s wife, Dolley, notably called the residence the President’s Castle during her stay.
There are actually two identical white houses in the U.S.
It also has a model Lincoln Bedroom, Truman Balcony, and an Oval Office with a piano instead of a desk. The house was designed using White House blueprints, as well.
It has housed a ridiculous number of odd animals
The White House wasn’t only home to Obama’s adorable pups: It has also housed snakes, alligators, bear cubs, lion cubs, and bobcats. Thomas Jefferson had a pet mockingbird named Dick who flew freely throughout the house, and Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter named her snake Emily Spinach.
John Quincy Adam kept his alligator safe in the bathroom, while Herbert Hoover chose to let his sons’ two gators roam free. Calvin Coolidge was the ultimate lion tamer, however: His posse included a bear cub, two actual lion cubs, a bobcat, a wallaby, and a pygmy hippopotamus.
Lyndon B. Johnson’s water pressure requests sent a plumber into panic mode
Kate Anderson Brower’s book, The Residence: Inside the Private World of The White House, reveals intimate details about multiple first families. An interesting anecdote is the exhaustive steps a White House plumber had to follow to create a shower up to Lyndon B. Johnson’s standards.
LBJ wanted a shower to rival the luxurious amenities he had in his private home in Washington. Brower wrote that the shower was “nothing like the staff had ever seen: One nozzle was pointed directly and the president’s penis, which he nicknamed ‘Jumbo.'” Plumbing foreman Reds Arrington spent five years perfecting the shower and was reportedly hospitalized for several days from a nervous breakdown. Richard Nixon saw the shower after moving in and immediately said, “Get rid of this stuff.”
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