The ‘White House’—the term is both a name and a descriptor. The president’s home wasn’t built with that name or color though.
You might have heard that the building was painted white to cover up burn marks when British soldiers tried to destroy it during the War of 1812, but its color actually predates that 1814 damage.
Construction of the White House—which at that point was called the President’s House—started in 1791 and was ready for its first tenant, President John Adams, in 1800. It had received its famous color two years before that though.
Originally, the home’s color wasn’t from paint but from a lime-based whitewash. The walls are made of sandstone, and the liquid was meant to keep the porous rocks from freezing during the winter, according to whitehousehistory.org. Workers would redo the whitewash to ward off weather damage, so the color always looked fresh.
Even though its official name was the President’s House, the massive white house was such a landmark that it soon earned the nickname of (you guessed it) the White House. As early as 1812, Congressman Abijah Bigelow used the term in a letter, and in 1818 it was covered in white lead paint instead of whitewash. It wasn’t until 1901 that the nickname finally became official through Theodore Roosevelt.
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