The White House has been the official residence of every U.S. president since John Adams in 1800. It’s no surprise that this national landmark is a destination hot-spot for travelers across the U.S. What might surprise you are these five facts:
- When the White House opened in 1800, the area’s sewage was collected in a pond just behind the building. It wasn’t the glamorous place that we think of today.
- During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln used the entire ground floor to house Union soldiers.
- Presidents put their own touches on the place: Nixon added a bowling alley and a ping-pong room. Eisenhower added a putting green outside.
- The inspiration for an “oval” office came from George Washington’s social practices: he used to hold official “levee” ceremonies where guests would line up in an oval shape and wait for him to come around and bow in official greeting. Jefferson stopped this practice; he thought it was pompous and replaced the bowing with a simple handshake.
- Abraham Lincoln started the tradition of pardoning a turkey in 1865, when his son Tad asked him not to kill a turkey that had been brought to the White House for Christmas Dinner. The largest turkey ever pardoned? 55 pounds, by John F. Kennedy.
Will you be traveling on an educational tour to Washington, D.C.? Keep these fun facts in your back pocket to share with fellow travelers when you get to see it first-hand!