By Lauren Strickfaden
We set off for the White House at 7:45am battling sleep deprivation and a dark, drizzling sky. Our overpriced CVS umbrellas failed to fully protect our freshly done hair and professional attire, and we reached our destination shivering and soggy. Things quickly turned around upon our arrival to the White House, however, with a spotting of Bo, the First Dog. Our exciting tour was guided by a charming Secret Service agent, who ultimately became an honorary member of our happy, cohesive group.
Here are 12 fun facts regarding the White House and its residents, past and present, that we learned on our tour:
1) The portrait of Hillary Clinton is the only one in which a paint suit is worn in a portrait of a first lady.
2) Every year President Obama fills out his March Madness bracket in the White House Library.
3) The presidential china sets (on display in the China Room) are purchased with private money rather than government money, and account for some sets looking much fancier than others.
4) There are three electric chandeliers hanging in the East Room, each made of 6,149 pieces of Bohemian cut glass, and each requiring 96 hours to clean.
5) Abigail Adams hung her clothes to dry in the East Room because she felt it tacky and inappropriate to have them hanging outside on the lawn of the White House.
6) The famous (and very large) portrait of George Washington hanging in the East Room was cut out and saved by Dolley Madison when the White House was attacked and burned in 1814.
7) President Lincoln signed to establish the secret service on April 14, 1865, the same day of his assassination at Ford’s Theatre.
8) Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, whose portrait is hung in the Green Room, has been the only foreign born first lady.
9) The gilded furniture residing in the Blue Room was initially picked by Dolley Madison, auctioned off during the refurnishing done by President James Monroe and his first lady, and then tracked down by the White House Historical Association established by Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Only 8 of the initial 53 pieces were returned to the White House and the large sofa was found in an auto dealership waiting room in Michigan.
10) President Taft established the throwing of the first pitch at professional baseball games and also was the accidental creator of the 7th inning stretch.
11) Presidents Adams and Jefferson, once enemies that became friends, made a bet in which $1 would go to the man who lived longer. Both presidents died on July 4, 1826, 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. President Jefferson died a few hours earlier than Adams, but no dollar was paid.
12) President Lincoln’s 1896 G.P.A. Healy portrait will be the only picture that ever hangs in the state dining room. This was a condition that was set upon donation of the painting by the widow of Robert Todd Lincoln.
We left the White House feeling more knowledgable and once again amazed that we had been able to explore such an important part of our nation’s history.
Click here to take a virtual tour through the White House and view the rooms and portraits described in our fun facts above.