History | Did You Know

10 Facts About The White House That Only True Patriots Know

It may no longer be one of the biggest houses in the United States, but the White House is still the most iconic residence in the nation.

In fact, the Washington, DC property is one of the most recognizable structures in the world.

However, there's still a lot about the 230-year-old home of the president that many Americans are unaware of.

From paranormal encounters to fires, and a bowling alley, here are 10 things you probably did not know about the famous house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

1. It's haunted

Like many historic buildings in the United States, the White House is reportedly haunted by none other than one of the most celebrated presidents, Abraham Lincoln.

Winston Churchill at the White House Imperial War Museum

According to an urban legend, former British prime minister Winston Churchill stayed at the White House in the 1940s, but he left in a hurry after spending one night in Lincoln's old bedroom.

He allegedly saw the late president's ghost as he was stepping out of the tub in the en-suite bathroom.

Churchill did return to the White House after the scary experience, but he never stayed in that bedroom again.

2. It used to have a different name

It wasn't until 1901 that Theodore Roosevelt officially adopted the name "White House" for the presidential residence.

White House Museum

Prior to that, the house had a few different names. It was initially known as the "President's Palace," then it changed to the "Executive Mansion" in 1810, but this was used interchangeably with the "President's house" and the "White House."

Speaking of the White House, many people don't know that the house wasn't painted white until 1818. Before that, workers would just refresh the lime-based whitewash periodically.

3. Thomas Jefferson anonymously submitted a design

After President George Washington fired architect and engineer Pierre L'Enfant due to insubordination, then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson announced a design competition for the President's House.

James Hoban's White House DesignThe Maryland Historical Society

Washington was the only juror, and was offering a $500 prize, which would be equivalent to $12,700 today.

On July 16, 1792, Washington picked a winner from among nine proposals, but unbeknownst to him, one of the designs was submitted by Jefferson. The Founding Father submitted his proposals using the initials A.Z, to avoid raising suspicion.

Despite his efforts, Washington picked architect and builder James Hoban instead.

4. There is a twin in Ireland

James Hoban was born in Ireland and studied architecture in Dublin, and this was often reflected in his work.

When submitting the design for the White House, he was inspired by the Georgian style home of the Dukes of Leinster in Dublin.

Leinster House

While the White House is now home to the President and his family, the Leinster House is the seat of the Irish Parliament.

The cycle of inspiration didn't stop there, the White House has another twin in France.

The historic home has had several additions since its construction was completed. In 1824, Hoban added a "porch" based on plans another architect named Benjamin Henry Latrobe had drafted.

This addition to the south portico was inspired by the Chateau de Rastignac in Southwest France, which was built just a few years prior.

5. The basement is like a mini mall

Every president brings something different to the residence, from a bowling alley to a swimming pool.

The basement of the house, which used to be a bomb shelter during World War II, is home to the Situation room, and it has become one of the liveliest floors.

Many describe it as a mini mall because of all the shops it contains.


You can find an engineer's shop, a carpenter's shop, a flower shop, a chocolate shop, a dentist office, and President Nixon's bowling alley.

The basement also houses the housekeeping office, and the White House Library's record collection.

6. George Washington Never Lived There

Although America's first president commissioned and supervised the construction of the White House, he never actually lived in it.

Washington chose the site of the property in 1791, then laid the cornerstone the following year. Sadly, the house couldn't be completed during his term as president.


John Adams, the second president of the U.S., and his wife Abigail were the first to move into the White House in 1800, although it was still unfinished.

Today, the 55,000-square foot six-story house has 132 rooms, and is estimated to be worth nearly $400 million.

7. Tom Hanks buys coffee machines for the White House


Tom Hanks was at the White House in 2004 when he noticed that the press break room had no coffee machine. He gifted them with one soon after.

Then in 2010, he sent them another coffee maker after noticing that the one he previously bought for them was looking run down.

In 2017, he sent an espresso maker so they can upgrade the old one. Attached was a note that read: "To the White House Press Corps, Keep up the good fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Especially for the Truth Part."

8. President Harrison's family was scared of the light switches

Up until 1891, those who lived at the White House had no choice but to use gas lighting to illuminate the space.


When electricity was finally available, many people, including President Benjamin Harrison and his family, were very wary about using the switches.

Out of fear of getting electrocuted, the president and his wife never touched any of the light switches.

9. Slaves helped build the White House

Michelle Obama wasn't just throwing facts around when she said that the White House was built by slaves during her 2016 Democratic National Convention speech in Philadelphia.


When the construction on the house began, both slaves and free people from the surrounding areas, mainly Virginia and Maryland, made up the labor force.

Immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and Scotland, as well as other European artisans, were also among the laborers, according to the White House Historical Association.

These men helped dig up the building's foundation, and chopped stone to for the walls of the building.

10. The current building is not the original

After the United States burned buildings of Ontario's Legislative Assembly during the Battle of York in 1812, the British army got their revenge by torching the White House in 1814.


The interior was destroyed and the exterior walls were charred, so the president at the time, James Madison, moved into the Octagon House, which later became the American Institute of Architects (AIA)

The house was eventually reconstructed and the next president, James Monroe, moved into the property in October 1817.

In 1929, another fire broke out in the West Wing of the White House right after the Great Depression hit. The third floor was the only area that wasn't severely destroyed.

Did any of these facts take you by surprise? Let us know in the comments!

The White House was renovated after Trump took office, so if you're curious to see what the interior looks like now, check this out:

Take A Peek Inside The Newly Renovated White House [PHOTOS]

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.