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22 Facts About The White House You'll Want To Tell Everyone About

A plumber once had a nervous breakdown over LBJ's demands for a high-pressure shower head.

1. For starters, it wasn't regularly called the White House until Teddy Roosevelt officially named it that in 1901.

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It had been periodically and informally called the White House since 1811, though.

2. Which means that before 1901, it was known by several different names, including the President's Palace, the President's House, and the Executive Mansion.

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The names were often used interchangeably.

3. It's the only private residence of a head of state that the public can visit for free.

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Visitors do have to request and book tours in advance, though.

4. The White House was designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban, who won a competition in 1792. He based his model on a villa in Dublin called the Leinster House.

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Leinster House still exists, and it houses the Irish Parliament.

5. That's not the only White House lookalike — there's also a private home that's an exact replica in McLean, Virginia.

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It's a scaled-down version, but it has its own Blue Room, Lincoln Bedroom and more! There are other replicas in Atlanta, Austria, China, among others.

6. It was indeed built by slaves.

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Michelle Obama was right — D.C. commissioners had slaves, in addition to white laborers and European immigrants, construct the president's house.

7. George Washington never actually lived there.

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But his portrait hangs on its walls. The cornerstone was laid while he was president in 1792, and he died in 1799, less than a year before the first tenants moved in.

8. It wasn't totally finished when John and Abigail Adams moved in on Nov. 1, 1800, so Abigail hung her laundry to dry in the East Room.

© 1966 White House Historical Association

Artist Gordon Phillips envisioned what that might have looked like in this painting in 1966.

9. The West Wing didn't exist until 1902, when Teddy Roosevelt had it built to replace an extensive network of decorative greenhouses.

Library of Congress / Via whitehousehistory.org

Before that, the president would work from his room of choice on the second floor of the White House, where the first family also lived. Roosevelt's six children proved too distracting.

10. But the Oval Office wasn't put in until 1913, per William Howard Taft's instructions.

Keystone View Company/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images, Getty Images

11. After Franklin D. Roosevelt moved in in 1933, it became one of the first wheelchair-friendly government buildings in Washington, DC.

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The house was updated to include accessible elevators and ramps. He also moved the Oval Office to its current, Rose Garden-adjacent location.

12. The White House got electricity during Benjamin Harrison's presidency in 1891, but his family was so scared of touching the switches that they left the lights on all night.

Archive Photos / Getty Images

A view of the State Dining Room as it appeared in 1962.

13. A plumber once had a nervous breakdown because Lyndon Johnson's demands for high water pressure in his shower were so extreme.

Afp / AFP / Getty Images

In her book The Residence: Inside the Private World of The White House, Kate Andersen Brower wrote that Johnson's shower ended up being "like nothing the staff had ever seen: water charging out of multiple nozzles in every direction with needlelike intensity and a hugely powerful force. One nozzle was pointed directly at the president's penis, which he nicknamed 'Jumbo.' Another shot right up the rear."

14. Franklin D. Roosevelt installed a heated indoor swimming pool to help with his polio therapy, but Richard Nixon turned it into the current press briefing room in 1970. Gerald Ford brought swimming back to the White House in 1975.

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Nixon did install a bowling alley, and it still exists today.

15. The basement of the White House is like a mini mall, with a flower shop, a dentist's office, and more.

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This is the dentist's office as it appeared around 1948.

16. The first family actually has to pay for their food.

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They don't pay rent, but food and grocery expenses, in addition to things like toiletries and dry cleaning, are taken out of the president's salary. This is a view of the White House kitchen circa 1892.

17. The first movie screened inside the White House was Birth of a Nation, by Woodrow Wilson in 1915.

National Archives/Newsmakers, David W. Griffith Corp. / Via IMDB

Birth of a Nation, adapted from The Clansmen, centered on themes like Reconstruction and the KKK with alarmingly racist overtones, but was a landmark film at the time.

18. A lot of animals other than Bo and Sunny have lived there. At different times, the White House has housed snakes, alligators, bear cubs, lion cubs, bobcats, and more.

Herbert French/PhotoQuest / Getty Images

Here is First Lady Grace Coolidge holding her pet raccoon, Rebecca, on the White House lawn in 1927.

19. There's a coffee maker that was a gift from Tom Hanks.

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He bought an espresso maker for the press room in 2004, and upgraded it to a newer one in 2010. Here he is looking admiringly at his gift.

20. At various times, the house and grounds have been totally open to the public.

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It's kind of hard to believe today. Thomas Jefferson put artifacts on the lawn for peoples' enjoyment, Grover Cleveland's nanny used to walk his daughter Ruth among the masses on the South Lawn, and Warren Harding left the gates open for anyone to stroll around. Now, the property is completely gated off and some surrounding streets are closed to traffic.

21. White House staff only has 12 hours to move in a new president's belongings on inauguration day.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Move-in doesn't start until noon, and in those 12 hours, the staff must unpack and arrange all furniture and personal items, clean, and tidy up. However, the president coordinates the move using private movers.

22. And Winston Churchill claimed he saw Abraham Lincoln's ghost while staying there.

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

It's an old-ass house, what do you expect? Churchill supposedly saw the ghostly spirit by the fireplace when he was getting out of the bath.

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