While the city of Washington, D.C. was being developed, the President's House was also getting under way. A contest was held to select a designer for the house. While it is said that our third President, Thomas Jefferson, submitted designs for the house, architect James Hoban won the contest. Work on the house began in 1792. Stonemasons were hired from Scotland. Bricks were made on the north lawn. Sandstone was brought from Stafford County, Virginia, and lumber from North Carolina and Virginia.
President George Washington oversaw construction of the White House, but he never lived there! It was our second President, John Adams, elected in 1796, who first lived in the White House. His term was almost over by the time he moved in, and only six rooms had been finished.
While James Madison was
President, from 1809-1817, the United States went to war with England. On August
24, 1814, British soldiers sailed up the Potomac River and set fire to the White
House. Before doing so, however, they marched right into the President's dining
room and helped themselves to food that had been left on the table!
Dolley Madison, the President's wife, stayed behind until the very last minute. She saved important government papers and the portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart that now hangs in the East Room. A summer thunderstorm put out the fire, but only the outside, charred walls and the interior brick walls remained. It took three years to rebuild the White House.