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White House Turns 200
"a glamorous prison." -- President Harry Truman
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Dateline: 11/01/00

The White House, once referred to by former occupant Harry Truman as a "glamorous prison," celebrates its 200th anniversary on Nov. 1, 2000.

Here are some interesting facts and a little history about what has become perhaps the most recognized, most photographed, and certainly the best reported on building on the planet.

George Washington ordered the construction of the White House, though he never lived in it. During the War of 1812, the house was scorched when set on fire by the British. During reconstruction the exterior walls were first painted white. The White House went through a second major remodeling and structural strengthening during President Truman's Administration. Running water and central heating were not installed in the White House until 1835 and electric lights were added in 1891.

Shall we dust or vacuum first?
The White House has 132 rooms on 6 floors served by 3 elevators. There are 412 doors for privacy and 147 windows to let the sun shine on government. Residents can start cozy fires or burn secret tapes in 28 fireplaces, or hide them under 7 staircases. Oh, feel free to clean the toilets in the 35 bathrooms.

We call it home.
President Teddy Roosevelt gave the White House its current and official name in 1901. Over the years, it has been called the "Executive Mansion," the "President's House," and worst choice of all, the "President's Palace."

We're having a few people over.
Not only does the White House host hundreds of fancy get-togethers for thousands of world leaders and celebrities annually, it is visited by more than 6,000 plain old people every single day.

I'm bringing some old Congress buddies over for dinner. Okay?
The five, full-time expert chefs employed by the White House can whip up a gourmet dinner for as many as 140 elite guests who will quickly devour the over 1,000 tasty hors d'oeuvres prepared for most gatherings. The President and First Lady are charged for all meals and incidentals, but the President gets an expense account for those costs. Guests of the First Family stay free, but are billed for outside services.

No, we'll just stay with white for now.
Some people think the outside of the White House is, or should be made of armor plate. Sometimes, the Chief-Occupants probably wish it were covered some sort of "stealth" technology material. But the fact is, most of the exterior walls of the White House are made of plain old wood that requires 570 gallons of paint, white of course, to cover.

First things first.
If they accomplish nothing else during their stay, residents of the White House have been trend setters. Second President, John Adams was the first resident of the White House while it was still under construction. President John Tyler (1841-1845) became the first president to have his photograph taken. (Many more would follow.) Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909) walked out the front door of the White House one day and became the first president to ride in a car. Teddy was also the first president to leave the USA when he went to Panama.

Getting a little exercise.
Should the First Family feel the need to recreate at home, they can avail themselves of indoor tennis courts, a swimming pool, movie theater, running track, billiard room and a bowling lane.

This Old House -- is pretty expensive.
The annual budget for "the care, maintenance, repair and alteration, refurnishing, improvement, heating, and lighting, including electric power and fixtures, of the Executive Residence at the White House and official entertainment expenses of the President," runs about $9,260,000 or about $25,370 a day. The cost of lawn and garden care around the White House is included in the $5,427,000 a year spent to maintain the grounds of all the Capitol-area federal buildings.

The White House is just one of many buildings under the care and supervision of the Architect of the Capitol. Pay a visit to their Web Site for a look at architectural features, the U.S. Botanical Gardens, and other interesting buildings in and around Washington, D.C. For more White House history, visit the White House Historical Society Web site.

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