Like many other buildings in Washington, D.C., the White House has a neoclassical design, but it wasn’t always that way. The building started out as a Palladian-style home for the President and his family. Designed by Irish architect James Hoban, it is said to have been modeled after Leinster House, Ireland’s house of parliament and former ducal palace. Hoban’s design was chosen by George Washington himself who oversaw the construction of the building. Washington never had a chance to move in as his term ended before the job was complete. Despite the simple style of the architecture, it took eight years before it was ready to be occupied. Constructed from grey sandstone, the White House didn’t get its name until it was reconstructed following the War of 1812. British forces had set fire to the building, gutting it and rendering it uninhabitable. The original architect was brought in to restore the residence, and when it was finished, the sandstone structure was whitewashed, giving it its name. The name was officially adopted by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902.
Its transformation into a neoclassical estate began in 1824 when Thomas Jefferson asked British architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe to renovate the White House and several other buildings in the capital. Latrobe added porticos and columns that brought the building in line with the predominant form of architecture of that period.
The only other major change to its exterior since then was the addition of a balcony during President Truman’s administration.
Cover image by David Mark from Pixabay