On October 13, 1792, George Washington laid the cornerstone for the building that would become the White House. Washington chose the location of the building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. but opened up the design of the house itself to submissions. Architect James Hoban’s design for a Georgian-style mansion was chosen in 1792, and construction started that year. In two centuries since, the White House has been burned down, rebuilt, and renovated. It has seen 44 presidents and their families move in and out and has been the site of countless historic moments and decisions.
Though George Washington was the president to begin building the White House, he never got the chance to live in it. It took eight years for the building to be built by enslaved people and Scottish stonemasons. James Madison and his wife were the first to move into the building in 1800. In 1814, as part of the War of 1812, British troops set fire to the White House. It took three years to rebuild and be ready for residency again. The next extensive renovation came in 1902 under the direction of President Theodore Roosevelt. He converted the second-floor offices into bedrooms for his six children and began construction on the West Wing to make room for staffers. In the 1940s, the building was found to have major structural problems and was completely rebuilt over the course of four years. The most recent renovation took place in the early 60s when Jackie Kennedy redesigned much of the White House and reawakened public interest in the building by hosting a televised tour.
Thomas Jefferson was the first president to open the White House to the public for tours and that tradition continues today. Over 1.25 million people visit the White House every year. Approximately 400 people work in the White House full-time. Strangely enough, despite all these people coming in and out and the numerous renovations of the building completed over the years, the original cornerstone laid in October 1792 by George Washington and a group of Freemasons has never been found. During the 1940s renovation, President Truman specifically asked construction workers to search for it, but it never turned up. The missing cornerstone remains a historical mystery worthy of a National Treasure movie.
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