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A Visitor’s Guide To The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500 sunipix.com

Even the most stunning of homes requires a physical address, and there may be nine more famous than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That is the actual address of The White House, home of the President of the United States of America. It is without a doubt one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, as well as being one of the most popular tourist attractions in the US. History has been made and written within the walls of that famous landmark, but the building itself has a pretty interesting history of its own.

Pierre l’Enfant was the man responsible for designing the layout of the city of Washington, D.C. and it was he, with the help of president George Washington who decided where the location of the White House should be. Strangely enough, the design of the building itself was decided through a contest which was eventually won by James Hoban, an architect whose bloodlines ran through Ireland. It’s widely believed that his winning design, which beat out 8 others, was inspired by Leinster House in Dublin, Ireland. Whatever the case, construction of the new presidential home began in 1792 and took a full 8 years to complete.

The glorious new building was almost completely destroyed by fire after an attack by the British in 1814, but James Hoban took on the task of re-building, which he completed in 1817. It a pretty common belief that the White House name came after that rebuilding when it was given a fresh lick of paint, but the truth is that it was white from the very start, as a protective whitewash was used to cover the exterior walls. The nickname was pretty much adopted around that time, though, but it wasn’t until 1901 that, then president, Theodore Roosevelt made The White House the official name of the presidential home.

View of White HouseThe White House has grown considerably bigger over the years, with the addition of several new wings, one of which, The West Wing, became famous thanks to a TV show of the same name. The Oval Office is arguably the best known of the rooms in the White House, but you may be surprised to learn that there are in fact no less than 132 rooms in the grand old building. Unfortunately, very few people will now be able to get a look at those rooms up close and personal.

White House public tours were stopped after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but you can still get in if you are prepared to put in a little effort. That means coming up with a group of 10 or more US citizen and petitioning your member of Congress who can help grant you access to the building. If all else fails, you can still take a trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue where you can get close enough to the building to see it in all its architectural splendor, and where you can get a great view of the magnificent White House lawn and gardens.


Self-guided tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tue through Sat
Address/Map:    1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500
Phone: (202) 456-1111
Website: White House Tours
Public tours of The White House are available.
Requests must be submitted through one's Member of Congress - (202) 224-3121
Non US citizens should contact their embassy in DC