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Part 2: Taking a Trip Inside


The White House in 1998

The White House in 1998

Courtesy of the National Park Service
For nearly two centuries each President and his family have individualized their home in the White House by furnishing and embellishing it in their own taste. Dolley Madison, for example, expressed her warm and vibrant personality in decorating the Presidential quarters with bright yellow draperies and upholstery. The Hoovers brought a number of mementos from their world travels, including rugs, Oriental art, and and books in various languages.

Today, the ground floor of the Executive Mansion includes cloakrooms, a china room, the kitchen, and a library. The first floor includes formal rooms of state, which are open to the public. Among these rooms are the Oval Blue Room where the president receives guests at state dinners; the East Room, the largest room in the White House, used for state receptions and balls; the Red Room, in which the First Lady receives guests; the Green Room, used for informal receptions; and the State Dining Room, used for formal dinners. The second floor of the main building include the private rooms of the president, and the third floor consists mainly of guest rooms and staff quarters.

Visiting the White House

Ever since President Jefferson opened the White House for public tours in 1805, it has remained open, except during wartime and following the 9/11 attacks. In recent years, the procedures for visiting the White House have changed due to security reasons. Prior to 9/11, the National Park Service White House Visitor Center distributed White House public tour tickets. Now, requests must be submitted through one's member of Congress and are accepted up to six months in advance. To contact your Representative and/or Senators, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

All guests 14 years of age or older are required by the US Secret Service to submit their name, date of birth, social security number and country of citizenship to the requesting office. Attendees under the age of 14 only need to submit their name and date of birth. This security information must be received by the office through which tickets are obtained no later than five business days prior to the tour date. Public tours of the White House are scheduled Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30am to 12:30pm for groups of 10 or more people.

To enhance your visitor experience, stop by the White House Visitor Center, located at the southeast corner of 15th and E streets, before or after the tour. The Center is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and features exhibits on many aspects of the White House, including its architecture, furnishings, first families, social events, and relations with the press and world leaders, as well as a thirty-minute video. Allow between 20 minutes to one hour to explore the exhibits. Keep in mind that White House tours may be subject to last minute cancellation. Call the 24-hour line at 202-456-7041 for the most current tour information.

White House Facts:

There are 132 rooms, 32 bathrooms, and 6 levels to accommodate all the people who live in, work in, and visit the White House.

For recreation, the White House has a variety of facilities available to its residents, including a tennis court, a jogging track, swimming pool, movie theater, billiard room, and a bowling lane.

With five full-time chefs, the White House kitchen is able to serve dinner to as many as 140 guests and hors d'oeuvres to more than 1,000.

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