White House


The White House is the official residence and principal
workplace of the President of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James
Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the
Neoclassical style. It has been the residence of every U.S. president since
John Adams. When Thomas Jefferson moved into the house in 1801, he (with
architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe) expanded the building outward, creating two
colonnades that were meant to conceal stables and storage.
In 1814, during the War of 1812, the mansion was set ablaze
by the British Army in the Burning of Washington, destroying the interior and
charring much of the exterior. Reconstruction began almost immediately, and
President James Monroe moved into the partially reconstructed house in October
1817. Construction continued with the addition of the South Portico in 1824 and
the North in 1829. Because of crowding within the executive mansion itself,
President Theodore Roosevelt had all work offices relocated to the newly
constructed West Wing in 1901. Eight years later, President William Howard Taft
expanded the West Wing and created the first Oval Office which was eventually
moved as the section was expanded. The third-floor attic was converted to
living quarters in 1927 by augmenting the existing hip roof with long shed
dormers. A newly constructed East Wing was used as a reception area for social
events; Jefferson’s colonnades connected the new wings. East Wing alterations
were completed in 1946, creating additional
office space. By 1948, the house’s
load-bearing exterior walls and internal wood beams were found to be close to
failure. Under Harry S. Truman, the interior rooms were completely dismantled
and a new internal load-bearing steel frame constructed inside the walls. Once
this work was completed, the interior rooms were rebuilt.
Today, the White House Complex includes the Executive
Residence, West Wing, Cabinet Room, Roosevelt Room, East Wing, and the
Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses the executive offices of the
President and Vice President.
The White House is made up of six stories—the Ground Floor,
State Floor, Second Floor, and Third Floor, as well as a two-story basement.
The term White House is regularly used as a metonym for the Executive Office of
the President of the United States and for the president’s administration and
advisers in general. The property is a National Heritage Site owned by the
National Park Service and is part of the President’s Park. In 2007, it was
ranked second on the American Institute of Architects list of “America’s
Favorite Architecture”.

History

Following his April 1789 inauguration, President George
Washington occupied two executive mansions in New York City: the Samuel Osgood
House at 3 Cherry Street (April 1789 – February 1790), and the Alexander Macomb
House at 39–41 Broadway (February–August 1790).
The July 1790 Residence Act named Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, the temporary national capital for a 10-year period while the
Federal City was under construction. The City of Philadelphia rented Robert
Morris’s city house at 190 High Street (now 524-30 Market Street) for
Washington’s presidential residence. The first president occupied the Market
Street mansion from November 1790 to March 1797, and altered it in ways that
may have influenced the design of the White House. As part of a futile effort
to have Philadelphia named the permanent national capital, Pennsylvania built a
presidential palace several blocks away, but Washington declined to move there.
President John Adams also occupied the Market Street mansion
from March 1797 to May 1800. In November 1800, he became the first president to
occupy the White House. The President’s House in Philadelphia became a hotel
and was demolished in 1832 while the unused presidential palace became home to
the University of Pennsylvania.

Architectural competition

The President’s House was a major feature of Pierre (Peter)
Charles L’Enfant’s’s plan for the newly established federal city, Washington,
D.C. The architect of the White House was chosen in a design competition, which
received nine proposals, including one submitted anonymously by Thomas
Jefferson.
President Washington visited Charleston, South Carolina in
May 1791 on his “Southern Tour”, and saw the under-construction
Charleston County Courthouse designed by Irish architect James Hoban. He is reputed
to have met with Hoban then, and summoned the architect to Philadelphia and met
with him there in June 1792.
On July 16, 1792, the President met with the commissioners
of the federal city to make his judgment in the architectural competition. His
review is recorded as being brief, and he quickly selected Hoban’s submission.
Washington was not entirely pleased with the original
submission, however; he found it too small, lacking ornament, and not
monumental enough to house the nation’s president. On his recommendation, the
house was changed from three stories to two, and was widened from a nine-bay
facade to an 11-bay facade. Hoban’s competition drawings do not survive.

Design influences

The building Hoban designed is verifiably influenced by the
upper floors of Leinster House, in Dublin, Ireland, which later became the seat
of the Oireachtas (the Irish parliament). Several other Georgian era Irish
country houses have been suggested as sources of inspiration for the overall
floor plan, details like the bow-fronted south front, and interior details like
the former niches in the present Blue Room. These influences, though
undocumented, are cited in the official White House guide, and in White House
Historical Association publications. The first official White House guide,
published in 1962, suggested a link between Hoban’s design for the South
Portico, and Château de Rastignac, a neoclassical country house located in La
Bachellerie in the Dordogne region of France and designed by Mathurin Salat.
Construction on the French house was initially started before 1789, interrupted
by the French Revolution for twenty years and then finally built 1812–1817
(based on Salat’s pre-1789 design). The theoretical link between the two houses
has been criticized because Hoban did not visit France. Supporters of a
connection posit that Thomas Jefferson, during his tour of Bordeaux in 1789,
viewed Salat’s architectural drawings (which were on-file at the College) at
the École Spéciale d’Architecture (Bordeaux Architectural College). On his
return to the U.S. he then shared the influence with Washington, Hoban, Monroe,
and Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

Construction

Construction of the White House began with the laying of the
cornerstone on October 13, 1792, although there was no formal ceremony.The main
residence, as well as foundations of the house, were built largely by enslaved
and free African-American laborers, as well as employed Europeans.Much of the
other work on the house was performed by immigrants, many not yet with
citizenship. The sandstone walls were erected by Scottish immigrants, employed
by Hoban, as were the high relief rose and garland decorations above the north
entrance and the “fish scale” pattern beneath the pediments of the
window hoods. The initial construction took place over a period of eight years,
at a reported cost of $232,371.83 (equal to $3,182,127 today). Although not yet
completed, the White House was ready for occupancy on or circa November 1,
1800.
Shortages, including material and labor, forced alterations
to the earlier plan developed by French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant for a
“palace” that was five times larger than the house that was eventually
built. The finished structure contained only two main floors instead of the
planned three, and a less costly brick served as a lining for the stone
façades. When construction was finished the porous sandstone walls were coated
with a mixture of lime, rice glue, casein, and lead, giving the house its
familiar color and name.
As it is a famed structure in America, many replicas of the
White House have been constructed.

Architectural appraisal

The principal facade of the White House, the north front, is
of three floors and eleven bays. The ground floor is hidden by a raised
carriage ramp and parapet, thus the facade appears to be of two floors. The
central three bays are behind a prostyle portico (this was a later addition to
the house, built circa 1830) serving, thanks to the carriage ramp, as a porte
cochere. The windows of the four bays flanking the portico, at first-floor
level, have alternating pointed and segmented pediments, while at second-floor
level the pediments are flat. The principal entrance at the centre of the
portico is surmounted by lunette fanlight. Above the entrance is a sculpted
swag in relief. The roofline is hidden by a balustraded parapet.
The mansion’s southern facade is a combination of the
Palladian and neoclassical styles of architecture. It is of three floors, all
visible. The ground floor is rusticated in the Palladian fashion. At the centre
of the facade is a neoclassical projecting bow of three bays. The bow is
flanked by 5 bays, the windows of which, as on the north facade, have
alternating segmented and pointed pediments at first-floor level. The bow has a
ground floor double staircase leading to a Doric colonnaded loggia (with the
Truman Balcony at second-floor level), known as the south portico. The more
modern third floor is hidden by a balustraded parapet and plays no part in the
composition of the facade.

Naming conventions

The building was originally referred to variously as the
“President’s Palace”, “Presidential Mansion”, or
“President’s House”. The earliest evidence of the public calling it
the “White House” was recorded in 1811.A myth emerged that during the
rebuilding of the structure after the Burning of Washington, white paint was
applied to mask the burn damage it had suffered, giving the building its
namesake hue. The name “Executive Mansion” was used in official
contexts until President Theodore Roosevelt established the formal name by
having “White House–Washington” engraved on the stationery in 1901.
The current letterhead wording and arrangement “The White House” with
the word “Washington” centered beneath goes back to the
administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Although it was not completed until some years after the
presidency of George Washington, it is also speculated that the name of the
traditional residence of the President of the United States may have derived
from Martha Custis Washington’s home, White House Plantation in Virginia, where
the nation’s first President had courted the First Lady in the mid-18th
century.

Evolution of the White House

Early use, the 1814 fire, and rebuilding

On Saturday, November 1, 1800, John Adams became the first
president to take residence in the building. During Adams’ second day in the
house, he wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, containing a prayer for the
house. Adams wrote:
    I pray Heaven to
bestow the best of blessings on this House, and all that shall hereafter
inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.
Theodore Roosevelt had Adams’s blessing carved into the mantel
in the State Dining Room.
Adams lived in the house only briefly before Thomas
Jefferson moved into the “pleasant country residence” in 1801.
Despite his complaints that the house was too big (“big enough for two
emperors, one pope, and the grand lama in the bargain”), Jefferson
considered how the White House might be added to. With Benjamin Henry Latrobe,
he helped lay out the design for the East and West Colonnades, small wings that
help conceal the domestic operations of laundry, a stable and storage.Today,
Jefferson’s colonnades link the residence with the East and West Wings.
In 1814, during the War of 1812, the White House was set
ablaze by British troops during the Burning of Washington, in retaliation for
burning Upper Canada’s Parliament Buildings in the Battle of York; much of
Washington was affected by these fires as well. Only the exterior walls
remained, and they had to be torn down and mostly reconstructed because of
weakening from the fire and subsequent exposure to the elements, except for
portions of the south wall. Of the numerous objects taken from the White House
when it was ransacked by British troops, only two have been recovered. First
lady Dolley Madison rescued a painting of George Washington,and in 1939, a
Canadian man returned a jewelry box to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
claiming that his grandfather had taken it from Washington. Some observers
allege that most of these spoils were lost when a convoy of British ships led
by HMS Fantome sank en route to Halifax off Prospect during a storm on the night
of November 24, 1814, even though Fantome had no inolvement in that action.
After the fire, President James Madison resided in The
Octagon House. Meanwhile, both architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe and Hoban
contributed to the design and oversight of the reconstruction, which lasted
from 1815 until 1817. The south portico was constructed in 1824 during the
James Monroe administration; the north portico was built six years later.
Though Latrobe proposed similar porticos before the fire in 1814, both porticos
were built as designed by Hoban. An elliptical portico at Château de Rastignac
in La Bachellerie, France with nearly identical curved stairs is speculated as
the source of inspiration due to its similarity with the South Portico,although
this matter is one of great debate.Italian artisans, brought to Washington to
help in constructing the U.S. Capitol, carved the decorative stonework on both
porticos. Contrary to speculation, the North Portico was not modeled on a
similar portico on another Dublin building, the Viceregal Lodge (now Áras an
Uachtaráin, residence of the President of Ireland), for its portico postdates
the White House porticos’ design.For the North Portico, a variation on the
Ionic Order was devised incorporating a swag of roses between the volutes. This
was done to link the new portico with the earlier carved roses above the
entrance.
  

Overcrowding and building the West Wing

By the time of the American Civil War, the White House had
become overcrowded. The location of the White House was questioned, just north
of a canal and swampy lands, which provided conditions ripe for malaria and other
unhealthy conditions.Brigadier General Nathaniel Michler was tasked to propose
solutions to address these concerns. He proposed abandoning the use of the
White House as a residence and designed a new estate for the first family at
Meridian Hill in Washington, D.C., but Congress rejected the plan.
The Panic of 1873 had led to an economic depression that
persisted through much of the decade. The Statue of Liberty project was not the
only undertaking that had difficulty raising money: construction of the obelisk
later known as the Washington Monument sometimes stalled for years.
When Chester Arthur took office in 1881, he ordered
renovations to the White House to take place as soon as the recently widowed
Lucretia Garfield moved out. Arthur inspected the work almost nightly and made
several suggestions. Louis Comfort Tiffany was asked to send selected designers
to assist. Over twenty wagons of furniture and household items were removed
from the building and sold at a public auction. All that was saved were bust
portraits of John Adams and Martin Van Buren. A proposal was made to build a
new residence south of the White House, but it failed to gain support. In the
fall of 1882 work was done on the main corridor, including tinting the walls
pale olive and adding squares of gold leaf, and decorating the ceiling in gold
and silver, and colorful traceries woven to spell “USA”. The Red Room
was painted a dull Pomeranian red, and its ceiling was decorated with gold,
silver, and copper stars and stripes of red, white, and blue. A fifty-foot
jeweled Tiffany glass screen, supported by imitation marble columns, replaced
the glass doors that separated the main corridor from the north vestibule.
In 1891, First Lady Caroline Harrison proposed major
extensions to the White House, including a National Wing on the east for an
historical art gallery, and a wing on the west for official functions. A plan
was devised by Colonel Theodore A. Bingham, which reflected the Harrison
proposal. These plans were ultimately rejected however in 1901, Theodore
Roosevelt and his family moved in to the White House and hired McKim, Mead, and
White to carry out renovations and expansion, including the addition of a West
Wing.(McKim designed and managed the project.) President William Howard Taft
enlisted the help of architect Nathan C. Wyeth to add additional space to the
West Wing, which included the addition of the Oval Office.
The West Wing was damaged by fire in 1929, but rebuilt
during the remaining years of the Herbert Hoover presidency. In the 1930s, a
second story was added, as well as a larger basement for White House staff, and
President Franklin Roosevelt had the Oval Office moved to its present location:
adjacent to the Rose Garden.

The Truman reconstruction

Decades of poor maintenance, the construction of a fourth
story attic during the Coolidge administration, and the addition of a
second-floor balcony over the south portico for Harry Trumantook a great toll
on the brick and sandstone structure built around a timber frame.By 1948, the
house was declared to be in imminent danger of collapse, forcing President
Truman to commission a reconstruction and move across the street to Blair House
from 1949 to 1951. The work, done by the firm of Philadelphia contractor John
McShain, required the complete dismantling of the interior spaces, construction
of a new load-bearing internal steel frame and the reconstruction of the
original rooms within the new structure.The total cost of the renovations was
about $5.7 million. Some modifications to the floor plan were made, the largest
being the repositioning of the grand staircase to open into the Entrance Hall,
rather than the Cross Hall. Central air conditioning was added, as well as two
additional sub-basements providing space for workrooms, storage, and a bomb
shelter. The Trumans moved back into the White House on March 27, 1952. While
the house’s structure was kept intact by the Truman reconstruction, much of the
new interior finishes were generic, and of little historic value. Much of the
original plasterwork, some dating back to the 1814–1816 rebuilding, was too
damaged to reinstall, as was the original robust Beaux Arts paneling in the
East Room. President Truman had the original timber frame sawed into paneling;
the walls of the Vermeil Room, Library, China Room, and Map Room on the ground
floor of the main residence were paneled in wood from the timbers.

The Kennedy restoration

Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of President John F. Kennedy
(1961–63), directed a very extensive and historic redecoration of the house.
She enlisted the help of Henry Francis du Pont of the Winterthur Museum to
assist in collecting artifacts for the mansion, many of which had once been
housed there. Other antiques, fine paintings, and improvements of the Kennedy
period were donated to the White House by wealthy philanthropists, including
the Crowninshield family, Jane Engelhard, Jayne Wrightsman, and the Oppenheimer
family. Stéphane Boudin of the House of Jansen, a Paris interior-design firm
that had been recognized worldwide, was employed by Mrs. Kennedy to assist with
the decoration. Different periods of the early republic and world history were
selected as a theme for each room: the Federal style for the Green Room, French
Empire for the Blue Room, American Empire for the Red Room, Louis XVI for the
Yellow Oval Room, and Victorian for the president’s study, renamed the Treaty
Room. Antique furniture was acquired, and decorative fabric and trim based on
period documents was produced and installed. The Kennedy restoration resulted
in a more authentic White House of grander stature, which recalled the French taste
of Madison and Monroe.In the Diplomatic Reception Room Jacqueline Kennedy
installed an antique “Vue de l’Amérique Nord” wall paper which Zuber et cie
designed in 1834. The wallpaper hung before on the walls of a mansion until
1961 when the house was demolished for a grocery store. Just before the
demolition, the wallpaper was salvaged and sold to the White House.
The first White House guidebook was produced under the
direction of curator Lorraine Waxman Pearce with direct supervision from
Jacqueline Kennedy. Sale of the guidebook helped finance the restoration.

The White House today

As a means of preserving the history of the White House, no
substantive architectural changes have been made on the house since the Truman
renovation. Since the Kennedy restoration, every presidential family has made
some changes to their private quarters of the White House, but the Committee
for the Preservation of the White House must approve any modifications to the
State Rooms. Aimed at maintaining the historical integrity of the White House,
the congressionally authorized committee works with the First Family—usually
represented by the First Lady, the White House Curator, and Chief Usher—to
implement the family’s proposed plans for altering the house.
During the Nixon administration (1969–74), First Lady Pat
Nixon refurbished the Green Room, Blue Room, and Red Room, working with Clement
Conger, the curator appointed by President Richard Nixon. Mrs. Nixon’s efforts
brought more than 600 artifacts to the house, the largest acquisition by any
administration. Her husband created the modern press briefing room over
Franklin Roosevelt’s old swimming pool. Nixon added a single-lane bowling alley
to the White House basement.
Computers and the first laser printer were added during the
Carter administration, and the use of computer technology was expanded upon
during the Reagan administration. A Carter-era innovation, a set of solar water
heating panels that were mounted on the roof of the White House, was removed
during Reagan’s presidency. Redecorations were made to the private family
quarters and maintenance was made to public areas during the Reagan years. The
house was accredited as a museum in 1988.
In the 1990s, Bill and Hillary Clinton refurbished some
rooms with the assistance of Arkansas decorator Kaki Hockersmith, including the
Oval Office, the East Room, Blue Room, State Dining Room, Lincoln Bedroom, and
Lincoln Sitting Room. During the administration of George W. Bush, first lady
Laura Bush refurbished the Lincoln Bedroom in a style contemporary to the
Lincoln era; the Green Room, Cabinet Room, and theater were also refurbished.
The White House is one of the first government buildings in
Washington that was made wheelchair-accessible, with modifications having been
made during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who needed to use a
wheelchair because of his paraplegia. In the 1990s, Hillary Rodham Clinton—at
the suggestion of Visitors Office Director Melinda N. Bates—approved the
addition of a ramp in the East Wing corridor. It allowed easy wheelchair access
for the public tours and special events that enter through the secure entrance
building on the east side. The president travels from the White House grounds
via motorcade or helicopter. President Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first
president to travel by helicopter to and from the White House grounds.

Layout and amenities

Today the group of buildings housing the presidency is known
as the White House Complex. It includes the central Executive Residence flanked
by the East Wing and West Wing. The Chief Usher coordinates day to day
household operations. The White House includes: six stories and 55,000 ft²
(5,100 m²) of floor space, 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 147 windows,
twenty-eight fireplaces, eight staircases, three elevators, five full-time
chefs, a tennis court, a (single-lane) bowling alley, a movie theater, a
jogging track, a swimming pool, and a putting green.It receives up to 30,000
visitors each week.

Executive Residence

The original residence is in the center. Two colonnades—one
on the east and one on the west—designed by Jefferson, now serve to connect the
East and West Wings, added later. The Executive Residence houses the
president’s dwelling, as well as rooms for ceremonies and official
entertaining. The State Floor of the residence building includes the East Room,
Green Room, Blue Room, Red Room, State Dining Room, Family Dining Room, Cross
Hall, Entrance Hall, and Grand Staircase.The Ground Floor is made up of the
Diplomatic Reception Room, Map Room, China Room, Vermeil Room, Library, the main
kitchen, and other offices. The second floor family residence includes the
Yellow Oval Room, East and West Sitting Halls, the White House Master Bedroom,
President’s Dining Room, the Treaty Room, Lincoln Bedroom and Queens’ Bedroom,
as well as two additional bedrooms, a smaller kitchen, and a private dressing
room. The third floor consists of the White House Solarium, Game Room, Linen
Room, a Diet Kitchen, and another sitting room (previously used as President
George W. Bush’s workout room).

West Wing

The West Wing houses the President’s office (the Oval
Office) and offices of his senior staff, with room for about 50 employees. It
also includes the Cabinet Room, where the president conducts business meetings
and where the United States Cabinet meets, as well as the White House Situation
Room, James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, and Roosevelt Room. In 2007, work was
completed on renovations of the press briefing room, adding fiber optic cables
and LCD screens for the display of charts and graphs.The makeover took 11
months and cost $8 million, of which news outlets paid $2 million.Some members
of the President’s staff are located in the adjacent Old Executive Office
Building, formerly the State War and Navy building, and sometimes known as the
Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
This portion of the building was used as the setting for the
popular television show The West Wing.

East Wing 

The East Wing, which contains additional office space, was
added to the White House in 1942. Among its uses, the East Wing has
intermittently housed the offices and staff of the First Lady, and the White
House Social Office. Rosalynn Carter, in 1977, was the first to place her
personal office in the East Wing and to formally call it the “Office of
the First Lady.” The East Wing was built during World War II in order to
hide the construction of an underground bunker to be used in emergencies. The
bunker has come to be known as the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.

Grounds

The White House and grounds cover just over 18 acres (about
7.3 hectares). Before the construction of the North Portico, most public events
were entered from the South Lawn, which was graded and planted by Thomas
Jefferson. Jefferson also drafted a planting plan for the North Lawn that
included large trees that would have mostly obscured the house from
Pennsylvania Avenue. During the mid-to-late 19th century a series of ever
larger green houses were built on the west side of the house, where the current
West Wing is located. During this period, the North Lawn was planted with
ornate carpet-style flowerbeds. Although the White House grounds have had many
gardeners through their history, the general design, still largely used as
master plan today, was designed in 1935 by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. of the
Olmsted Brothers firm, under commission from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
During the Kennedy administration, the White House Rose Garden was redesigned
by Rachel Lambert Mellon. The Rose garden borders the West Colonnade. Bordering
the East Colonnade is the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which was begun by
Jacqueline Kennedy but completed after her husband’s assassination. On the
weekend of June 23, 2006, a century-old American Elm (Ulmus americana L.) tree
on the north side of the building, came down during one of the many storms amid
intense flooding. Among the oldest trees on the grounds are several magnolias
(Magnolia grandiflora) planted by Andrew Jackson. Michelle Obama planted the
White Houses’ first organic garden and installed beehives on the South Lawn of
the White House, which will supply organic produce and honey to the First
Family and for state dinners and other official gatherings.

Public access and security

Like the English and Irish country houses it was modeled on,
the White House was, from the start, open to the public until the early part of
the 20th century. President Thomas Jefferson held an open house for his second
inaugural in 1805, and many of the people at his swearing-in ceremony at the
Capitol followed him home, where he greeted them in the Blue Room. Those open
houses sometimes became rowdy: in 1829, President Andrew Jackson had to leave
for a hotel when roughly 20,000 citizens celebrated his inauguration inside the
White House. His aides ultimately had to lure the mob outside with washtubs
filled with a potent cocktail of orange juice and whiskey. Even so, the
practice continued until 1885, when newly elected Grover Cleveland arranged for
a presidential review of the troops from a grandstand in front of the White
House instead of the traditional open house. Jefferson also permitted public
tours of his house, which have continued ever since, except during wartime, and
began the tradition of annual receptions on New Year’s Day and on the Fourth of
July. Those receptions ended in the early 1930s, although President Bill
Clinton would briefly revive the New Year’s Day open house in his first term.
The White House remained accessible in other ways; President
Abraham Lincoln complained that he was constantly beleaguered by job seekers
waiting to ask him for political appointments or other favors, or eccentric
dispensers of advice like “General” Daniel Pratt, as he began the business day.
Lincoln put up with the annoyance rather than risk alienating some associate or
friend of a powerful politician or opinion maker. In recent years, however, the
White House has been closed to visitors because of terrorism concerns.
In 1974, a stolen Army helicopter landed without
authorization on the White House grounds. Twenty years later, in 1994, a light
plane crashed on the White House grounds, and the pilot died instantly.As a
result of increased security regarding air traffic in the capital, the White
House was evacuated in 2005 before an unauthorized aircraft could approach the
grounds.
On May 20, 1995, primarily as a response to the Oklahoma
City bombing of April 19, 1995, the United States Secret Service closed off
Pennsylvania Avenue to vehicular traffic in front of the White House from the
eastern edge of Lafayette Park to 17th Street. Later, the closure was extended
an additional block to the east to 15th Street, and East Executive Avenue, a
small street between the White House and the Treasury Building. The
Pennsylvania Avenue closing, in particular, has been opposed by organized civic
groups in Washington, D.C. They argue that the closing impedes traffic flow
unnecessarily and is inconsistent with the well-conceived historic plan for the
city. As for security considerations, they note that the White House is set
much further back from the street than numerous other sensitive federal
buildings are.
Prior to its inclusion within the fenced compound that now
includes the Old Executive Office Building to the west and the Treasury
Building to the east, this sidewalk served as a queuing area for the daily
public tours of the White House. These tours were suspended in the wake of the
September 11 attacks. In September 2003, they resumed on a limited basis for
groups making prior arrangements through their Congressional representatives or
embassies in Washington for foreign nationals and submitting to background
checks, but the White House remains closed to the public.The White House
Complex is protected by the United States Secret Service and the United States
Park Police.
NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System)
were used to guard air space over Washington, D.C. during the 2005 presidential
inauguration. The same NASAMS units has since been used to protect the
president and all air space around the White House, which is strictly
prohibited to aircraft

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