In America’s short but tenuous history, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had always been the capital. In 1790, however, George Washington made the decision to move the capital to a brand new area called the District of Columbia – a small, swampy area on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia.
While in District of Columbia, Washington and Pierre L’Enfant, a city planner, helped find a location that would house the president of the United States. After a suitable location was found, a competition was held to build the house. Irish architect James Hoban won the contract to design and build the house. He designed the house after a model in the Book of Architecture called the Gibbs House. The house was completed in 1800. John Adams, not George Washington, became the first president to live in it. It was located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Despite the many changes that the house has been through in the past 200 years, its location has remained the same.
In 1814, as part of the War of 1812, the British occupied Washington and burned the house to the ground. Two years later James Hoban successfully restored it to its original form and added a south portico. The house was known as the Executive Mansion or President’s Palace for much of the 1800’s. In 1901, Teddy Roosevelt renamed it “The White House”. The White House’s next renovation occurred in 1902 when the executive office wing and gallery were added. In 1929, it was severely damaged in a fire for the second time and renovated. Today, the White House remains one of the top tourist destinations in Washington. It even has its own bowling alley and movie theater.