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John Adams moves into White House

John Adams moves into White House

On November 1, 1800, President John Adams, in the last year of his only term as president, moved into the newly constructed President’s House, the original name for what is known today as the White House.

Adams had been living in temporary digs at Tunnicliffe’s City Hotel near the half-finished Capitol building since June 1800, when the federal government was moved from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington, D.C. In his biography of Adams, historian David McCullough recorded that when Adams first arrived in Washington, he wrote to his wife Abigail, at their home in Quincy, Massachusetts, that he was pleased with the new site for the federal government and had explored the soon-to-be President’s House with satisfaction.

Although workmen had rushed to finish plastering and painting walls before Adams returned to D.C. from a visit to Quincy in late October, construction remained unfinished when Adams rolled up in his carriage on November 1. However, the Adams’ furniture from their Philadelphia home was in place and a portrait of George Washington was already hanging in one room. The next day, Adams sent a note to Abigail, who would arrive in Washington later that month, saying that he hoped “none but honest and wise men [shall] ever rule under this roof.”

Although Adams was initially enthusiastic about the presidential mansion, he and Abigail soon found it to be cold and damp during the winter. Abigail, in a letter to a friend, wrote that the building was tolerable only so long as fires were lit in every room. She also noted that she had to hang their washing in an empty “audience room” (the current East Room).

John and Abigail Adams lived in what she called “the great castle” for only five months. Shortly after they moved in, Thomas Jefferson defeated Adams in his bid for re-election. Abigail was happy to leave Washington and departed in February 1801 for Quincy. As Jefferson was being sworn in on March 4, 1801, John Adams was already on his way back to Massachusetts, where he and Abigail lived out the rest of their days at their family farm.

READ MORE: White House: Architecture, Facts and Layout


John Adams

John Adams, a remarkable political philosopher, served as the second President of the United States (1797-1801), after serving as the first Vice President under President George Washington.

Learned and thoughtful, John Adams was more remarkable as a political philosopher than as a politician. “People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity,” he said, doubtless thinking of his own as well as the American experience.

Adams was born in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1735. A Harvard-educated lawyer, he early became identified with the patriot cause a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses, he led in the movement for independence.

During the Revolutionary War he served in France and Holland in diplomatic roles, and helped negotiate the treaty of peace. From 1785 to 1788 he was minister to the Court of St. James’s, returning to be elected Vice President under George Washington.

Adams’ two terms as Vice President were frustrating experiences for a man of his vigor, intellect, and vanity. He complained to his wife Abigail, “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

When Adams became President, the war between the French and British was causing great difficulties for the United States on the high seas and intense partisanship among contending factions within the Nation.

His administration focused on France, where the Directory, the ruling group, had refused to receive the American envoy and had suspended commercial relations.

Adams sent three commissioners to France, but in the spring of 1798 word arrived that the French Foreign Minister Talleyrand and the Directory had refused to negotiate with them unless they would first pay a substantial bribe. Adams reported the insult to Congress, and the Senate printed the correspondence, in which the Frenchmen were referred to only as “X, Y, and Z.”

The Nation broke out into what Jefferson called “the X. Y. Z. fever,” increased in intensity by Adams’s exhortations. The populace cheered itself hoarse wherever the President appeared. Never had the Federalists been so popular.

Congress appropriated money to complete three new frigates and to build additional ships, and authorized the raising of a provisional army. It also passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, intended to frighten foreign agents out of the country and to stifle the attacks of Republican editors.

President Adams did not call for a declaration of war, but hostilities began at sea. At first, American shipping was almost defenseless against French privateers, but by 1800 armed merchantmen and U.S. warships were clearing the sea-lanes.

Despite several brilliant naval victories, war fever subsided. Word came to Adams that France also had no stomach for war and would receive an envoy with respect. Long negotiations ended the quasi war.

Sending a peace mission to France brought the full fury of the Hamiltonians against Adams. In the campaign of 1800 the Republicans were united and effective, the Federalists badly divided. Nevertheless, Adams polled only a few less electoral votes than Jefferson, who became President.

On November 1, 1800, just before the election, Adams arrived in the new Capital City to take up his residence in the White House. On his second evening in its damp, unfinished rooms, he wrote his wife, “Before I end my letter, 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.”

Adams retired to his farm in Quincy. Here he penned his elaborate letters to Thomas Jefferson. Here on July 4, 1826, he whispered his last words: “Thomas Jefferson survives.” But Jefferson had died at Monticello a few hours earlier.


Famous Days for Students of English

On November 1, 1800, President John Adams starts to live in the President’s House. The house is new. Today this house has a different name. The name is the White House.

The White House is the place where the President of the United States lives. His family also lives there. The White House is in Washington, D.C. The house is 5,100 square meters big. The land around the house has seven hectares.

Today, the White House also has a medical office, a dental office, a television studio, a solarium , a swimming pool and a shelter against nuclear bombs.

The White House has 132 rooms, three kitchens, 35 bathrooms, and 16 bedrooms. The most famous room is the Oval Office. It is the official office of the President of the USA.


History of the White House

Washington, D.C., has not always looked like it does today. Once it was a sleepy little village with only a few buildings. There were no good roads into the village, and no good docks for boats.

About two hundred years ago, when the United States was a brand-new country, people began to talk about where the president should live. Should the president live in the North or the South? Should the president's house be a palace, like kings live in, or a simpler house?

While Congress debated what to build and where to build it, our first president, George Washington, lived in three houses. The first two were in New York City. The third was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Finally, Washington decided to compromise. He picked a patch of land on the Potomac River.

Both Maryland and Virginia gave land for the new capital. The land was on the border of the North and the South. At that time, there were no western states! George Washington named the land the District of Columbia, in honor of Christopher Columbus.

President Washington hired people to plan a new city. Washington, D.C., is one of the only cities in the world that was designed before it was built. First, Benjamin Banneker and Andrew Ellicott made maps of the land. Then Pierre Charles L'Enfant decided where to put the roads. Washington decided to put the Capitol Building on a hill at one end of the city, and the president's house on a hill at the other end.

Next it was time to decide what kind of house to build for the president. Thomas Jefferson suggested having a contest. He advertised the contest in newspapers across the country. A committee picked a simple but elegant design by James Hoban, a young Irish American architect.

The first stone was laid on October 13, 1792. It took eight years to finish enough of the house to make it livable. The Capitol Building wasn't completed yet, and congressmen lived in boardinghouses surrounded by farmland. John Adams, the second president of the United States, moved into a cold, damp White House in November 1800. Abigail Adams hung her laundry up to dry in the East Room. She thought it would be bad manners to hang the president's laundry outside.

By the time our third president, Thomas Jefferson, moved into the White House in 1801, most of the outside structures were finished. The White House was the largest residential house in America! Jefferson ordered wallpaper and furniture from France. Every president since has ordered special things for the house. Today, you can see chairs that people sat on more than one hundred years ago! During this time, the building was called the President's Palace, and then the President's House.

Then James Madison was elected president. During his term of office, the United States went to war with England. It was the War of 1812. As the British troops got close to Washington, Madison's wife, Dolley, ordered a carriage to pick her up and take her to safety. But she would not leave the house until two men agreed to take down the famous portrait of George Washington. The troops set fire to the Capitol Building and the White House. Today, the picture that Dolley saved is the only thing that has been in the White House since it first opened. When the war was over, the house was rebuilt and repainted white to cover the smoke marks. People began to call it the White House.

Adapted from The Story of the White House by Kate Waters. (Copyright 1991. Published by Scholastic.)

History of The White House: An American Treasure

For almost 200 years, the White House has stood as a symbol of the Presidency, the United States government, and the American people. Its history and the history of the nation's capital began when President George Washington signed an Act of Congress in December of 1790 declaring that the federal government would reside in a district "not exceeding ten miles square . . . on the river Potomac." President Washington, together with city planner Pierre L'Enfant, chose the site for the new residence, which is not 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. As preparations began for the new federal city, a competition was held to find a builder for the "President's House." Nine proposals were submitted, and Irish-born architect James Hoban won a gold medal for his practical and handsome design.

Construction began when the first cornerstone was laid in October of 1792. Although President Washington oversaw the construction of the house, he never lived in it. It was not until 1800, when the White House was nearly completed, that its first residents, President John Adams and his wife Abigail, moved in. Since that time, each President has made his own changes and additions. The White House is, after all, the President's private home. It is also the only private residence of a head of state that is open to the public free of charge.

The White House has a unique and fascinating history. It survived a fire at the hands of the British in 1814 during the War of 1812, and another fire in the West Wing in 1929 while Herbert Hoover was President. Throughout much of Harry S. Truman's presidency, the interior of the house was completely gutted and renovated while the Trumans lived at Blair House, right across Pennsylvania Avenue. Nonetheless, the exterior stone walls are those first put in place when the White House was constructed two centuries ago.

Presidents can express their individual style in how they decorate the house and in how they receive the public during their stay. Thomas Jefferson held the first Inaugural open house in 1805. Many of those who attended the swearing in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol simply followed him home, where he greeted them in the Blue Room. President Jefferson also opened the house for public tours, and it has remained open, except during wartime, ever since. In addition, he welcomed visitors to annual receptions on New Year's Day and the Fourth of July. In 1829, a horde of 20,000 Inaugural callers forced President Andrew Jackson to flee to the safety of a hotel while, on the lawn, aids filled washtubs with orange juice and whiskey to lure the mob out of the mud-tracked White House.

Soon after Abraham Lincoln's presidency, Inaugural crowds became far too large for the White House to accommodate them comfortably. However, not until Grover Cleveland's first presidency did this unsafe practice change. He held a presidential review of the troops from a flag-draped grandstand built in front of the White House. This procession evolved into the official Inaugural parade we know today. Receptions on New Year's Day and the Fourth of July continued to be held until the early 1930s.

President Clinton's open house on January 21, 1993, renewed a venerable White House Inaugural tradition. Two thousand citizens, selected by lottery, were greeted in the Diplomatic Reception Room by President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President and Mrs. Gore.

Adapted from "The White House: The House of the People", by the White House Historical Association.


Famous Days for Students of English

On November 1, 1800, President John Adams moved into the newly constructed President’s House. This building is known today as the White House.

The White House is still the official residence and office of the President of the United States and where his family also lives. It is located in Washington, D.C. It covers an area of over 5,100 square meters and stands on a land of more than seven hectares.

Today, the White House also has a medical office, a dental office, a television studio, a solarium , a swimming pool and a shelter against nuclear bombs.

The White House has 132 rooms, three kitchens, 35 bathrooms, and 16 bedrooms. The most famous room is the Oval Office. It is the official office of the President of the USA.

The White House is visited by 30,000 visitors a week.

Difficult words: residence (a place where somebody lives), cover (to be over an area), hectare (10,000 square metres), solarium (a room where you can see the sun easily), shelter (a place where people are protected from danger), oval (elliptical).


Creating A New City & Moving The Capital

Choosing to move the capital from Philadelphia came about through negotiations and compromise between the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson. Eye Witness to History explains that the Republicans “Accepted the Federalist proposal that the national government pays the state debts incurred during the war of independence.” In return, the Federalists agreed to relocate the nation’s capital to a location designated by George Washington.

Rather than simply relocating the capital to an existing city, U.S. History points out that the new location of the capital, “The special District of Columbia, to be under Congressional control, would be built on the Potomac River.”


John Adams moves into White House

On November 1, 1800, President John Adams, in the last year of his only term as president, moved into the newly constructed President’s House, the original name for what is known today as the White House.

Adams had been living in temporary digs at Tunnicliffe’s City Hotel near the half-finished Capitol building since June 1800, when the federal government was moved from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington, D.C. In his biography of Adams, historian David McCullough recorded that when Adams first arrived in Washington, he wrote to his wife Abigail, at their home in Quincy, Massachusetts, that he was pleased with the new site for the federal government and had explored the soon-to-be President’s House with satisfaction.

Although workmen had rushed to finish plastering and painting walls before Adams returned to D.C. from a visit to Quincy in late October, construction remained unfinished when Adams rolled up in his carriage on November 1. However, the Adams’ furniture from their Philadelphia home was in place and a portrait of George Washington was already hanging in one room. The next day, Adams sent a note to Abigail, who would arrive in Washington later that month, saying that he hoped “none but honest and wise men [shall] ever rule under this roof.”

Although Adams was initially enthusiastic about the presidential mansion, he and Abigail soon found it to be cold and damp during the winter. Abigail, in a letter to a friend, wrote that the building was tolerable only so long as fires were lit in every room. She also noted that she had to hang their washing in an empty “audience room” (the current East Room).

John and Abigail Adams lived in what she called “the great castle” for only five months. Shortly after they moved in, Thomas Jefferson defeated Adams in his bid for re-election. Abigail was happy to leave Washington and departed in February 1801 for Quincy. As Jefferson was being sworn in on March 4, 1801, John Adams was already on his way back to Massachusetts, where he and Abigail lived out the rest of their days at their family farm.


19C American Women in a New Nation

President John Adams, in the last year of his only term as president, moved into the newly constructed President's House, the original name for what is known today as the White House. Adams had been living in temporary digs at Tunnicliffe's City Hotel near the half-finished Capitol building since June 1800, when the federal government was moved from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington, D.C.
John Adams was President from 1797-1801 Portrait by John Trumbull 1792-3

In his biography of Adams, historian David McCullough recorded that when Adams first arrived in Washington, he wrote to his wife Abigail, at their home in Quincy, Massachusetts, that he was pleased with the new site for the federal government and had explored the soon-to-be President's House with satisfaction.

Although workmen had rushed to finish plastering and painting walls before Adams returned to D.C. from a visit to Quincy in late October, construction remained unfinished when Adams rolled up in his carriage on November 1.

However, the Adams' furniture from their Philadelphia home was in place and a portrait of George Washington was already hanging in one room. The next day, Adams sent a note to Abigail, who would arrive in Washington later that month, saying that he hoped "none but honest and wise men [shall] ever rule under this roof."

Abigail Adams painted by Gilbert Stuart

Although Adams was initially enthusiastic about the presidential mansion, he & Abigail soon found it to be cold and damp during the winter. Abigail, in a letter to a friend, wrote that the building was tolerable only so long as fires were lit in every room. She also noted that she had to hang their washing in an empty "audience room" (the current East Room).

John & Abigail Adams lived in what she called "the great castle" for only 5 months. Shortly after they moved in, Thomas Jefferson defeated Adams in his bid for re-election. Abigail was happy to leave Washington, and departed in February 1801 for Quincy. As Jefferson was being sworn in on March 4, 1801, John Adams was already on his way back to Massachusetts, where he & Abigail lived out the rest of their days at their family farm.

1803 White House by Nicholas King in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


The President's House Site: Presidents Washington and Adams

The Washington Residency, 1790-1797
George Washington moved into the President's House in November 1790, calling the elegant, three-story brick mansion the "best single house in the city," and remained in residence until March 1797. Washington brought with him a household that consisted of about thirty people, including members of his own family, his personal staff and their families, some fifteen white servants, and a total of nine enslaved Africans.

Washington conducted the business of the executive branch from a small, second-floor office. While President in Philadelphia, he signed into law the ten amendments to the Constitution that made up the Bill of Rights, approved a national banking system to keep the country financially stable, and proclaimed a policy of neutrality regarding American involvement in European affairs.

The issue of slavery plagued Washington throughout his time in Philadelphia. Washington eventually decided to free his slaves in his will, undertook measures to free wife Martha's dower slaves, and donated money toward the creation of the African Episcopal Church of St.Thomas.

But, Washington also conspired to prevent those enslaved individuals he held in the President's House from achieving their freedom by knowingly violating Pennsylvania law. Under the Gradual Abolition Law of 1780, citizens from other states were permitted to live in Pennsylvania with their slaves for a period of up to six months. The law also provided that any enslaved people residing here continuously for that length of time could take steps to obtain their own freedom. T o keep this from happening to the slaves brought from Mt. Vernon, Washington regularly rotated them out of Pennsylvania before the six-month deadline. Amendments to the Gradual Abolition Law passed in 1788 made such actions illegal. He made life much more perilous for African Americans throughout the country (making up 1/5 of the total population) by signing into law the notorious Fugitive Slave Law of 1793.

The Adams Residency, 1797-1800
John Adams and his wife Abigail moved into the President's House in March 1797 upon his election to the presidency. Adams, a man of frugal habits, simple tastes, and a lifelong aversion to slavery, likely ran a much different household than his predecessor. Though Adams left no explicit records of how he functionally utilized the President's House, we do know that during his time there, no slaves were ever in residence.

In contrast to the relative pomp of the Washington administration, the President's House under Adams appears to have exuded a much more sedate, aloof atmosphere (he regularly underspent his allotment for state functions and related entertaining). The largest function at the house during his residence occurred after Washington died in December 1799, when more than a hundred people attended Mrs. Adams' mourning "drawing room" in Washington's honor.

During his presidency, Adams headed up a deeply divided and increasingly partisan government, as the nation became more and more entrenched along emerging Republican and Federalist Party lines. In foreign affairs, he wrestled with the "XYZ" diplomatic snub by the French, which very nearly plunged the new nation into war. In the domestic sphere, Adams' administration saw the ratification of the 11th
Amendment to the Constitution, the creation of a national Navy, and the establishment of the Mississippi Territory. However, Adams was roundly criticized for signing into law the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Adams left the President's House in May 1800, moving into the recently finished White House by November of the same year.


Was the presidents house in Philadelphia really plundered by Washington before the Adams' moved in?

Washington vacated the President's House on March 9, 1797, within a few days of Adams's inauguration. Abigail was not present, but Adams wrote her: "The furniture belonging to the public is in the most deplorable condition. There is not a chair to sit in. The beds and bedding are in a woeful pickle. This house has been been a scene of the most scandalous drinking and disorder among the servants that I ever heard of. I would not have one of them for any consideration. There is not a carpet nor curtain, nor any glass, nor linen, nor china, nor anything." -- JA to AA, March 22, 1797. Washington's left behind two of his secretaries to oversee the transition. There is nothing in their letters to him that corroborates the claims Adams made to Abigail or indicates that there had been anything amiss. Washington removed the furniture he had personally bought to supplement the government furniture (after Adams declined his offer to buy it at cost). Congress later appropriated money for Adams to buy additional furniture. Following the repainting of the house's interior, Adams took occupancy on March 21, 1797.


Before the White House…Philadelphia had the President’s House

With a brokered deal in which regional interests competed for the permanent capital of the fledgling new United States of America, it was decided that the temporary capital for ten years would be located in the city that had birthed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, while a new federal city was being constructed – carved out of the swampy wilderness of Virginia and Maryland. At the time, Philadelphia was a teeming city boasting a population of 28,522 people and was second only to New York City’s 33,131 inhabitants.

The President’s House in Philadelphia

Where should Washington live? As President George Washington prepared to establish residence in Philadelphia, the question naturally arose as to where His Excellency would live. For almost a decade, from November 1790 to June 1800, George Washington and then John Adams resided in one of the largest houses in Philadelphia that served as their home and office during their terms of office. Situated at the corner of today’s Market Street and 6th Street, the house belonged to Robert Morris, the genius who has been called the “Financier of the Revolution.”

Close to birthplace of nation: The house was located just over a thousand feet from the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) where the Declaration of Independence had been forged in 1776. Independence Hall was also where Washington had presided over the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787 and where delegates under the inspired genius of James Madison had crafted a new and revolutionary form of government to replace the inefficient and ineffective Articles of Confederation.

Close to Congress Hall: Washington’s new home was also just a two minute walk from what is now know as Congress Hall but then was known as the Philadelphia County Court House. It was in this building that the House of Representatives and the Senate met for a decade with the House chamber lodged on ground floor and the Senate situated on the second floor, with rooms for committee meetings and other functions.

Adams moves into the President’s House: The feisty and often combative John Adams was elected the nation’s second president in 1796, following Washington’s two terms of steady leadership. On March 4, 1797, Adams took the oath of office in Congress Hall, and moved into the President’s House while Washington eagerly retired to his beloved Mount Vernon. Washington was the only president not to live in the federal city bearing his name or to live in the White House, whose location he selected in 1791.

Adams moves to Washington: Adams lived in Philadelphia’s President’s House until June 1800 when he and Abigail moved to the new capital in Washington, DC, first to temporary quarters in Tunnicliffe’s City Hotel, and then on November 1, 1800 to the newly constructed President’s House (also known as the Executive Mansion, and later designated as the White House by Theodore Roosevelt). By mid-February, 1801, Adams knew that he had been defeated for re-election and thus he lived just five months in the still being finished White House.

Location of the President’s House at 6th & Market Streets in Philadelphia. Today only a partially reconstructed shell marks the original location .

President’s House demolished: After the capital moved to Washington, the grand brick mansion in Philadelphia that had housed our nation’s first two presidents was converted to an unsuccessful hotel. Starting in 1832, through a series of gradual and unfortunate demolitions, that continued in 1935, 1941, and 1951 the house began to disappear. In its place today is a newly constructed partial brick facade showing the shape and size of the house where so many important decisions were made by Washington and Adams as they forged the structure of the new government and established precedents to give flesh to the 4,400 word Constitution.

All presidents since Adams lived in White House: After November 1800, all of our presidents have lived in the White House, although Harry Truman had to move out from 1948 to 1952 while the interior was totally gutted and rebuilt – a necessary renovation project to prevent the aging structure from literally collapsing in on itself. For more information about this reconstruction effort I recommend you read Robert Klara’s outstanding book, The Hidden White House. Click here for a blog entry I wrote reviewing this book. James Madison also had to vacate the White House after the British torched it on August 24, 1814 during the War of 1812. For the remaining two and a half years of his term, he lived in the Octagon House in Washington. James Monroe didn’t move into the newly rebuilt Executive Mansion until six months after his term began.

More information: For more information on Philadelphia’s President’s House, click here to read a well-researched article by Edward Lawler, Jr.


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