White House circa 1848 from http://www.whitehousemuseum.org

From http://www.whitehousemuseum.org:

Porticos and Modernization

Benjamin Henry Latrobe had done proposals that included porticos for the north and south side as early as 1807. They were very much in vogue and in keeping with the style of the house. In his term, Thomas Jefferson commissioned Latrobe to make various architectural changes, including small pavilions on the east and west side. Jefferson’s east pavilion’s fancy entrance fell down before it was finished and was never completed.

Latrobe’s first floor plan of 1824

But Latrobe wanted to completely redesign in the interior of the White House, walling it off into small antechambers and parlors. Ultimately, James Hoban returned to add south and north porticos in 1825 and 1829. The porticos were an unqualified success, finally replacing the clumsy wooden porches and platforms that had plagued past first families.

Château de Rastignac (1817), possibly a direct influence
(Jacques Mossot)

Contrary to widely-published myth, the North Portico was not modeled on a similar portico on the Viceregal Lodge (now Áras an Uachtaráin, residence of the president of Ireland); it actually postdates the White House portico’s design; but it is unclear of there was influence from the 1817 Château de Rastignac in France.

Additional changes followed in the 1830s, when running water and central heating were installed under Andrew Jackson. Gaslight was installed in 1848. The original furnace occupied what is now the Diplomatic Reception Room and the later boiler even extended out into the ground floor hallway.

Stables occupied the end of the west pavilion but, in 1857, a glass conservatory was constructed on the west terrace to provide flowers and other plants to the White House.

  • Thomas Walter’s 1853 ground floor plan (LOC)

    Running water was piped into the White House in 1833.

  • A central heating system was installed in the White House in 1837 when many people still warmed themselves with a log or coal fire.
  • Gaslighting, installed in the White House in 1848, replaced candles and oil lamps.
  • Running hot water was first piped into the first family’s second floor bathroom in 1853.

In the time of President Tyler, the acclaimed author Charles Dickens wrote of his visit:

The President’s mansion is more like an English clubhouse, both within and without, than any other kind of establishment with which I can compare it. The ornamental ground about it has been laid out in garden walks; they are pretty, and agreeable to the eye; though they have that uncomfortable air of having been made yesterday, which is far from favorable to the display of such beauties.

White House. A view of the north lawn of the White House taken about 1860. The statue of Thomas Jefferson by Pierre Jean DAvid d’ Angers was placed there by President James Polk in 1848. In 1873 the statue was moved to the rotunda of the United States Capitol building, where it stands today.

Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the “Father of American Architecture” was born in Britain in 1764  and died September 3, 1820 of yellow fever.  He was born to a British Reverand and an American mother from Pennsylvania in a city near West Yorkshire, England.  His mother was sent overseas to attend a Protestant run school, The Morovian Church, which her future husband, Reverend Benjamin Latrobe oversaw for the entire country.   The Reverend was a prominent man who traveled in elite circles.  Benjamin traveled throughout Europe, joined the Prussian army at 18, spoke seven languages, including Hebrew, French, Italian and German.  While in the army he met an American friend who was a military officer in the U.S.  Wikepedia has a fairly comprehensive biography of Latrobe.

Latrobe links:Portrait of Benjamin Henry Latrobe by Rembrandt Peale, c. 1815.


President Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845)

President Jackson, called “Old Hickory” for his toughness, was a champion of liberty, specifically for white men, a vocal supporter of slavery, and staunch supporter of the  removal of Native Americans from the frontier responsible for the Indian Removal Act of 1830. He was military governor of Florida (1821), commander of the American forces at the Battle of New Orleans (1815).  Andrew Jackson was born to Presbyterian Scots-Irish colonists Andrew and Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, on March 15, 1767, approximately two years after they had emigrated from Carrickfergus, in Northern Ireland.[4][5 Jackson was appointed commander of the Tennessee militia in 1801, with the rank of colonel. Jackson defeated the Red Stick Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. Eight hundred “Red Sticks” were killed, but Jackson spared chief William Weatherford. Sam Houston and David Crockett served under Jackson in this campaign.](wikipedia) When British forces threatened New Orleans, Jackson took command of the defenses, including militia from several western states and territories. He was a strict officer but was popular with his troops. It was said he was “tough as old hickory” wood on the battlefield, which gave him his nickname.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Jackson’s presidency was his policy regarding American Indians, which involved the ethnic cleansing of several Indian tribes.[35][36] Jackson was a leading advocate of a policy known as Indian removal. Jackson had been negotiating treaties and removal policies with Indian leaders for years before his election as president. Many tribes and portions of tribes had been removed to Arkansas Territory and further west of the Mississippi River without the suffering and tragedies of what later became known as the Trail of Tears. Further, many white Americans advocated total extermination of the “savages,” particularly those who had experienced frontier wars.


Members of the 1860 Japanese mission to exchange ratifications of the Harris Treaty meeting with President Buchanan at a gala celebration in the White House.In 1860, just before the Civil War, President James Buchanan (1857-1861) hosted the first representatives, or envoys, from Imperial Japan. Two royal princes and a dozen noblemen came with dozens of their servants. They were dressed in silk

robes of their native land, and the citizens of Washington stood outside the White House gate to get a look at them. They walked down Pennsylvania Avenue carrying a box that contained a commercial treaty that would be exchanged with similar documents from the United States. Harper’s Weekly, May 26, 1860

Later that year, Buchanan greeted Albert, the Prince of Wales and the future King of England. Albert stayed overnight at the White House.


http://www.museumofmissinghistory.org has photos of Latrobe’s furniture work as well as designs of furniture he made for President Madison for pieces that are now missing.

http://www.whitehousehistory.org – A rich resource filled with novels, research books, biographies, photos, 19th century history, celebrities, royal visits, etc.

http://www.pbs.org/benjaminlatrobe – A one hour documentary on the architect