This Is the Real Reason the White House Is White

It wasn't just for looks.

this-is-why-the-white-house-is-white-119809810-Orhan-CamOrhan Cam/ShutterstockThe “White House”—the term is both a name and a descriptor. The president’s home wasn’t built with that name or color though.

You might have heard that the building was painted white to cover up burn marks when British soldiers tried to destroy it during the War of 1812, but its color actually predates that 1814 damage. Try your luck at this U.S. presidential trivia everyone gets wrong.

Construction of the White House—which at that point was called the President’s House—started in 1791 and was ready for its first tenant, President John Adams, in 1800. It had received its famous color two years before that though. Don’t miss these other 12 mind-blowing facts you never knew about the White House.

Originally, the home’s color wasn’t from paint but from a lime-based whitewash. The walls are made of sandstone, and the liquid was meant to keep the porous rocks from freezing during the winter, according to Workers would redo the whitewash to ward off weather damage, so the color always looked fresh.

Even though its official name was the President’s House, the massive white house was such a landmark that it soon earned the nickname of (you guessed it) the White House. As early as 1812, Congressman Abijah Bigelow used the term in a letter, and in 1818 it was covered in white lead paint instead of whitewash. It wasn’t until 1901 that the nickname finally became official through Theodore Roosevelt. For more White House trivia, find out the real reason the Oval Office is an oval, and where the phrase “quid pro quo” comes from.


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Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.