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. (Check out these other 18 false history “facts” everyone still believes.)
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 whitehousehistory.org. 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.