White House Design Secrets

George Washington oversaw the building of the White House, but never lived there.
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The White House is one of the most well-known symbols of the United States, and it is home to the sitting American president. The structure was designed in 1792 by James Hoban. While the White House is open for public tours, visitors only get to glimpse a small portion of the massive home. Some details, including tunnels and underground rooms, are secrets reserved for the eyes of a select few.

1 The Basics

The White House has undergone several renovations since its original design, such as the addition of wings to use as storage, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson. Theodore Roosevelt moving the private living quarters to a third-story attic. As of 2013, the White House is made up of six levels that include 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms. The White House also holds 412 doors, 147 windows, eight sets of stairs, three elevators and an impressive 28 fireplaces.

2 Tunnels

Tunnels were built under the White House as a way for people to come and go without detection. According to Ronald Kessler, author of "Inside the White House," there is much folklore around the tunnels, including stories about people sneaking into the Lincoln bedroom to spend the night. Tunnels for the Secret Service exist, as well, and these were designed for the president's security detail to better protect the president.

3 Underground Rooms

According to Robert Klara, author of "The Hidden White House," the first underground structure was built at the White House in 1902, when Theodore Roosevelt was president, to create a basement to hold a boiler. In 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt commissioned the construction of storage and workrooms under the North Portico, Klara notes. During World War II, an underground bunker was built to provide protection to the president in the event of an attack on the White House. Other underground rooms are stocked with food and other items necessary for survival.

4 Additional Secrets

Keeping the White House pristine requires regular painting. According to WhiteHouse.gov, it takes 570 gallons of paint to cover the exterior of the building. The White House kitchen staff is capable of preparing dinner for 140 people or appetizers for up to 1,000 guests. Another lesser-known design feature is the existence of a flower shop on the ground floor of the White House. The flower shop employs florists to make arrangements for events at the White House, as well as to decorate the interior. A bee hive resides on the South Lawn and the bees help pollinate the White House garden and provide honey to use in recipes prepared by White House chefs.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.