The Building of the President’s House
Pierre Charles L'Enfant selected
the site for the President's House
and proposed a grand palace four
times larger than the house that
was built. L'Enfant planned for
the President's House and the
Capitol to be the cardinal points
of his 1791 plan for Washington
city in the District of Columbia.
L'Enfant did not cooperate with
the president's commissioners,
and was dismissed. Subsequently, a national
competition was held to pick the designer of
both the President's House and the Capitol.
President Washington sought out Hoban,
conferred with him, and quickly selected the
architect’s proposed design for the President’s
House in July 1792.
The building site of the President's House in
the 1790s included a great house of brick and
stone rising in the middle of a hive of workmen.
Quarrymen, sawyers, brick makers, and
carpenters fashioned raw materials into the
elements of the vast structure. The exterior of
the residence looked finished by 1800, but it
would take two more years to complete the
interior’s monumental architectural details.
Pediments over the doors, wainscoting, and
ornamental mantelpieces were installed, and a
distinctive row of Ionic columns separated by
arches crossed the Entrance Hall. In time, the
parlors of the state floor were named for the
colors of their décor: the Green Room (1818),
the Blue Room (1838), and the Red Room
(1848). The great salon known as the East
Room was left unfurnished until 1829.