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When was Blair House built?

  • Blair House was built in 1824 for Dr. Joseph Lovell, a United States Army Surgeon General, and was one of the first homes on the square near the White House.

Where is Blair House?

  • Blair House is located at 1651 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. It is northwest of the White House and directly across the street from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

What is the purpose of Blair House?

  • Since its purchase by the federal government in 1942, Blair House primarily serves as the official guest residence of the President of the United States. Prior to that, the house was privately owned by the Blair family.  

Who resides in Blair House? 

  • Visiting heads of state, their families, and diplomatic attachés stay in the residence at the pleasure of the President; it also houses the president-elect before the inauguration ceremonies in order to prepare for the administration’s move into the White House.

How many rooms does Blair House have today?

  • Currently, the Blair House complex has approximately 109 rooms, including 15 guest rooms (each with a full bathroom), three formal dining rooms, two large conference rooms, a hot and cold kitchen, a beauty salon, an exercise room, and an in-house laundry facility.

Did any presidents live at Blair House? Why?

  • President Harry Truman lived at the residence from 1948 to 1952. Truman moved into Blair House because of the major renovations taking place at the White House.

What else was Blair House used for?

  • Many presidents from Andrew Jackson to Franklin Roosevelt sought the hospitality of the Blair family. Francis Preston Blair received frequent visits from Jackson as an influential member of the president’s famous “Kitchen Cabinet.” Francis Preston’s son Montgomery Blair served as Abraham Lincoln’s Postmaster General during the Civil War and hosted the president regularly. Gist Blair, the son of Montgomery, was friends with Theodore Roosevelt and chaired the inaugural committee for President William Howard Taft. He later invited Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt to dine at Blair House in 1933, hoping to collaborate with the new president in preserving the historic residence.

Why did President Roosevelt make Blair House the official guest residence?

  • The White House became overcrowded with guests as the United States mobilized for World War II, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advisors, politicians, foreign dignitaries, and visiting heads of state all lobbying to meet with President Roosevelt. To accommodate them, the State Department began renting Blair House in 1942, and by the end of the year the government agreed to purchase the property for $150,000.  

How has Blair House changed since it became the official guest residence?

  • President Truman added adjacent Lee House to Blair House in order to expand the residence; later, two Jackson Place townhouses were purchased and connected to the existing structure. Today, the complex contains approximately 109 rooms, a total area of 60,600 square feet, and a staff of 18 full-time employees.

What other major historical events took place at Blair House?

  • In 1850, future Union general William Tecumseh Sherman married Ellen Ewing at Blair House. President Zachary Taylor, Secretary of State Daniel Webster, and Senator Henry Clay were all in attendance. Eleven years later in the home’s study, Francis Preston and Montgomery Blair offered Robert E. Lee command of the Union army. Lee declined the position, instead becoming the Confederacy’s most victorious and feared general. There was an assassination attempt against President Harry Truman outside the residence on November 1, 1950, when two Puerto Rican nationalists engaged in a gunfight with White House Police. Mortally wounded Officer Leslie Coffelt ended the assault by shooting and killing one of the assailants.

What is the Blair House Restoration Fund?

  • Established in 1985, the Blair House Restoration Fund, a private nonprofit organization, continues to raise funds necessary to help create and maintain the beautiful rooms, gardens, and amenities of Blair House.

Additional Information

Compiled by the White House Historical Association. Please credit the Association by its full name when using this as background material. Specific sources consulted available upon request.

Members of the media may contact Lara Kline for additional information or to schedule an expert interview at lkline@whha.org or 202-218-4316.