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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 architects proposed design for the Presidents House in July 1792.

James Hoban's 1793 north elevation drawing reduced the building from three to two floors because of a concern that there was not enough stone at the government quarry to complete both the Capitol and President's House.

The Maryland Historical Society

The State Floor remains almost exactly as delineated in Hoban's 1792 plan. Note that the section on this drawing indicates a tall-rusticated basement (employing boldly articulated stone blocks) and a third floor for a larger house than was built.

Massachusetts Historical Society

President George Washington's letter to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia on June 8, 1792.

Library of Congress

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 interiors monumental architectural details.

Crafted by Scottish master masons in the 1790s, the richly detailed carving of the White House (north door and over-door detail) remains largely as constructed.

White House Historical Association

Crafted by Scottish master masons in the 1790s, the richly detailed carving of the White House (north door and over-door detail) remains largely as constructed.

White House Historical Association

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 decor: 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.

Leinster House, which still stands in Dublin, influenced James Hoban's design of the President's House. Today, it houses the Oireachtas (national legislature).

1792 view by James Malton, British Library Board

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