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The President's House by George Munger

The President's House by George Munger

The President's House by George Munger; c. 1814-1815; Watercolor on paper, 12 x 16 inches.

The burned-out shell of a once elegant and imposing house stands alone in the landscape. It is the White House as it looked following the conflagration of August 24, 1814, the low point of the War of 1812. The fire was the work of British troops, the first--and only--foreign army to invade the capital city of the United States. Viewed from the northeast, from the public common, the empty scene is a vivid reminder of the elemental state of the capital city at that date. One prominent but puzzling detail is the S-curved shape above the near corner of the roof. It is most readily interpreted as part of a lightning protection system. Not a lightning rod, given its length, but rather part of the metallic conductor that encircled the roof, now torn from its mooring. This record of fact could also be interpreted ironically since the British had destroyed what thunder and lightning could not.

Kloss, William, et al. Art in the White House: A Nation's Pride. Washington, D.C.: The White House Historical Association, 2008.

Gift of the White House Acquisition Trust.

George Munger
Date of Work
The White House Historical Association (White House Collection)