This new two-part doco aims to reveal the human story behind The White House—those who dreamed it up, designed it, pushed for it, worked on it, believed in it, and of course, those who opposed it.
That very last group must be kicking themselves (which is difficult from within a casket), as The White House has grown to become one of earth’s most iconic buildings, synonymous with power and spectacle.
But sometimes learning the true history of a significant structure needs a counterpoint. Which is why we are presenting you with the lesser known facts about casa de P.O.T.U.S.
There’s no way the news media would let The White House get away with housing its own recreation center, and so some of the more recreationally fanciful aspects of the building have been removed. Throughout its years, 'Club Fed' has boasted:
- A strip-mall complete with flower shop
- A movie theatre
- A bowling alley
- Indoor and Outdoor pools
- A game room with pool and billiard tables
- A jogging track
- A tennis green
- And a tennis court.
Once elected, Obama went and installed basketball hoops on the tennis courts. Such extravagance.
Now, if I were President of The United States, I’d expect a hell of a lot more than the above—for instance, where the hell is the glass room filled with coloured plastic balls?
60 years ahead of its time, OH&S-wise
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s handicap resulted in the installation of wheelchair ramps and elevators all the way through and around the building, something it would have been chastised for ignoring in our modern, slightly more considerate era.
Rumour has it that Roosevelt built a few intentionally steep ramps so he could vent frustrations with a bit of down-hill racing, but those rumours were debunked (by me, because I made it up).
It took 41 years until someone thought to install running water
Hot/cold faucets, weren’t invented until 1880, but running water, in some form, had been around for centuries longer (or thousands of years, depending on your definition of running water).
So from 1792 until 1833, the President kept his entire crib hydrated by forcing servants to lug vats of water to his front door multiple times a week seems more than a little mean. Hail to the jerk.
Someone loses the White House china collection in a card game
That someone was Warren G. Harding, hindsight’s punchline of a 29th President. Known to have reluctantly taken the position then shunted as many of his presidential duties as possible, the Republican even went as far as to say halfway through his leadership: "I am not fit for this office and should never have been here”, in a talk with Columbia University’s own President, in 1922
Instead of figuring out how the hell to make this whole Head of State thing work, Harding retreated to a life of recreational golf, dalliances with his mistress, and epic games of medium-stakes poker.
During one whiskey-soaked session, Harding bet the White House’s ridiculously expensive collection of china, and considering how large the building, we can imagine the winner had to make a few trips to recoup his winnings.
Harding died while in office, after serving for nearly three years.
Richard Nixon removed a shower designed with nozzles designed to wash LBJ's genitals
In Kate Andersen Brower's book examining the history of the White House, The Residence: Inside the Private World of The White House, she reported that when LBJ was President he was so dissatisfied with the shower in the building that he ordered one be built to rival the one in his own home.
As per her book,the shower was "like nothing the staff had ever seen: water charging out of multiple nozzles in every direction with needlelike intensity and a hugely powerful force. One nozzle was pointed directly and the president's penis, which he nicknamed 'Jumbo.' Another shot right up the rear."
Consider that next time you hear the slogan "All the way with LBJ".
Learn more about the whitest house in America on Secrets of The White House , streaming now on SBS On Demand: