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House nation.

October 13, 2008, 10:01 pm

On this day in 1792, workers laid the cornerstone for the White House.

Here are the facts* that interest me about the White House:

1) George Washington, along with what’s-his-name L’Enfant, chose its site. Washington, not content with having a city, a ritzy neighborhood within that city, and pretty much every other damn thing in the country named for him, suggested that the building just be called “George.” “That would be simpler for the common people,” he explained. L’Enfant refused. So Washington murdered him, growling that, “no filthy Frenchman will deny me my eponymous crib.” When congress still rejected Washington’s entreaties, the president, in a fit of pique, refused to serve a third term. All other explanations for his early retirement are bunk.

2) James Hoban, an Irish immigrant living in Charleston, designed the building. Congress selected his plan, which features the Palladian style, over one submitted by Thomas Jefferson. And thus the phrase “Hoban pwned Jefferson” was born.

2) John and Abigail Adams moved in to the incomplete White House in 1800. In lieu of structural supports, John’s ego held up the building for almost three years.

3) Its white sandstone was intended to stand out against nearby red brick buildings. Passersby began calling it the White House in 1809 — eliciting screams of protest from George Washington’s ghost, which still haunts the place.

4) Most urbanists believe that the building would look better painted black, like so:

* Many if not all of these could be wrong. To be honest, my knowledge of and interest in White House lore are rivaled only by Sam Seaborn’s. And if you don’t get that joke, you are, in fact, much cooler than me, a very low bar indeed.

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