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In the 1790s James Hoban was tasked with designing a house. Not difficult right? Most were simple back then. Square and symmetrical.
But this was different. A symbol for the new nation. It became the White House.
Washington’s President House —
The revolution is finish, Brits pushed out. General George Washington inaugurated as the first president of the brand new United States of America. A proud time after breaking from England.
A contest was held for the best architect. Many designs submitted and one chosen. The below was drawn by an Irishman named James Hoban. A powerful design based on the Leinster House in Dublin.
A cornerstone laid in 1792 and many men put to work. Such important work was given to enslaved and free African Americans and immigrants. 8 years later it was 1800, the beginning of America’s first century.
Sad Fact :: Washington missed out
George Washington was out of office. He never saw the White House completed.
In 1799 he felt sick while doing chores at his home in Mount Vernon. The tough commander continued working. It got worse. Three doctors rushed to his side. Called it “inflammation of the throat”.
George Washington died at 10pm on Dec 14, 1799 at the age of 67. His final words, “Tis well”.
One year later President John Adams was the first to move into a newly built White House.
The British Strike again – –
Confusion of facts is common after 200 years.
Most say the attack on Washington D.C. was revenge for destroying York (now Toronto). But we disagree.
As told on our Ghost Walks of Niagara-on-the-Lake, it was revenge for Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake). The once capitol of Canada was burned by American soldiers and British traitors in 1814. Plan was to deny British shelter during the cold Winter.
Inadvertently they chased women and children from their homes, into the woods where they froze to death. The war turned dark, vengeance taken on Buffalo. A deal signed, then broken.
What everyone agrees is the British marched on Washington. Buildings lit on fire including the White House and Capitol.
The city is saved when rains and winds swept down. They say a hurricane hit Constitution Avenue. So powerful they lifted two canons into the air, thrown across and killing nearby soldiers.
After the war North America settled. Architect James Hoban was called back to Washington to rebuild.
President James Madison had him restore the White House. Some of the charred walls left as reminders of what happened here in 1814.
Such History makes interesting Ghosts
142 rooms, 6 floors all inside 55,000 square feet… and 5 known ghosts in the White House!
Harrison in the Attic – –
He was President in March and dead by April 1841. The shortest presidency in United States history.
Pneumonia took him. Said to be caused by poor weather at his inauguration. A sad end for the determined man finally succeeded to office after two attempts.
He was the first president to die in the White House. This and his determination may be why remains.
Harrison is experienced in the attic. Staff up there to retrieve documents. Workers will hear papers shuffle and items being dragged across the floor.
Expecting to see another staff member when walking around the corner. They’re alone.
The Thing – –
Not a movie monster. It’s the ghost of a 15 year old boy seen inside the White House during the Taft administration.
In the early 1900’s military aid Archibald Butt saw the ghost. Mentioned it in a letter to his sister. Said the ghost watches while he’s hunched over writing at his desk.
Fells a pressure pushing down on his shoulder. Feels like a small hand, like the boy is leaning over to see his paper.
INTERESTING FACT :: Taft was a skeptic
President Taft, a serious man, told Butt to tell all staff the stories were fake. That if any them were caught repeating “such nonsense”, they’d be fired.
Jackson’s Angry – –
Mary Todd Lincoln heard him inside the White House. She said Andrew Jackson stomped and swore while pacing up and down the residence hallway.
Harry Truman may have confirmed his ghost in a letter to his wife Bess,
“I sit here while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway. I can picture Andy arguing with Teddy”
Meaning Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt. Whether it wishful imagery or actual experience is unknown.
They all think Jackson’s ghost is ill-tempered. In life known for holding grudges, he felt the presidency was in hand in 1824. Ousted by John Quincy Adams, but finally elected in 1828. Jackson took out his anger Adams supporters.
Speaking of Adams – –
Abigail was the mother of John Quincy and the wife of John (president in 1797). And a White House resident in 1800.
Mrs. Adams did her own laundry. Constantly seen trudging wet laundry into the East Room for drying. She carried it through the White House halls, arms outstretched and dressed in cap and lace.
Those same ghost enthusiasts of the Taft administration who saw “the Thing” also saw Abigail. They said she’d wander that same hallway into the East Room. Still wearing cap and lace with wet clothes draped over her arms.
Talk about ghosts in the White House and everyone thinks of the same man… honest Abe Lincoln.
The stout commander led the United States through a Civil War. Ahead of his time, he freed the slaves and made sure his country gave rights to everyone regardless of race or creed.
And for many he’s the most known ghost inside the White House, North America, maybe the world.
Dream of Death – –
Lincoln believed in prophetic dreams.
As mentioned in a letter he wrote to a former law partner (1865) just days before going to Ford’s Theatre.
He mentioned a vivid dream. He walked into the East Room passed guards standing on opposite sides. A large crowd sitting in chairs. Their heads down.
He saw a figure lying on a front table, still, a body draped in thin fabric.
Did this dream foreshadow Lincoln’s death? He would have believed it. As shown in a letter written in 1842,
“I always did have a strong tendency to mysticism”
Written 20 years before his son’s death in 1862. Long before his wife’s public support of spiritualism. Proving the couple believed in ghosts long before moving into the White House.
Lincoln’s Ghost – –
Grace Coolidge saw him standing in the Oval Office. His lanky figure as a shadow blocking light as he looked out to an old Civil War battlefield across the Potomac.
Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands stayed at the White House in 1942. At night she woke to a knock at the bedroom door. Sleepily, she stumbled over, opened the door to see a tall man with a wide beard. He wore a tall hat and had a prominent face staring forward into the room behind her. The Queen fainted. Upon waking the man was gone.
FUN EXPERIENCE :: How Churchill sees a ghost
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was visiting during World War II. Innocently taking a bath, he walked naked into the bedroom, cigar hanging from his mouth. Noticed a stranger in a chair by the fireplace. He almost yelled before recognizing Lincoln. The ghost calmly looking out a window.
Eleanor Roosevelt used the Lincoln bedroom as a study. She constantly reported feeling “his presence”.
Even Ronald Reagan believed – –
He agreed with Eleanor about the White House Lincoln bedroom.
The Reagan’s beloved dog Rex had an experience. First time going into the Lincoln bedroom he perked up. Starting barking at an empty corner. Would show dominance, then quiet and whimpering as he trotted out of the room tail between his legs. Rex refused to enter again.
Maureen, President Reagan’s daughter, stayed over with her husband on many nights. Because of the history she preferred sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom.
Her husband woke one night and saw a man by the window. Faced away and looking outside. The man slowly turned, revealing that prominent and serious face. Staring back but never seeing the the husband before Lincoln vanished.
He woke Maureen, told her what happened but she didn’t believe it. She told friends, family and staff. It became a running joke to embarrass her husband.
The joke ended. Not long after Maureen woke one morning to see a man staring out that window. Said sun shone around him, and right through his transparent body. Lincoln slowly turned and looked back before vanishing.
Spiritualism in the White House
Mary Todd Lincoln was known for it. Especially after the tragic death of her son Willie from typhoid fever.
Abraham handled the boy’s death with fatherly grief, telling all
“He was too good for this earth … God called him home”
But Mary wanted proof. She setup spirit circles and seances in the White House’s Red Room. Non-believers say it came from extreme grief and growing insanity.
But we know traditional spiritualism was popular back then. Even among our most historical figures.
The White House included. They were in good company.