On this day in history, Oct. 13, 1792, cornerstone of White House laid down

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Construction of the White House, a global symbol of American power and political stability, began with the laying of its cornerstone on this day in history, Oct. 13, 1792.

“James Hoban, an Irish-born and trained architect then living in South Carolina, won the design competition for the White House,” reports the White House Historical Association.

“It was planned and constructed under the personal supervision of President George Washington.”

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Hoban had arrived in the United States in 1785. His vision for the neoclassical mansion was selected by Congress over several designs, including one submitted by Thomas Jefferson. 

He was inspired by the Palladian style of the Leinster House in Dublin.

President George Washington announced on Jan. 24, 1791, that a new capital city, a District of Columbia, would be built upon 100 square miles of land at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. 

The White House. Designed by James Hoban (1758-1831), in neoclassical style, its construction took place between 1792 and 1800. It has been the residence of every U.S. president since John Adams in 1800. Engraving by Arnout. Panorama Universal. History of the United States of America, from 1st edition of Jean B.G. Roux de Rochelle's Etats-Unis d'Amerique in 1837. Spanish edition, printed in Barcelona, 1850.

The White House. Designed by James Hoban (1758-1831), in neoclassical style, its construction took place between 1792 and 1800. It has been the residence of every U.S. president since John Adams in 1800. Engraving by Arnout. Panorama Universal. History of the United States of America, from 1st edition of Jean B.G. Roux de Rochelle’s Etats-Unis d’Amerique in 1837. Spanish edition, printed in Barcelona, 1850.
(Photo by: Prisma/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Planners named the city Washington, D.C., in honor of the war hero and Father of His Country on September of that year. 

The president’s proclamation included plans for an executive mansion. 

“Washington and Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the French planner of the federal city, chose the site for the residence,” reports the Library of Congress of the landmark moment in both American poetical and architectural history. 

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“Constructed of white-gray sandstone that contrasted sharply with the red brick used in nearby buildings, the President’s House, also known as the Executive Mansion, was called the White House as early as 1812.” 

The name of the mansion was officially changed to the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt on Oct. 12, 1901.

Slaves, along with paid labor, were used to clear land for the city and help construct the mansion, according to many sources.

It was coated in white lime paint in 1798, giving its more distinct true white color. 

The name of the mansion was officially changed to the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt on Oct. 12, 1901.

The White House sandstone was quarried from the Aquia Creek, a tributary of the Potomac south of Washington D.C., near present-day Marine Corps Base Quantico.

The South Lawn of the White House is lit during a Halloween celebration at the White House in Washington on Oct. 25, 2020. 

The South Lawn of the White House is lit during a Halloween celebration at the White House in Washington on Oct. 25, 2020. 
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The initial cornerstone itself has been the source of considerable mystery and conspiracy theories related to the Freemason status of both President Washington and Hoban.

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Freemasons from nearby Alexandria, Virginia, lobbied on behalf of Hoban to earn the honor of building the White House, said Freemason historian Chris Ruli in a recent White House Historical Association podcast. 

Freemasons also led the cornerstone ceremony, he said.

The mansion suffered devastation soon after it was completed. British troops ransacked and torched both the White House and the U.S. Capitol on August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812.

Undated wash drawing shows the burning of Washington, DC, by the British in 1814. The White House is seen in the background. (Original Caption) 

Undated wash drawing shows the burning of Washington, DC, by the British in 1814. The White House is seen in the background. (Original Caption) 
(Getty Images)

“The ensuing fire reduced all but one of the capital city’s major public buildings to smoking rubble, and only a torrential rainstorm saved the Capitol from complete destruction,” states the official version of events by the U.S. Senate.  

Hoban oversaw its reconstruction and spent the rest of his life in Washington, D.C., even serving as a member of the city council for many years. 

Its distinctive porticoes were completed in 1829, giving the mansion the muscular classical look known worldwide today.

It features 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces and eight staircases — and requires 570 gallons of white paint to coat it façade, according to online White House sources.

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It cost $232,372 to build — about $8.2 million in 2022 dollars. It was the largest home in the United States until after the Civil War.

Paintings of former U.S. President John Adams, right, and his wife Abigail Adams, are displayed at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, Massachusetts, on Monday, June 29, 2015. Here in acid-free, low-humidity stacks are 13 million pages of the personal letters and diaries of men and women who helped create the world we live in. They were the first president and first lady to live in the White House.

Paintings of former U.S. President John Adams, right, and his wife Abigail Adams, are displayed at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, Massachusetts, on Monday, June 29, 2015. Here in acid-free, low-humidity stacks are 13 million pages of the personal letters and diaries of men and women who helped create the world we live in. They were the first president and first lady to live in the White House.
(Photographer: Shiho Fukada/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The White House was largely built during Washington’s time in office. 

But he never lived in it. It was late in the administration of second president John Adams: He and Abigail moved into the executive mansion on Nov. 1, 1800, even as finishing touches were still being put on the home.

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“I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it,” Adams wrote to the first lady the following day.

“May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” 

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