Following his April 1789 inauguration,
President George Washington occupied two executive mansions in New York City: the
Samuel Osgood House at 3 Cherry Street (April 1789 – February 1790), and the
Alexander Macomb House at 39–41 Broadway (February–August 1790). In May 1790, New York began construction of
Government House for his official residence, but he never occupied it. The national capital moved to Philadelphia in December 1790.
The July 1790
Residence Act named
Pennsylvania the temporary national capital for a 10-year period while the
Federal City was under construction. The City of Philadelphia rented
city house at 190 High Street (now 524–30 Market Street) for Washington's presidential residence. The first president occupied the Market Street mansion from November 1790 to March 1797, and altered it in ways that may have influenced the design of the White House. As part of a futile effort to have Philadelphia named the permanent national capital, Pennsylvania built a much grander presidential mansion several blocks away, but Washington declined to occupy it.
John Adams also occupied the Market Street mansion from March 1797 to May 1800. On Saturday,
 November 1, 1800,
 he became the first president to occupy the White House. The
President's House in Philadelphia became a hotel and was demolished in 1832, while the unused presidential mansion became home to the
University of Pennsylvania.
|First Presidential Mansion:
Samuel Osgood House
, Manhattan, New York. Occupied by Washington: April 1789 – February 1790.
|Second Presidential Mansion:
Alexander Macomb House
, Manhattan, New York. Occupied by Washington: February–August 1790.
|Third Presidential Mansion:
, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Occupied by Washington: November 1790 – March 1797. Occupied by Adams: March 1797 – May 1800.
, Manhattan, New York (1790–1791). Built to be the permanent presidential mansion, Congress moved the national capital to Philadelphia before its completion.
House intended for the President, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1790s). Built to be the permanent presidential mansion, neither Washington nor Adams would occupy it.
. His 3-story, 9-bay original submission was altered into this 2-story, 11-bay design.
The President's House was a major feature of
Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant's' plan for the newly established federal city, Washington, D.C. (see:
 The architect of the White House was chosen in a
design competition which received nine proposals, including one submitted anonymously by
President Washington visited
Charleston, South Carolina in May 1791 on his "Southern Tour", and saw the under-construction
Charleston County Courthouse designed by Irish architect
James Hoban. He is reputed to have met with Hoban then. The following year, he summoned the architect to Philadelphia and met with him in June 1792.
On July 16, 1792, the President met with the commissioners of the federal city to make his judgment in the architectural competition. His review is recorded as being brief, and he quickly selected Hoban's submission.
Washington was not entirely pleased with the original submission, however; he found it too small, lacking ornament, and not monumental enough to house the nation's president. On his recommendation, the house was changed from three stories to two, and was widened from a nine-bay facade to an 11-bay facade. Hoban's competition drawings do not survive.
The building has classical inspiration sources, that could be found directly or indirectly in the Roman architect
Vitruvius or in
Andrea Palladio styles; Palladio being an Italian architect of the
Renaissance which had a considerable influence on the Western architecture (
Palladian architecture). The building Hoban designed is verifiably influenced by the upper floors of
Leinster House, in
Dublin, which later became the seat of the
Oireachtas (the Irish parliament).
 Several other Georgian-era Irish country houses have been suggested as sources of inspiration for the overall floor plan, details like the bow-fronted south front, and interior details like the former niches in the present
Blue Room. These influences, though undocumented, are cited in the official White House guide, and in
White House Historical Association publications. The first official White House guide, published in 1962, suggested a link between Hoban's design for the South Portico and
Château de Rastignac, a neoclassical country house located in
La Bachellerie in the
Dordogne region of France and designed by
Mathurin Salat. Construction on the French house was initially started before 1789, interrupted by the
French Revolution for twenty years and then finally built 1812–1817 (based on Salat's pre-1789 design).
 The theoretical link between the two houses has been criticized because Hoban did not visit France. Supporters of a connection posit that
Thomas Jefferson, during his tour of
Bordeaux in 1789, viewed Salat's architectural drawings (which were on-file at the College) at the
École Spéciale d'Architecture (Bordeaux Architectural College).
 On his return to the U.S. he then shared the influence with Washington, Hoban, Monroe, and
Benjamin Henry Latrobe.
Construction of the White House began with the laying of the cornerstone on October 13, 1792, although there was no formal ceremony.
 The main residence, as well as foundations of the house, were built largely by
enslaved and free
African-American laborers, as well as employed Europeans.
 Much of the other work on the house was performed by immigrants, many not yet with citizenship. The sandstone walls were erected by
Scottish immigrants, employed by Hoban,
 as were the high-relief rose and garland decorations above the north entrance and the "fish scale" pattern beneath the pediments of the window hoods. The initial construction took place over a period of eight years, at a reported cost of $232,371.83 (equal to $3,279,177 today). Although not yet completed, the White House was ready for occupancy circa November 1, 1800.
Shortages, including material and labor, forced alterations to the earlier plan developed by French engineer
Pierre Charles L'Enfant for a "palace" that was five times larger than the house that was eventually built.
 The finished structure contained only two main floors instead of the planned three, and a less costly brick served as a lining for the stone façades. When construction was finished, the porous sandstone walls were
whitewashed with a mixture of lime, rice glue, casein, and lead, giving the house its familiar color and name.
As it is a famed structure in America, several
replicas of the White House have been constructed.
The north front is the principal façade of the White House and consists of three floors and eleven bays. The ground floor is hidden by a raised carriage ramp and
parapet, thus the façade appears to be of two floors. The central three bays are behind a
prostyle portico (this was a later addition to the house, built circa 1830) serving, thanks to the carriage ramp, as a
porte cochere. The windows of the four bays flanking the portico, at first-floor level, have alternating pointed and segmented
pediments, while at second-floor level the pediments are flat. The principal entrance at the center of the portico is surmounted by a
fanlight. Above the entrance is a sculpted floral
festoon. The roofline is hidden by a balustraded
The mansion's southern façade is a combination of the
Palladian and neoclassical styles of architecture. It is of three floors, all visible. The ground floor is
rusticated in the Palladian fashion. At the center of the façade is a neoclassical projecting bow of three bays. The bow is flanked by five bays, the windows of which, as on the north façade, have alternating segmented and pointed pediments at first-floor level. The bow has a ground floor
double staircase leading to an
loggia (with the
Truman Balcony at second-floor level), known as the south portico. The more modern third floor is hidden by a balustraded parapet and plays no part in the composition of the façade.
The building was originally variously referred to as the "President's Palace", "Presidential Mansion", or "President's House".
 The earliest evidence of the public calling it the "White House" was recorded in 1811.
 A myth emerged that during the rebuilding of the structure after the
Burning of Washington, white paint was applied to mask the burn damage it had suffered,
 giving the building its namesake hue.
 The name "Executive Mansion" was used in official contexts until President
Theodore Roosevelt established the formal name by having "White House–Washington" engraved on the stationery in 1901.
 The current letterhead wording and arrangement "The White House" with the word "Washington" centered beneath goes back to the administration of
Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Although the structure was not completed until some years after the presidency of George Washington, there is speculation that the name of the traditional residence of the President of the United States may have derived from
Martha Washington's home,
White House Plantation in Virginia, where the nation's first President had courted the First Lady in the mid-18th century.