Fun Facts About Plumbing in the White House and Its History
When President John Adams moved into the White House in November of 1800, his wife Abigail complained about the White House’s disheveled appearance. It was undergoing constant construction, especially in the East Room. There was absolutely no plumbing, and servants had to bring water in from a spring in Franklin Park, five city blocks away.
In 1814, the White House was torched, and some of it needed to be rebuilt. Reconstruction began in 1815 and continued into 1902 when Theodore Roosevelt took office. During this time, bathrooms were installed. They weren’t the best, but it was better than nothing at that time. In 1948, major reconstruction was done because President Truman noticed that his bathtub was sinking into the floor.
The Appearance of Running Water
When the White House exterior was constructed, it was done so with materials that were supposed to last 300 years. However, the plumbing was installed with just a 20-year expectancy. The plumbing fixtures were made from the highest quality material available during that period.
Showers were provided in the bathrooms on the second and third floors. The second floor features separate shower enclosures, but the third floor had showers in the bathtubs. Each one had an automatic water temperature regulator.
The First Flush
The first flushing toilet was invented in 1775 by Alexander Cumming. He invented the S-shaped pipe below the bowl that the water flows down. It was meant to create a seal that prevents gas from the sewer from entering into the toilet. These are just like the toilets seen in many homes still today. However, the first flushing toilet in the White House came much later.
During his presidency from 1850-1853, Millard Fillmore introduced the first toilet that flushed in the White House. This isn’t to be mistaken for the first actual toilet in the white house, which was installed in 1825 when John Quincy Adams was president.
Additional Facts, Just for Fun!
The White House was part of a $5.7 million project. It was the most extensive renovation done in its 150 years of existence. There were so many holes for piping drilled into beams throughout the White House that they all had to be redone. The commission said that the makeshift plumbing was unsanitary, so everything had to be upgraded.
The plumbing fixtures consist of solid brass, bronze, cast-iron and are all made of high-quality construction. There are also low noise flushing valves and plenty of showers on each floor. At one point, there was a wide washbasin that Andrew Tulley said his four kids could all fit their hands in without rubbing elbows.
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