Tue 11 Apr, 2006 10:23 am
Before the White House was finished in 1800, was there an official residence of the US President? Where did Presidents Washington and Adams live when the capital was still in Philadelphia and New York?
John and Abigail Adams were the first to live there, before Jefferson took office. So far, i've come up dry on Washington in New York and Philadelphia, but i'll report back if i come up with anything.
George and Martha Washington lived in a home on the Pamunkey River called the White House and named the new Washington residence after it.
This portion of the Wikipedia article does not state if they lived there during his presidency, and i doubt it. The Pamunkey River is east of Richmond, and much closer to Richmond than to Washington. However, it is interesting. Robert Lee married Mary Custis, whose father, George Washington Custis, was the heritor of George Washington, being his "step-grandson." Subsequently, their son, Rob Lee, inherited the White House estate on the Pamnunkey. During the American Civil War, the Federal Army of the Potomac, commaned by George McClellan, used White House on the Pamunkey as their base when they besieged Richmond.
I hate to tell you this, but probably the best source would be the definitive Washington biography, George Washington, by Douglas Southall Freeman.
Another source i saw claimed Washington inhabited White House on the Pamunkey after the capital was moved to Washington City, and before the executive mansion was built. This might be true, as Martha did not like Washington being President--she refused to attend the first inaugural. But she acted graciously as hostess when he was in office. Washington was very careful to avoid the trappings of monarcy or aristocracy, and once a week met with any members of the public at a levée (as they were then known, basically, a reception) which would admit any citizen who was decently attired. This suggests that in New York, he inhabited no very special residence. It may have been well-furnished, but the implication is that it sat on a well-known site in the city, to which anyone could easily have access.
I continue to doubt the contention that George and Martha lived at White House while he was in office and when the government had been moved to Washington City, though, as Mount Vernon would have been that much closer. There is, though, the issue of why they commonly referred to the new executive mansion as "White House."
By the way, if you have access to a library with Freeman's biography, check volume five or six--volume six, i believe.
You know, Equus, i'm gonna hafta "getcha" for sucking me into this. The Dutch Legate at New York, Rudolph Von Dorsten, reported on Washington's arrival:
Van Dorsten wrote:
His Excellency was received by Governor George Clinton, the mayor of the city and other officers, and, after a procession had formed, consisting of some companies of uniformed citizens and the merchants and other citizens of the city, the President walked with his escort and, Governor Clinton at his side, to the house prepared by Congress for his use."
He did not, however, see fit to mention the address of said house.
I remember reading several years ago that Washington spent a great deal of his presidency on the road, touring and inspecting the 13 states.
Eighteenth century inns were not particularly comfortable places, so Washingto usually stayed in private homes, leading to the now-dates boats, "Geo. Washington Slept Here."
As Set knows, I'm a great fan of both Washington and Freeman. There were a lot of Washington biographies written by the middle of the 19th century, and many of them were exhaustive and exhausting. The scholarship was frequently of a poor order, and the writing so bad that most of those biographies went unread for decades. Freeman, on the other hand is a fine scholar and writes a very readable prose. I have both Freeman's Lee's Lieutenants and his R.E. Lee, but have never seen a copy of his Washington biography. If anyone would like to donate the set to my library, I'll gladly pay the postage.
Whilst in New York, President Washington lived in a modest house near the seat of government. I believe it was rented, but don't have the address. Prior to the burning of the Capitol during the War of 1812, the home of the President's was most often called the President's House, or the Executive Manison. The burned out shell of the Executive Mansion was covered in soot, that was cleaned and then painted white ... hence the name White House. The white house on the pamunky along with Arlington, I believe had been in Washington's possession long before he became President. Arlington was upgraded and rennovated by Geo. W. Custis, and eventually passed with many Washington memorbilia to R.E. Lee on his marriage into the family.
The Presiden'ts House in Philadelphia, was a rather modest and plain four story house with entry directly onto the street. When Adams was elected in 1797, he moved into the "President's House" in Philadelphia. He wrote that the furniture was in deplorable condition and that the beds and bedding was in a 'woeful pickle'.
Ash, the excellent Carnegie library in Columbus, Ohio, had a set of the Freeman, which i read on the occasion on which i re-read the biography. The first time i read it, i got it from the Graduate Library at the University of Illinois when i was employed there. I certainly could not afford to buy the set now, but i'd sure love to have one.
What do you think the chances are that someone out there in A2K land might donate us each a copy? My guess is that the Freeman bio is not much more read than some of the earlier lesser works.
I won't hold my breath. One of the greatest finds i ever made, which i could neither take nor purchase, but could read, was the entire 22 volume set of William Prescott's history of the Spanish in the New World, and the monarchies of Isabella, Carlos and Philip. It was in an 1895 edition with photographic plates. I read all that i could before i had to leave it behind. Ah, the agonies of loving books which others possess and either do not value, or only value as "cash on the hoof."
Not sure about the president, but as for Congress:
"...Congress met in Federal Hall, down at the intersection of Broad and Wall Streets..."
-- Dick Cheney
I know that Washington also took the oath of office there.
The Freeman four volume set on R.E. Lee goes for anywhere from $300 to $500, the seven volume work on Washington is more sought after . I haven't seen a complete set in the last decade. If you were to stumble across one I would guess it would be in the neighborhood of $1000, depending on condition, etc.
There have been a couple of abridged versions, but the serious scholar would probably have little use for them.
That's a neighborhood in which i cannot afford to live.
I guess we'll just have to get along without the Washington bio. Damn, I was hoping that some kind hearted reader would help us out. I've never had access to the full Prescot work, and its another item that would fit in mighty fine on my shelves.
I read the three volumes on the conquest of Mexico, the two volumes on the conquest of Peru, the third of volumes on Isabella (and therefore the Columbus voyages), and three of the four volumes on Philip.