Lesson 2: How and Why Has the White House Changed?
In preparation for the this lesson and activity, show students a picture of the White House as it looks today, such as this White House Drawing (or, if possible, White House Drawing: Higher Resolution) and compare it to the competition designs listed in the suggested activity.
What changes were made to the exterior and why?
After completing this lesson in the unit, students will be able to:
Discuss some of the changes the White House has undergone in more than two centuries.
Can students tell which was the winning design (James Hoban's design)? Can they see how Hoban's design is incorporated within the White House of today? The walls of the original structure are still in use.
One of the characteristics desired in the original White House design was expandability. Remember that the Advertisement for Best Design Competition on the White House Historical Association website, a link from the EDSITEment resource Explore DC, specified:
It will be a recommendation of any plan if the Central part of it may be detached and erected for the present with the appearance of a complete whole and be capable of admitting the additional parts in future, if they shall be wanting.
The President's house still contains Hoban's original structure, but there have been so many changes, it can be difficult to recognize. To show students the evolution of the White House, use (if possible) the An Historical Overview of the White House on the White House Historical Association website. If you cannot see the animation, the White House Historical Association also offers a series of architectural sketches showing the Evolution of the House in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Many of the changes made the White House more practical for the use of the President and the First Family (office space, living space, porch, and so on). Some changes were necessary structural changes. Other changes recognized specific needs (for more office space, for a more formal entry, for a bomb shelter during World War II, and so on) related to the evolving U.S. and its presidency.