June 3, 2007

John Adams Moves to Washington D.C.

On this date in 1800, John Adams became the first President to take up residence in the new capital of Washington D.C.

Prior to this, the Nation's business had been conducted out of Philadelphia. It was felt that a new capital should be established in what was then the center of the new country. Maryland and Virginia both ceded land to form the new District of Columbia, and Washington signed an Act of Congress in December, 1790, stating that the government would reside in an area not greater than 10 miles square on the banks of the Potomac.

George Washington, along with the French architect Charles L'Enfant, established the site for the President's residence. A contest was held to determine the architect of the home, and was won by Irish-born James Hoban. (There were only 9 entries, and Washington quickly chose Hoban's, although he was not entirely satisfied with it. Apparently, many of the other entries were entirely amateurish and unappealing.)

Work began on what would later be known as the White House in 1792, and continued for the next 8 years. When Adams moved to Washington in June of 1800, the residence was still not finished, and he took lodgings at the Union Tavern, a popular and fashionable inn. (George Washington's birthday ball had been held there the previous year.)

John Adams was finally able to move into the White House on November 1, 1800, although the work was still incomplete. Only 6 of the 36 rooms were habitable. The rooms were cold and drafty -- unbearable without a constant fire -- and Adams would be required to purchase firewood out of his own pocket.

Adams apparently decided that in telling his wife about their new residence, discretion was the better part of valor. His letter to Abigail on November 2nd said only, "I shall not attempt a description of it. You will form the best Idea of it from Inspection."

Illustration: James Hoban's White House Design, Public Domain

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