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The cornerstone of the White House was laid on October 13, 1792. President John Adams and his wife Abigail moved into the unfinished structure on November 1, 1800, keeping to the scheduled relocation of the capital from Philadelphia. Congress declared the city of Washington in the District of Columbia the permanent capital of the United States on July 16, 1790. President George Washington and Charles L'Enfant, the French planner of the federal city, chose the site for the residence. Congress selected a design by James Hoban, an Irish emigrant architect living in Charleston, South Carolina for the structure. Modeled after Leister House in Dublin, Ireland, Hoban's plan featured the Palladian style popular in Europe. It was chosen over several other proposals including one submitted by Thomas Jefferson.

Constructed of white-grey sandstone that contrasted sharply with the red brick used in nearby buildings, the presidential mansion was called the White House as early as 1809. President Theodore Roosevelt officially adopted the term in 1902.

Invading British troops burned the White House during the closing months of the War of 1812. Rebuilt and enlarged under the direction of Hoban, it was reoccupied by James Monroe in 1817.

The next major expansion of the executive mansion took place during Theodore Roosevelt's presidency when second-floor rooms were converted from offices into living quarters for the president's family. The West Wing was also built during this period to house the expanding presidential staff. For over six months in 1927, President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge lived in nearby Dupont Circle while the White House was renovated and the roof raised and replaced. During the Truman years, the structure of the building was reinforced with steel beams.
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