Making the White House a 'Home'

Reagans making the White House home

By Mary Boone

Leading a nation is tough work. When the president of the United States goes to his private residence at the end of the day, he undoubtedly yearns for the comforts of "home." But what does that home look like?

The second floor of the White House is the first family's residence, where their bedrooms and private sitting rooms are located. This level has 16 rooms -- including the Lincoln bedroom -- one main corridor and 6 bathrooms. Every first family conducts minor redecorating and restoration work when they move into the White House.

Privacy Preferences

Some presidents have been less private than others when it comes to the private residence. The Clintons, for example, hosted official events there, and first lady Laura Bush allowed documentary crews to film her White House home.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, on the other hand, have worked to ensure the family space is for family only. Journalist Jodi Kantor, whose book, The Obamas, was released in August, has been in the White House dozens of times but has never been to the family's private quarters.

"I can't even name a journalist who has ever been up there under the Obama watch," she told Chicago magazine. "The Obama attitude with the private quarters is, 'This is Sasha and Malia's home.' "

What is known about the Obamas' D.C. home is that they entrusted its decor to California-based interior designer Michael S. Smith, whose celebrity clients include Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hoffman and Rupert Murdoch. Smith has remained tight-lipped about the Obamas' specific style, noting only that "the couple's interest in bringing 20th-century American artists to the forefront and utilizing affordable brands and products" would serve as his work's guiding principles.

While no formal pictures of the rooms in the private quarters have been released in the past four years, much is known about changes the Obamas have made on the White House grounds. Michelle Obama's kitchen garden has been widely publicized, and first daughters Malia and Sasha are enjoying a wooden swing set -- complete with treehouse, tire swing and climbing wall -- installed for them on the South Lawn.

Presidential administrations have all left their marks on the White House. Some of the most notable updates thorough the years:

Presidential Pool

Gerald Ford making the White House home

In 1933, citizens raised money to build a White House swimming pool for President Franklin Roosevelt, who suffered from the crippling disease, poliomyelitis.

Roosevelt used the pool, located inside the West Gallery between the White House and the West Wing, multiple times each day. In later years, President Harry Truman swam in it frequently. President John F. Kennedy liked the pool so much that he made a habit of stopping by at lunch, stripping down for a swim and sneaking back to his private quarters for a nap wearing nothing but a robe.

In 1970, the increasing demand for TV news coverage created the need for a media workspace within the White House. President Richard Nixon had the pool filled in and called for the construction of a press room in its place.

With no indoor pool available, President Gerald Ford decided to have an in-ground pool constructed on the White House grounds in 1975; he swam daily when in town, and his son, Jack, took scuba lessons in the pool. President Jimmy Carter's young daughter, Amy Carter, and first lady Barbara Bush both used the pool on a regular basis.

Pitch Perfect

President Truman created a horseshoe pitch just off the Oval Office, but it was removed later. President George H.W. Bush had a new one constructed near the White House swimming pool. He introduced several world leaders to the sport, including Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Queen Elizabeth II of England.

Bowling and Golf

Eisenhower making the White House home

Bowling lanes were first built in the ground floor of the West Wing as a birthday gift for President Truman in 1947. Truman didn't care for bowling himself but allowed his staff to start a league. These were moved to the Old Executive Office Building in 1955 to make way for a mimeograph room.

In 1969, President and Mrs. Nixon, both avid bowlers, had a new one-lane alley built in an underground workspace area below the driveway leading to the North Portico.

President Dwight Eisenhower had a putting green installed at the White House in 1954. President Bill Clinton had the putting green moved to its current location, just outside the Oval Office door, in 1995. The two greens have been well-used over the years, helping to perfect the putts of Presidents Ford, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Obama.

Getting the run around

President Clinton had a running track installed on the South Lawn of the White House. Much to the dismay of the Secret Service, Clinton preferred jogging around the streets of Washington, DC -- often disrupting traffic -- rather than running the secure White House path. The track has since been removed.

Child's Play

Carters making the White House home

The Obamas aren't the first presidential parents who've added White House play structures for the benefit of their children. First lady Jacqueline Kennedy had a trampoline built into the ground so that Caroline and John Jr. were not visible to pedestrians as the pair bounced into the air. President Carter helped design and build a treehouse for daughter Amy on the White House grounds.

See more on Zillow:
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Making the White House a 'Home'

The former governor of Massachusetts owns a smattering of real estate across the country, including homes in Massachusetts, California and New Hampshire. This collection has been pared down; Romney previously owned two other homes — a large estate in Belmont, Mass., that he sold for $3.5 million in 2009 and a ski home in Park City, Utah, that he also dumped in 2009 for a little over $5.25 million.

When Romney is not on the campaign trail, his main home is in San Diego's beachfront community of La Jolla. Romney and his wife, Ann, purchased the $12 million La Jolla home in 2008, telling reporters that he wanted to be somewhere he could “hear the waves.” Apparently a home on the high-priced California coast (median La Jolla home values hit $1,186,200), was the right location.

It may be the ideal location, but it isn’t quite the ideal home, at least not yet. In August 2011, Romney filed an application with the city to bulldoze the single-story beachfront home and replace it with a larger, two-story home. The construction won’t begin until after election season, though.

In June 2010, the Romneys bought a two-bedroom townhouse in suburban Belmont, shown above. According to property listing information, the Romneys paid $895,000 for the 2,100-square-foot home in the new residential development, The Woodlands. This is the first purchase the Romneys have made in the Massachusetts area in two years; previously they claimed their son’s basement apartment as their legal address.

The Romneys own an 11-acre property, pictured above, smack dab on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro. Purchased for $3 million in 1997, the Romneys’ 5,400-square-foot main house and additional guesthouses are home to the extended Romney family each summer.

While Obama did spend part of his childhood in Hawaii before moving to Chicago, he owns just one home -- in the Windy City. He and wife Michelle bought the brick home in 2005 for $1.65 million. Located on Greenwood Avenue, the home was built in 1917 and offers 6,199 square feet of space.

Although Obama hasn’t owned any other properties, an apartment that he rented while attending Columbia University in the mid-’80s is on the rental market in New York.

The two-bed, one-bath Upper West Side apartment has been updated and is available for $2,400 a month.

When it came time for former President George W. Bush to retire from the Oval Office, the 43rd president decided to go back to his home state of Texas, picking up a sprawling 8,000-square-foot home at 10141 Daria Place, which was a downsize from the 55,000-square-foot White House. The Bushes also purchased the property next door but tore it down in 2008. People speculated at the time that the demolition was to expand the former first family’s yard.

Unlike many other presidents, Bill Clinton didn’t own a home during his residency at the White House. Born and raised in Arkansas, the former president and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, chose to stay on the East Coast and purchased a home in Chappaqua, N.Y. at the end of his second term in office. By several accounts, the Clintons are quite popular in the small Westchester County town. Built in 1889, the Clintons’ home is situated on a cul-de-sac lot and has 5,232 square feet of living space, five beds and four baths.

Before Ronald Reagan lived at the White House, he lived among the star-studded hills of Pacific Palisades and Bel Air. His former Pacific Palisades property was home base for Reagan and his wife, Nancy, until Reagan was elected president in 1981. After two terms as the 40th president of the U.S., “The Gipper” and his wife returned to Los Angeles, picking up a prime slice of real estate in the posh Bel Air neighborhood. The property remains Nancy Reagan’s home today.

Not one, but two of former President Gerald Ford’s homes are currently for sale — one listed in California and one in Colorado. Ford’s Vail home, pictured above, is a testament to his love of skiing and the outdoors. Listed for $9.85 million, the ski-in/ski-out home has been on and off the market starting in 2008, with a hefty price tag of $14.9 million. Gerald Ford’s other home is listed on the Rancho Mirage real estate market for significantly less. The $1.699 million listing is a midcentury ranch-style desert home located on the Thunderbird Country golf course and contains some presidential memorabilia, including a large portrait of Betty Ford hanging in the living room.

One of America’s most famous families holds one of America’s most storied properties. The Kennedy Compound consists of 6 acres of waterfront property on Nantucket Sound in Hyannis Port, Mass., a small village in the town of Barnstable. John F. Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, rented a summer cottage in Hyannis Port in 1926 and purchased the cottage two years later. The home, which Joseph Kennedy enlarged and remodeled, became a summer getaway for his family, who enjoyed sailing on the sound. In 1956, after his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier, JFK bought a smaller home nearby, and his brother Robert later purchased an adjacent home. Following the recent death of another sibling, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, the compound was donated to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

While we don’t have the first president’s childhood home -- the one where he purportedly chopped down a cherry tree -- we do have a home where George Washington reportedly slept. It is believed that the general hung up his wig at this 1739 homestead, named the “Fowler House.” The number of nights that Washington slept here is up for debate, but if you believe the historic marker on the home, he often stayed here on his way from West Point to Connecticut. The New York home is 5,800 square feet and has five bedrooms and two baths and was recently listed on the Brewster real estate market for $500,000.


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