Calvin Coolidge at the White House, Washington DC

President Calvin Coolidge on the South Lawn of the White House in 1925. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection.

Presidents

The South Lawn in 2012:

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In my previous post on the White House, I mentioned some of the changes that have occurred to the building since it was first occupied by John Adams, so I’m not going to go into great detail about the structure itself.  What I do find interesting about these two photos is not the building itself, but rather the people in the photos.  President Coolidge is clearly visible in the first photo, but look carefully at the second photo – President and Mrs. Obama are sitting on the second floor balcony, right between the two middle pillars.  So, not only do these two photos document changes in the building, in transportation (note the truck to the right of Coolidge, compared to the SUV on the left-hand side of the 2012 photo), and in presidential security (note the lack of Secret Service agents in Coolidge’s photo); they also document two presidents, who served 80 years apart, and who held very different political views, but who nonetheless occupied the same office and the same building.

White House, Washington DC

The White House, as it appeared in either the 1880s or 1890s. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Other Places

The same view in 2012:

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The White House doesn’t look all that different from what it looked like in the late 19th century, and yet almost everything about it has changed.  The East Wing and West Wing, which aren’t visible in the 2012 photo, didn’t exist at the time of the first photo, nor did the third floor on the roof, or the second floor balcony behind the pillars.  But, the most dramatic changes in the past 120 or so years came in the late 1940’s, when the badly-deteriorated wood frame was in danger of collapse.  The entire interior was gutted, the wood frame was replaced with steel, and the interior put back into place afterward (see this photo of bulldozers and dump trucks at work inside the White House).  The exterior, however, remains much the same as it did after the reconstruction following its burning during the War of 1812.

White House from the Washington Monument

The view of the White House, as seen from the top of the Washington Monument between 1906 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Aerial Views

The same view in 2006:

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Unlike the view looking slightly northwest of here, there have not been many dramatic changes in this photo. The White House is there, as are the two wings (although both the main building and the wings have been extensively gutted and remodeled in the intervening century), and the Old Executive Office Building (left of the White House) and the Treasury Building (right of the White House) are still there, as are the landscaping features such as the Ellipse in the foreground.  Otherwise, the appearance of the city, given skyscrapers are not permitted, remains much the same as it did 100 years ago.