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Early days of the White house

John Adams: First President To Live In Washington, DC

John Adams served two terms as Vice President under George Washington, eventually winning the presidency. Why did President John Adams serve in Washington D.C. instead of the capital at the time- Philadelphia? Discover details about John Adams’ move to Washington D.C. on June 3, 1800, making him the first U.S. President to live in the White House.

John Adams: Before The Move

Early days of the White house

In spite of holding the second-highest position in the U.S., John Adams did not think highly of his position as Vice President under George Washington. He complained about his position to his wife Abigail. The White House quotes remarks made by Adams to his wife, “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

After John Adams became President of the United States, his presidency focused heavily on the war between the French and the British. Although Adams did not declare war, he addressed tensions on the high seas, much to the delight of individuals within both the Federalist and Republican parties. While keeping abreast of the war between the British and French, John Adams also focused on plans surrounding the moving of the United States Capital from Philadelphia.

Creating A New City & Moving The Capital

Choosing to move the capital from Philadelphia came about through negotiations and compromise between the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson. Eye Witness to History explains that the Republicans “Accepted the Federalist proposal that the national government pays the state debts incurred during the war of independence.” In return, the Federalists agreed to relocate the nation’s capital to a location designated by George Washington.

Rather than simply relocating the capital to an existing city, U.S. History points out that the new location of the capital, “The special District of Columbia, to be under Congressional control, would be built on the Potomac River.”

Completing The New Capital

George Washington retained the services of French engineer and architect Charles L’Enfant to design the new city. L’Enfant, who served in the Continental Army, designed the layout for the new city, with actual work beginning on Washington D.C. in 1791.

The design created by L’Enfanthas been described as a “Radical layout, full of dozens of circles, crisscross avenues, and plentiful parks.” With the design in place, work actually began on the White House building itself at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, under the supervision and guidance of architect James Hoban. Meanwhile, architect Benjamin Latrobe began construction on the U.S. Capitol Building.

The Move To Washington D.C.

John Adams became the first U.S. President to live in the newly-built White House. There was just one problem when Adams first made his move to Washington D.C. – The White House was not yet completed.

Instead of moving into the White House, John Adams moved to Washington D.C. and took up residency above a tavern, at the Tunnicliffe’s City Hotel on Capitol Hill. He wrote to his wife, “Oh! That I could have a home!”

Adams stayed at the tavern-hotel until the White House was finally ready for the President and the First Lady to move in and make the White House their new home.

Even after moving in, Abigail discovered work still undone, with The Week pointing out that Abigail became “Known as the first lady who hung clothes in the East Room to dry.”Cartoon of the White House

Short Stay At The Great Castle

Abigail referred to the White House as “The great castle”. Unfortunately, John and Abigail Adams had a short stay of just five months at “The great castle.”

John Adams suffered defeat in the 1800 election. Thomas Jefferson, the newly-elected President of the United States moved into the White House in 1801.