Exciting Facts About Plumbing in America’s House
It’s fun to celebrate Presidents Day by learning about the history of plumbing in the White House. Many people find it surprising that, for long stretches of its history, the White House was not the modern and luxurious building it is today. Presidents and their families today enjoy all the comforts and modern additions that they could ask for, within reason.
But many presidents over the years had to deal with sub-par conditions in the building. Running water was installed late, and it took a while for the house to receive a flushing toilet. But that’s not all. Read on to discover the history behind these and other White House plumbing facts.
Running Water in the White House
The first running water on the White House grounds wasn’t actually for bathing, drinking, washing hands, or flushing toilets. Back during John Quincy Adams’ presidency (1825 - 1829), the White House got its first glimpse of plumbing. But it was for watering the garden, not for anything else.
Adams had a bit of a green thumb, and so he needed water for his garden on the grounds. There was an iron pump with pulled water from the nearby well at the Treasury building so the president could water his plants. It wasn’t until about 1833 that the White House itself received running water for drinking water and fire protection.
The Very First White House Flush
While Jackson is credited with the first to bring running water to the White House itself, and Adams the first to bring running water to the White House grounds, it was nearly 20 years after the White House got water that it had a flushing toilet. In 1853, according to historians, President Millard Fillmore oversaw the installation of the first flushing toilet. But it wasn’t until his predecessor took office, Franklin Pierce, that a modern bathroom was up and running.
More Interesting Facts
Some other interesting facts concern the history of bathtubs in the White House. James Madison (1809 - 1817) is credited with having the first bathtub in the White House, installed in 1814. The water for it had to be heated on a stove before it could be hauled to the bathtub in buckets. Reportedly, the tub didn’t see a lot of use because the British set fire to the White House not long after its installation.
The Potomac River served as the bathing place for some presidents. Reportedly, John Quincy Adams would take a dip in the river at some point during the day. However, this was less than convenient. Apparently, someone made off with the president’s clothes one day, and he had to holler for a boy to bring more from the White House.
Harry Truman is credited with upgrading the White House during his administration in the middle of the 20th century. It was a big job, and it wasn’t until then that proper, modern plumbing and amenities were installed throughout the whole house. The plumbing system was almost entirely replaced then, as it was found to be severely lacking.
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