White House Features You'll Never See In The Common Home

There are houses made of stone, houses made of wood, and metaphorically speaking, houses made of sand. Yet there's only one house built to reflect the ideals and aspirations of the United States: the White House. Since 1800, every president has called the Washington, D.C., mansion home, and it's become one of the most iconic symbols of the nation. Previously called the President's House, the President's Palace, and the Executive Mansion, it was renamed the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901 (via White House History), and the simple name stuck.

When you're the so-called leader of the free world, you need the sort of digs that reflect your status in life. You also need a few creature comforts to relieve the tension of what's probably the most stressful job ever — and it doesn't help that presidents both live and work in the same building, even if there are separate wings for each purpose.

While the White House has always been a pretty special place, over the years, various presidents have customized the residence and made it even more unique. Needless to say, today's White House has plenty of special features that you won't find in the common home. Here are 10 of them.

Room to spare

There are big houses — and then there are houses containing 132 rooms, six floors, 35 bathrooms, and 412 doors (via White House History). When you tally up the White House's six floors, you have a grand total of 55,000 square feet for presidents to strut around in. And, with so many bathrooms, you'll never have an issue when nature calls.

Of course, the White House is renowned for its gleaming white exterior, but all that frontage takes a lot of paint: 570 gallons of the white stuff, to be precise. If you like to spend time lazing around outside on lazy summer afternoons, then you'd appreciate the 18.7 acres of land that the White House fence encloses. Plus with 16 guest rooms, the president will never be short of space to entertain. Yet — as all presidents know — you can't please all the people all the time. President Harry Truman once described the White House as "the finest jail in the world," according to The New York Times. Go figure!

The White House is a living museum

The White House Collection comprises a priceless variety of art and artifacts that tell the history of the American people. So let's get busy and browse. An armchair belonging to President George Washington can be found, which is ironic because he was the only president who never lived in the White House (via Mount Vernon). It's also home to such artifacts as President Thomas Jefferson's bronze inkstand, a glass lamp which reportedly belonged to one of Napoleon Bonaparte's brothers, and a desk presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes by Queen Victoria herself.

Other intriguing items include a bed purchased by First Lady Mary Lincoln. Incidentally, the item, now called the Lincoln Bed, has been slept in by many other presidents but never President Abraham Lincoln himself. There's also a gilded wood fire-screen belonging to President Ulysses S. Grant and a saber in honor of the French troops who fought for Washington during the American Revolution.

A garden of floral delights

There's nothing like a well-tended rose garden to allow yourself a moment of quiet reflection and relaxation — something most presidents probably need dearly. However, the White House's famous Rose Garden is more likely to be used for important speeches and events. According to Veranda, the spot has been the stage for just as much political theater as the Oval Office. A teenage Bill Clinton met President John F. Kennedy among the White House roses (via House Beautiful), and it's where President Richard Nixon's daughter, Tricia, got married.

The White House Rose Garden was created in 1902 when First Lady Edith Roosevelt decided that she wanted somewhere for her and Teddy to put their rocking chairs and paint the flowers. A fairytale garden of delights was born, which the Kennedys enhanced even further in the 1960s. Such is the garden's power to enchant that it even gave birth to what has been coined the Rose Garden Strategy, which in a nutshell, is about making the president appear even more presidential to the electorate.

The White House has not one but two bowling alleys

It's tough being a president. Behind the expensive suits, private jets, and unpopular decisions, there lies a mere mortal. And what commander-in-chief with a beating heart can resist the lure of a bowling alley? After spending their days in the fast lane, presidents since the time of Truman have enjoyed a two-lane bowling alley, which was installed in the White House's West Wing in 1947, according to History.com. As a committed poker player, bowling wasn't exactly up Truman's alley, but the construction of this White House feature soon won him over. On his first try, Truman knocked down seven out of 10 pins and threw his support behind a White House Bowling League that consisted of household staff and secret service agents.

Subsequent years also saw the creation of a second bowling alley, according to Ten Pin Alley. That's certainly a fierce commitment to the sport by the leaders of the free world. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower relocated the Harry S. Truman Bowling Alley (pictured above) to the bowels of the Executive Office Building, and 14 years later, during the 1960s bowling heyday, President Nixon commissioned a one-lane alley to be built under the driveway to the White House. Both alleys are still fully operational, but you need to have friends in high places to take a shot at these pins.

A top-secret bunker

As anyone who owns a basement knows, they're nice to disappear into when trouble comes to town, whether it's a tornado or your in-laws. But nobody can compete with the vast bunker that exists beneath the White House. Nestled beneath the East Wing, the White House Bunker is where President Donald Trump hid out during the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd's death, according to Business Insider. An early bunker, named the Presidential Operations Center, was originally built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II when the White House was considered a target for the Axis forces.

The bunker was expanded over the years, but after the 9/11 attacks, the "powers that be" decided a more advanced bunker was required. How deep and how far the new space extends is shrouded in mystery, but it's thought to be at least 1,000 feet beneath the surface to escape the blast of a nuclear warhead. Underground tunnels are also believed to lead to and from the bunker to allow the president and his loved ones to escape undetected during an emergency. Author Ronald Kessler told The Washington Post that few details are known, but "what it consists of is five stories deep into the ground with its own air supply and food supply."

A White House chocolate shop

The president is no Willy Wonka. So instead of owning a chocolate factory, he just has a chocolate shop in his own home (via White House Museum). No biggie. One of the White House's many kitchens is dedicated to the ground floor shop, where sweets are made for everyday desserts as well as special functions, including the annual Easter Egg Roll, per Business Insider. That eerily accurate gingerbread replica of the White House that's made every year for the winter holidays? It's constructed there, too.

Although a spoonful of sugar certainly helps the policy go down, the white stuff also piles on the pounds. So it's a good thing the presidents have their own gym. According to the White House Museum, before the 1990s, the gym was a sitting room on the third floor until President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton decided they wanted to get physical and imaginatively renamed it the "workout room."

A room fit for royalty

If you ever worry that your well-to-do aunt might frown upon the state of your guest room, imagine how your anxiety levels would skyrocket if you had royalty spending the night. That's the dilemma often faced by presidents. It's a good thing they have a room in their house especially reserved for when Queen Elizabeth II and other dignitaries come knocking. According to The Sun, the aptly named Queen's Bedroom is on the White House's second floor and is part of a suite of regal-sounding rooms reserved for royals.

According to Time, the Queen has been visiting Washington, D.C., since 1951, when she was a guest of President Truman. At the time, she was uncrowned (and it cannot be ascertained if the then-princess ever cut loose in the president's bowling alley). In the guise of Her Majesty, the Queen returned in 1957 during a state visit when President Eisenhower was at the helm. According to White House History, subsequent visits saw the Queen meet President Gerald Ford, President Ronald Reagan, President George H. W. Bush, and President George W. Bush. First Lady Betty Ford enjoyed the meeting and wrote in her memoir (via Time), "The Queen was easy to deal with. I'd give myself four stars for the way that visit went off."

The 30-person White House Medical Unit

Getting an appointment to see a doctor can be tricky for your average Joe, but if you're President Joe Biden, it's hassle-free — courtesy of the White House Medical Unit. It's presided over by the president's doctor and comprises a team of about 30, according to VOA News. They provide around-the-clock medical care for the president, his immediate family, members of staff, and pretty much anyone else who visits the White House.

Once the sitting president has had a full health check and is feeling fit as a fiddle, what better than to take a dip in the White House swimming pool? According to Swimming World, Presidents John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy all reportedly enjoyed a spot of skinny dipping (but obviously not together). The White House's current pool can be found on the South Lawn (via White House History), and the old one is buried beneath the floor of the press briefing room.

A dedicated music room

Every house should have a room where a person can let off steam by banging the drums or tickling the ivories, but most of us have to settle for playing the Guitar Hero video game instead. The White House, on the other hand, has an entire room devoted to jamming. According to the White House Museum, the music room was a gift from former First Lady Hillary Clinton to her husband, President Bill Clinton (pictured above playing the saxophone).

The legend goes that she wanted him to have somewhere to blow his sax in peace. So she had the former preschool room of John F. Kennedy Jr. — situated at the eastern end of the Central Hall on the third floor — turned into a music room with heavy soundproofing. During President Clinton's era, it also acted as a showcase for all the music memorabilia he had collected over the years.

The ghosts of presidents past

The White House has a long history of things that go bump in the night. President Truman was traumatized by unexplained knocking noises in the early hours that led him to believe "the damned place is haunted sure as shooting," according to The Washington Post. Other common, unexplained sightings in what many believe is America's most haunted home include a violin-playing President Jefferson, a potty-mouth President Jackson, and a first lady condemned to forever do the laundry. Even the notoriously level-headed President Lincoln insisted that his dead son, Willie, would often visit him in the White House. 

President Lincoln himself once reportedly appeared in ghost form to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who was sleeping in the room named in his honor. But perhaps the most famous story surrounding Lincoln's ghost was when he appeared before a completely naked Winston Churchill. The dripping wet British prime minister had reportedly just emerged from the bath wearing nothing but a cigar when the bearded president suddenly appeared by the fireplace. An unfazed Churchill was rumored to say, "Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage." It's alleged that the ghost of Lincoln only appears when America is in a time of turmoil and that his unmistakable frame can be seen striding purposefully through the house that he once called home.