A History of Kitchen and Bath in the White House
The White House has seen many changes over the years since its construction in 1792, with many presidents adding their own touches and tastes to the historic home. The history of the kitchen and bath in The People’s house is a rich and winding one.
A revolution in the kitchen
In 1801 President Thomas Jefferson (1801 – 1809) installed the White House’s first cooking stove, replacing the open-hearth fireplace. Jefferson also introduced Waffles to the White House and in turn the country in 1798 when he brought back 4 waffle irons that outfitted the White House Kitchen after his travels in Europe.
The White House before indoor plumbing
Before John Quincy Adams’s presidency (1825 – 1829), the White House had no plumbing. Adams had a passion for gardening and had a pump with nine spout holes installed in the treasury building that provided water for the White House grounds. Water wasn’t piped into the White House until 1833, an improvement made during Andrew Jackson’s Presidency. That same year, the White House added a “bathing room” to the east wing. Before this, predecessors had to bathe in portable bathtubs filled with kettles of boiling water. James Madison’s tub in 1814 was painted green, made of tin, and lined with canvas so that the hot tin would not burn his skin.
The White House’s plumbing got another major update in 1853 during Franklin Pierce’s (1853 – 1857) presidency. The improvements included the installation of the first bathroom on the second floor with a permanent bathtub and plumbing that provided the luxury of hot and cold water.
The 20th Century White House
Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency (1901 – 1909) saw two new kitchens added: an everyday kitchen and a large main kitchen. The larger kitchen had four gas ovens and two hotel-sized gas ranges.
President William H. Taft (1909 – 1913) is probably best known today for getting stuck in a tub (a myth that still has yet to be proven.) The Taft/Tub connection doesn’t stop there though; in 1908, shortly after Taft’s election, a request for a tub that was large enough to hold “Big Bill” was mad. When a large enough tub couldn’t be found, a tub was custom built. The tub weighed a ton and was over 7 feet long and 3 feet wide.
President William H. Taft is probably best known today for getting stuck in a tub (a myth that still has yet to be proven) but the Taft/Tub connection doesn’t stop there. In 1908, shortly after Taft’s election, a request for a tub that was large enough to hold “Big Bill” was made. When a large enough tub couldn’t be found, a tub was custom built. The tub weighed a ton and was over 7 feet long and 3 feet wide.
When FDR took office, he and Eleanor both had reservations about the kitchen’s poor upkeep. The New Deal Public Works Administration funded a renovation of the kitchen. Changes included an update to mostly stainless steel fixtures and the addition of hotel-size electric ranges and ovens.