American President

The infamous 1814 White House Fire

1814 White House Fire
1814 White House Fire

In 1814, during the War of 1812, the British troops set ablaze the White House, in retaliation for burning Upper Canada’s Parliament Buildings in the Battle of York. After the 1814 White House fire, only the exterior walls of the building remained intact. These too had to be torn down and mostly reconstructed due to weakening from the fire and subsequent exposure to the elements.

After the 1814 White House fire, it was said that for the rebuilding of the structure, white paint was applied to cover the burn damage it had suffered, which eventually gave the building its namesake color. However, this seems unfounded as the building had been painted white since its construction in 1798.

Of the many ‘spoils’ of the 1814 White House fire, taken from the White House when it was ransacked by British troops, only two have been recovered - a painting of George Washington and a jewelry box.

Architects Benjamin Henry Latrobe and Hoban contributed to the design and oversight of the reconstruction after the 1814 White House fire. The south portico was constructed in 1824; the north portico was built six years later. The North Portico was not modeled on a similar portico on another Dublin building, the Viceregal Lodge (now the residence of the President of Ireland), for its portico postdates the White House porticos’ design. For the North Portico, swag of roses was incorporated between the volutes, to link the new portico with the earlier carved roses above the entrance. The decorative stonework on both porticos was carved by Italian artisans brought to Washington for constructing the U.S. Capitol.


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