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Fascinating Facts About Heating and Cooling at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!

The White House has been the forefront symbol of America for over 200 years. Its halls have seen new laws pass, wars end, and history was made. It should come as no surprise that keeping the president comfortable while working for America has been a fairly significant challenge over the years. From escaping the heat by enjoying the outdoors to discover the best way to heat a centuries-old house, the White House has experienced the evolution of heating and cooling technology over the years.

Escaping the Heat: Outdoor Work and Improvised Air Conditioning


Air conditioning was not installed in the White House until 1930 in the West Wing and was expanded to the residency in 1933 for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s term. Before that, the president and other residents and visitors to the White House sweltered in the heat and humidity of D.C. summers. 

The heat grew to insufferable levels for many presidents before the invention of air conditioning. Traditionally, presidents would retreat to cooler areas during the summer, with many have summer homes near D.C. to avoid the swampy city’s heat. 

President Garfield was the first president to experience some type of air conditioning in the White House, with fans blowing air over sheets of ice to cool the president after an assassination attempt wounded him. 

President Taft attempted a similar system to pump cold air from ice bins in the attic to cool the White House but soon abandoned the idea. Instead, presidents like Taft and Woodrow Wilson chose to do their work outside during the summer. Wilson went so far as to use former president Theodore Roosevelt’s tent, equipped with a phone, furniture, and electric lights, to avoid the heat in the White House. 

In 1948, the Truman Administration renovated the White House, and Central Air was installed at Pennsylvania Avenue. Since then, presidents no longer needed to escape a hot, muggy White House during the summer months. 

The Coldest (and Sneakiest) President

President Lyndon B. Johnson reportedly kept the White House so cold year round that he slept under an electric blanket even in the summer. But President Johnson does not hold the record for keeping the coldest White House - that record goes to President Nixon. 

President Nixon came to power amidst the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the Whtie House became just as cold as the War it was fighting. In fact, the chill of Nixon’s White House is as infamous as his Watergate debacle. President Nixon kept the White House at temperatures so low that he enjoyed having a lit fireplace in his quarters even deep into the searing temperatures of Washington D.C. in July! This was yet another scandal for the president at the time, as he came under fire for his irresponsible energy usage

Heating the Halls of History

For much of its early years, the White House was heated the old fashioned way through a series of fireplaces. There are 28 fireplaces in the White House today, and historically there were likely more.


The first central heating system was installed in 1840. The system consisted of a series of ducts that connected to a fire-fueled furnace and only heated the transverse hallways and State Room. It was not until 1845 was installed that warmed the State and residency floors. 

The White House has played host to countless historical events, through hot weather and cold, but it’s important to remember that at its core, it is a home where the residents are concerned with comfort and functionality.

About Laney's Inc.

Laney’s Inc started in 1960, providing service to customers in Fargo. Since then, they have grown to over 100 employees ready to provide excellent service across all trades. They offer personal attention to their customers and fast responses for emergencies and service calls. Contact them today to schedule heating services in Fargo, ND.