The White House Fence

White House Fence

18 Dec The White House Fence

The White House Fence

We couldn’t help it, we are after all PVC fence, aluminum, vinyl and wooden fence installers. Heck, we install just about any kind of fences, residential or commercial! Anyway, we wanted to see what we could find out about the fence that surrounds the White House. And we hit pay dirt on the White House Historical Association’s website (WhiteHouseHistory.org).

George Washington began construction on the building in 1792. John Adams became the first president to actually live there in 1800. Adams and his family weren’t there for long, though. Newly elected President, Thomas Jefferson moved in in 1801. He had a simple post and rail fence put up around the White House. The historical association said that, “President Jefferson envisioned the South Grounds as a private garden with serpentine walks and a lawn that extended to the Tiber Creek, edged by a flower border. At the southern end of the south lawn he built a ha-ha, an eight-foot wall with a sunken ditch meant to keep livestock from grazing in the garden.”

Not much happened after that until 1818 – at least in terms of the wall. A lot was happening in the country during those years, not the least of which was the War of 1812.

Work on a new semicircular driveway began in 1818. The project included eight stone piers as well as an iron fence and gates that would span the north side of the White House. “Parts of the wrought-iron fence and stone piers still stand today on Pennsylvania Avenue,” WhiteHouseHistory.org reports. For security reasons, a replica of the gates – one that was made of reinforced metal – was installed in 1976.

Jefferson’s stone retaining wall on the south side lasted until 1873. While it was standing the historical association tells us that “mischievous youths” indulged in a little 19th-century-style graffiti by painting their names on it.

Other highlights courtesy of the White House Historical Association include:

• 1866 and 1871 – East and West Executive Avenues were built on each side of the White House as public streets. In World War II, as a major security measure, both West Executive and East Executive Avenues, which run close by each end of the White House, were closed to the public.

• 1873 – President Ulysses Grant had an iron fence installed on the south side of the White House to control large crowds that gathered for the New Years Day reception and other occasions.

• 1937 – The 1818 and 1873 wrought-iron fences were removed and replaced by a steel fence topped by tall bronze spears.

• December 7, 1941 – After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the start of World War II, the grounds were closed to all but those with appointments and guarded at their perimeters from newly installed gatehouses. The driveway was emptied and the custom of leaving calling cards at the North door was discontinued.

• September 18, 1942 – As part of a Department of the Interior World War II scrap metal drive, 1,600 feet of iron spikes that had formed the White House fence that had been replaced in 1937 were taken by truck to a junkyard to be scrapped.

• August 14, 1945 – On V-J Day, President Truman shook hands through the White House fence with some of a happy crowd that had gathered outside.

• 1976 – The 1818 wrought-iron gates on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the White House were replaced by reinforced steel gates built to withstand automobile crashes.

Last year, plans for a new fence that will provide additional security were approved. Construction is expected to begin this year. A lot will be expected of this fence – ornamental and security needs must both be factored in.

“The overall height will be 13 feet, 1 inch including the stone base. The fence is 10 feet, 7 inches and anti-climbing measures at the top complete the design,” Matt Flis, a senior urban designer with the National Capital Planning Commission who designed the fence, told WTOP News. Both the U.S. Secret Service and the National Park Service provided input on the design.

Our hats will be off to the lucky commercial fences firm that gets to work on that job!

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