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How American Presidents Brought Comfort and Coolness to White House Life

White House with flag fluttering in left foreground

white house with large flag fluttering in left foreground

Air conditioning and heating are so common now that we often take them for granted.

But believe me, advancements in the HVAC industry and their widespread acceptance took time.

President’s Day is a perfect time to take a step back and look at how the modern necessities of heating and cooling came to be an integral part of our nation’s most public, private home, The White House in Washington, D.C.

From there, the innovations in the HVAC industry spread throughout the nation.

Here’s to the American Presidents over the last two centuries who cared enough about the workers, the visitors, and the reputation of The White House that they pushed for the installation and updates of heating and air conditioning systems.

Find out how this holiday got started.

Then celebrate President’s Day by journeying through the years and seeing how American Presidents brought comfort and coolness to White House Life, one step at a time.

Timeline: The Holiday and the Presidents Who Brought Heating and Air Conditioning to the White House

The "Presidents' Day" Holiday

  • 1879: George Washington’s birthday, February 22, becomes a legal holiday observed by Federal Workers in the Washington DC area.
     
  • 1885: Legislation passed by Congress declares that all Federal employees be paid for official holidays, making Washington’s Birthday a paid day off for government workers across the nation.
     
  • 1968: Congress passes the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to provide more 3-day holidays to American workers.
     
  • 1971:  The third Monday of February is dedicated to honoring the contributions of all American Presidents, (not just George Washington’s) in the celebration of Presidents' Day.

The Presidents

  • 1809: President James Madison sets the standard by installing the first furnace in the White House, a Pettibone furnace. This warm-air furnace was an improvement on Ben Franklin's stove, invented in 1742, according to its inventor, Daniel Pettibone.
     
  • 1845: President James Polk takes measures to keep the second floor of the White House warm during winter by upgrading the heating system. 
     
  • 1861: President Abraham Lincoln’s tenure implements a gas heating system in the White House. The new heating was part of a huge White House renovation spearheaded by Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, who overran the Congress-allocated remodeling budget by 30%.
     
  • July 2, 1881: The first attempt at air conditioning the White House is made after an assassination attempt on President James Garfield during the height of summer. President Garfield lay mortally wounded in the White House. Military engineers struggled with how to cool the hot and humid interior rooms of the White House and designed a box that was covered with thin cotton screens kept wet with ice and cold water. An electric blower forced air through the box, successfully lowering the sick room temperature to 80 degrees. (Eighty days later, President Garfield died of sepsis, a complication of his gunshot wound and physicians’ unsanitized probing of the injury.) 
     
  • 1910: President Howard Taft, the largest President our nation has ever had at 5’11” and 350 pounds, initiates the installation of an early air conditioner in the White House. The unit ran air over ice blocks in the attic. However, it didn’t work and had to be uninstalled. Even the best-laid plans don't always work out, and Taft’s hope for cooler air was dashed.
     
  • 1929: Herbert Hoover installed air conditioning in the White House.
     
  • 1933: President Franklin Roosevelt adds air conditioning units to the private quarters but prefers to work in his office without the luxury. He works in his shirt sleeves with the windows wide open and is responsible for the modern “Oval Office.”
     
  • 1948-1952 President Harry Truman addresses the deteriorating condition of the White House. He writes to his wife that the Presidential Residence must be haunted because of all the drafts and weird noises he hears. Engineers confirmed that the White House, with numerous remodels and a partial burning in 1814, was structurally weak and in danger of collapse. President Truman undertook a massive remodel that preserved the historic look of the exterior but updated and improved the interior, including the installation of central air conditioning.
     
  • 2017: President Donald Trump modernizes the White House's HVAC system by replacing the 27-year-old system with a high-efficiency one, estimated to cost between $1.75-$2 million. The old system ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year, and industry experts calculated that with the wear and tear on the 27-year-old system, it was the equivalent of an 81-year-old unit.

Your home is your castle

You don’t have to live in a fancy public residence like the White House to want coolness and comfort in your home.

ServiceOne can provide comfort for any size, style, or color house. We offer amazing options for air conditioning and heating equipment. No matter your job, your budget, or your needs, ServiceOne has the perfect HVAC system for you.

Call us now.

Don’t forget that in addition to taking care of any heating or cooling issues you have, ServiceOne also takes care of plumbing problems and drain-cleaning issues.

We’ll ensure that your home feels like your personal presidential palace.

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