Celebrate Presidents Day With Fun White House Plumbing Facts!
The most famous house in America has plenty of history behind it. But, not often mentioned is the history of the White House plumbing system. So, in celebration of Presidents Day, this article details three fun facts about plumbing in the White House. Read on for interesting tidbits about when the historic house first got indoor plumbing, the Watergate “Plumbers,” and one president’s custom bathtub.
First Indoor Plumbing on Pennsylvania Avenue
Believe it or not, the first form of plumbing at the White House was in service of the garden. John Quincy Adams enjoyed gardening, and so a water pump was attached to a well located at the Treasury building nearby. The first indoor plumbing didn’t come to the White House until 1833, when Andrew Jackson was president. A room for bathing, or “bathing room,” was placed in the East Wing, bringing indoor plumbing to the historic dwelling. Things proceeded from there, with the first permanent bathroom established in 1853.
William Howard Taft’s Custom Bathtub
Those familiar with presidential history may know the story of Willaim Taft’s custom bathtub. Taft was a very large man. He reportedly weighed 350 pounds and was affectionately known as “Big Bill.” So it may be no surprise that Taft commissioned a larger-than-life bathtub for the White House. In fact, no bathtub manufacturers made tubs as big as the president wanted, so a Manhattan company took on the job. They made a porcelain tub so big that four men could allegedly sit in it comfortably.
Taft’s tub was over 40-inches wide, seven feet long, and weighed around 2,000 pounds. Reportedly, Taft also had large bathtubs installed in several other locations, including his yacht. This was a good thing because, after he left the White House, Taft reportedly caused a smaller bathtub to overflow in a seaside hotel in Cape May, New Jersey. If nothing else, a big president needs a big bathtub.
The Watergate “Plumbers”
Most Americans are familiar with the Watergate scandal during Richard Nixon’s term as president. Some of the major players in the scandal were known as the “plumbers,” but they didn’t work on the White House’s plumbing systems. They didn’t unclog drains or fix water leaks. Instead, they were commissioned to fix a different kind of leak; a leak of classified and incriminating information to the media.
The name was reportedly coined by one of the grandmother of one of the investigation unit’s members. When asked what he did at the White House, David Young told his grandmother that he “fixed leaks” for President Nixon. She identified him as a plumber, and the name stuck.
At Nixon’s behest, the “plumbers” broke into the Watergate hotel to locate the Pentagon Papers, which detailed the US government’s lies to the American people about the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War. This scandal, among others, eventually led to Nixon’s resignation and his famous “I am not a crook” speech.
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