This Day in History: June 3

On this day in 1800, President John Adams became the first acting president to take up residence in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the White House (or President’s Mansion or President’s House as it known at the time), was still unfinished, so Adams moved into temporary digs at Tunnicliffe’s City Hotel near the also half-completed Capitol building.

The final site for the nation’s capital had been selected by George Washington while he was still president in 1790. Construction on the President’s House commenced in 1792, but was not completed until late 1800.

When Adams first arrived in Washington on June 3, he wrote to his wife Abigail that he was pleased with the new site for the federal government and had explored the soon-to-be President’s House with contentment. However, he showed weariness at being unsettled. On November 1, Adams finally moved into his official residence, with the paint and plaster still drying and the building surrounded by weeds.

Abigail Adams arrived in Washington later that month and was the first first lady to assume hostess duties in what would become the White House. She certainly recognized the building’s lack of amenities, writing to a friend that she was forced to hang her clothing in what would be known as the East Room.

John and Abigail did not live in the new presidential residence for a long time. Adams was defeated in the election of 1800 by Thomas Jefferson, who became the second occupant and the first widower to live in the mansion. During Jefferson’s tenure as president, Dolley Madison, wife of the then-Secretary of State and future President James Madison, carried out official White House hostess duties.

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