The United States is known for its smooth transfer of power when a new President is elected. Friday morning, we have one President. By Friday afternoon, after the new President takes the oath of office, he’s the one in power.
But what about the President’s house — the White House? There’s more involved in changing over an entire household than just a swearing-in.
Less Than Five Hours
How long does it take staff to change over the White House residence from one occupant to the next? “Less than five hours,” according to Chief White House Usher Stephen Rochon, who calls the inauguration day event “organized chaos.”
On inauguration day, the White House staff meets with the family of the outgoing President to say goodbye. Barbara Bush remembers her final day there: “We were too choked up with emotion to say what we felt, but I think they knew the affection we had for them all.” She added that after that, “the hard part for me was over.”
Beginning at 10:30 a.m., a staff of 100 will begin work. Many will be moving the Obamas’ things out of the house, some will be sprucing up the dining room, and others will be preparing a snack for the Trump family to eat before the Inaugural Balls that evening.
The house where the Obamas wake up Friday morning will be totally ready for the Trumps by late Friday afternoon. Donald will find his suits in his closet, and Melania will see her family photos displayed on side tables.
The furniture that Presidential families use can be either their own, or pieces they have already selected from a warehouse of furniture used by former First Families.
Anytime I’ve ever moved, it’s been a strictly budget affair, with do-it-yourself U-haul trucks or a borrowed pickup. Obviously, a Presidential move is first-class all the way. But, perhaps surprisingly, most of the move isn’t paid for with our taxes. The new President himself (or his campaign) picks up the tab. Well, partly. Once the belongings pass the White House threshold, expenses are covered by the executive residence allowance. This taxpayer-supported fund also covers the outgoing President’s moving expenses.
White House Changes
Presidents are allowed quite a bit of leeway in making changes to their living area of the house. The Obamas, for instance, requested a specific type of shower head when they moved in.
Over the years, the house has had its share of unusual changes. Lyndon Johnson had a shower installed with water pressure “the equivalent of a fire hose.” When Richard Nixon arrived, he had this setup removed.
Jimmy Carter added solar panels to the house, only to have Ronald Reagan remove them — and then have Barack Obama re-install them.
Donald Trump has said that he doesn’t plan major changes to the house, citing its history and saying that, “I’m going to be working. I’m not going to be decorating.”
If a President wishes to change one of the White House’ public areas, he must submit a request to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.
Have you ever visited the White House? The photo above was taken during a 2010 visit I took with daughter #2.