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This is an extract from the Reading Materials in English that are available in the English and Education section of the website of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka,


The entire text of Historic Buildings by Goolbai Gunasekara, covering twelve famous constructions, is now available on that website

The White House, Washington DC


No two buildings can be less alike than the Kremlin of Russia and the White House of the United States of America. The Kremlin is an old and rather romantic building. The White House is comparatively new. The Kremlin is huge. The White House is small when compared to the massive Russian Presidential residence

The two buildings are the homes of two of the most powerful men in the modern world. Until the breakup of the USSR the Russian President was as greatly respected, or feared, as the American President. Today, however, there is no doubt that the President of America is the single most powerful man in the world and the White House is probably the building that is presented most often in the media

George Washington

Almost all American presidents have lived in the White House. Strangely enough the first president, George Washington, did not do so for the simple reason that it had not yet been built. But it was he who planned a Presidential Building with the city planner Pierre L’Enfant at what is now 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC. He visualized a planned city with a Presidential House in the center. 

Nine architects competed to design it. John Hoban won and construction began in 1792. John Adams was the first President to live in the brand new White House but it was not given this name in the beginning. At first it was simply called ‘The President’s House’. It is the private residence of the President but it is the only private residence of a Head of State that is open to the public free of charge. 

This has sometimes led to problems. In 1829 President Jackson welcomed visitors on the 4th of July, which is the date of American Independence. Over 20,000 callers went through the White House that day and the poor President had to flee to a nearby hotel to escape the mob. Bathtubs were filled outside on the lawn with orange juice and whisky to persuade the crowd to leave the White House. 

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Rajiva Wijesinha

September 2010
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