Where does the vice president live?
We all know the president’s address (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), but where does the vice president live? It turns out that there’s a vice presidential white house too!
You might imagine that there’s always been a historic mansion set aside for the vice president’s family residence, but in fact, the vice president’s mailing address has only been consistent since 1974. Before then, vice presidents lived in homes, apartments, or hotels, and received a housing allowance just like cabinet members. In 1966, Congress agreed to build an official residence for the vice president’s use. The plan stalled, however, and eventually, Congress decided to refurbish a certain cream-colored house as a "temporary residence" for the vice president: Number One Observatory Circle. Here are some things you'll be surprised the president has to pay for.
A tale of two (white) houses
Located about 2.5 miles from the White House, the beautiful three-story Queen Anne-style mansion is still legally designated the “official temporary residence of the vice president of the United States” today. Although the picture above was taken after former Vice President Walter Mondale and his family moved in in 1977, the rarely-seen house has definitely been updated since then as each family has made changes to the house and grounds. Mondale’s wife Joan had a passion for art and used the house to display her collection, George H.W. Bush had a horseshoe pit dug in, and Dan Quayle added a swimming pool, which Joe Biden reportedly enjoyed during his stay. The Bidens created a “Family Heritage Garden,” with flagstones denoting previous vice presidential residents and family members, and even their pets, while current Second Lady Karen Pence reportedly set up a honeybee hive on the grounds in 2017.
Who was the first vice president to live at Number One Observatory Circle?
The first vice president to actually live in the house was Walter Mondale, serving under President Jimmy Carter. He moved in in 1977, three years after Number One Observatory Circle was designated for the vice president’s use. The previous vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, already had a larger home of his own in Washington, D.C. and so mostly used the Observatory Circle house for official events and entertaining. It has since been home to Vice Presidents Bush, Quayle, Gore, Cheney, Biden, and Pence, as well as their families, and will soon be home to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and her husband, soon-to-be Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. Now that you know where the vice president lives, check out these other things you didn't know about the vice presidency.
The history of the vice president’s house
Built in 1893, the house had previously been the home of the Chief of Naval Operations, since it is located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory. In fact, the Naval Observatory continues to operate today as a place of scientific study. Built of terracotta brick, it was not painted its current cream color until the refurbishment in the 1970s. It really is the second white house! So where does the vice president live? In a very comfortable 9,000 square feet. The first floor of the house includes the dining, garden, and living rooms, lounges, a pantry kitchen, a formal reception hall, a sitting room, and a wrap-around verandah. On the second floor, the vice president’s family enjoys a guest bedroom, den, master suite, and a study, while the servants’ quarters in the attic have now been converted into four bedrooms. The family kitchen is located in the basement. Find out why the White House is white.
Secrets of the other white house
According to the BBC, in December of 2002 (when the Cheneys were residents), neighbors were repeatedly disturbed by construction noise and digging being carried out at Number One Observatory Circle. When the Naval Observatory’s Superintendent sent neighbors a letter stating that the nature of the work was classified, rumors abounded that an underground bunker was being built as a safety measure, perhaps in reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11th the previous year. The government has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of such a bunker, but Number One Observatory Circle has never been opened for the public to tour. Can you guess the Secret Service code names for U.S. presidents?
Why doesn’t the vice president live in the White House?
All but one president has lived in the White House during their time in office. George Washington was the only president never to spend a night under the White House roof. However, for much of the 19th century, the role of the vice president varied based on the personality and goals of the person in that position. As a subordinate to the president, the vice president was not expected to live on-site, and we now know that there was not even an official residence for the vice president until 1974. As the role of the vice president has changed over the years, the position has become more integral to the administration, with its own set of duties and expectations, such as taking up charitable causes and hosting foreign dignitaries. No wonder the job now comes with such a beautiful house. Now that you've learned where the vice president lives, check out these little-known facts about the other White House.
- WhiteHouse.gov: "The Vice President's Residence & Office"
- Number One Observatory Circle: "The Residence: Timeline"
- NPR:"Poised To Be America's 1st Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff Shakes Up Gender Stereotypes"
- Business Insider: "Inside Number One Observatory Circle, the often overlooked but stunning residence where every vice president has lived since 1977"
- BBC: "Cheney's neighbours stoke bunker rumours"
- Senate.gov: "Vice President of the United States (President of the Senate)"