Plumbing in the White House

Fun Facts About Plumbing in America’s Most Famous House

It’s hard to imagine that the nation's highest office didn’t always have the most up-to-date amenities. But, for a large part of our nation’s history, the residence of the First Family has been slow to be updated to accommodate modern utilities and building codes. Indeed, for the first half of the White House’s life, amenities like electricity, telephones, and indoor plumbing didn’t even exist. 

This President’s Day, homeowners should take a moment to learn more about the updates the White House has gotten over the last three centuries.

The White House Gets Running Water

Construction of the White House was completed in 1800, and the nation’s second president, John Adams, moved in. At the time, indoor running water wasn’t even in existence. Water was drawn from wells and distributed by carrying it in buckets. The first running water at the White House was installed under John Quincy Adams, who had a pump to irrigate his gardens. 

Andrew Jackson built upon the irrigation infrastructure to have running water put in the White House. It was mainly for drinking water only. Within a year, Jackson built a bathing room on the East Wing ground floor because he couldn’t pump water any higher than that. The bathing room was rudimentary, and water was still heated over fires. 

Franklin Pierce had bathrooms built in 1853 that were much close to modern equivalents. They had hot and cold water that didn’t have to be carried in, and facilities were expanded to include tubs on the second floor. 

The First Flush Toilets

Plumbing always comes before flush toilets because it serves to get rid of sewage. Larger infrastructure must be in place to allow waste and drainage to go to. That’s why flush toilets weren’t installed until under Millard Fillmore in 1853, just before Franklin Pierce’s bathing room renovation. 


Until then, presidents handled their business in privies on the White House grounds and chamber pots. There even exists a bill from the Madison administration for the requisition of a mahogany “close stool.”

More Fun Historyletters

There is a storied history about bathtubs in the White House. The most notable legend comes from rumors that President William H. Taft got stuck in the White House bathtub. However, this story may not be true. While Taft was a huge man - six feet tall and weighing in at 350 pounds - the stories about him getting stuck in the tub didn’t circulate until 20 years after his presidency. 

Unfortunately for Taft, to add fuel to the fires of the rumor, he ordered the purchase of one of the largest bathtubs in existence at the time. The giant custom tub was 7 feet long and nearly 4 feet wide. Pictures of the tub show four grown men comfortably sitting in it during installation. 

About A&A Plumbing

A&A Plumbing is a local, family-owned plumbing contractor serving San Antonio. They excel at finding cost-effective solutions to any plumbing problems. With award-winning service, they are always ready to help. Contact them to schedule expert plumbing service in San Antonio, TX today!