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Three Odd Plumbing Facts About the White House

Raise a Toast in Honor of White House Plumbing This Presidents Day!

The White House is seen as the pinnacle of elegance and dignity. Everyone has seen stunning pictures of the oval office, beautiful floors and woodwork, winding staircases, and photographs hanging on the walls. However, we do not often get behind the scenes knowledge of its inner workings or of the fascinating history of the work that goes into helping it run so smoothly- including its plumbing. 

Read further to find out exactly when plumbing arrived at the White House, why President Taft needed a specially made bathtub, and who the “Plumbers of Watergate” were. 

Indoor Plumbing Comes To 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

The present-day White House is full of all the modern conveniences, and the latest tech-most people consider that a given as one of the perks given to the leader of the free world. However, for a large part of its existence, it lagged behind buildings surrounding it in plumbing updates, including running water. 

While the James Madison administration explored the idea of running water into the White House during his administration from 1809-1817, the White House was burned down during the War of 1812, putting off those plans indefinitely while it was rebuilt. Indeed, running water still did not become a reality until halfway through Andrew Jackson’s presidential term in 1833. This plumbing took the form of pipes, leading from bubbling fountains with sand to keep the water from stagnating. 

The water was then cranked by servants to get the water up to certain areas of the higher floors, though baths taken on the third floor were still taken with water brought up in buckets by servants. Nearly five decades later, during Chester A. Arthur’s administration in 1882, those original water pipes were replaced, and septic fields were finally built, bringing indoor toilets to the White House. Over the next 20 years, the indoor plumbing would expand to include multiple toilet and bath areas, and eventually a swimming pool built on the third floor. 

The Tailored Bathtub of President Taft

William Howard Taft was the 27th president of the United States. Taft had a long and productive political career, including being the only President to also serve as a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. During his time as POTUS, he was in charge of many important works, including being in charge of creating income tax and promoting free-market competition through 80 competition lawsuits. He was known as a quiet and polite man. 
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Additionally, he also holds the title of being the heaviest man to ever hold office as President of the United States. Standing just shy of 6 feet and weighing around 350 lbs by the end of his term, some stories speculate that he sometimes had difficulty getting out of his bathtub and would need assistance. 

To handle this problem, Taft had a bathtub custom made. This unique bathtub was 7 feet long, 3 feet 5 inches wide, and weighed 2,000 lbs, large enough to comfortably hold President Taft... or four average-sized men. 

Richard Nixon’s Plumbers

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It all started out as proper and important work- making sure classified information stayed safe and wasn’t leaked to anyone who had nefarious intentions. When one of the five central Nixon employees charged with this work explained this to his grandmother, she excitedly said,  “Oh, you’re a plumber.” 

Thus the fun nickname was born, later to be sullied as their “duties” expanded to spying and planting microphones in the workplace of Nixon’s political rival-now infamously known as the Watergate Scandal. 

About Valley Plumbing and Drain Cleaning

Valley Plumbing and Drain Cleaning is a Lehi, UT plumbing company serving the greater Salt Lake City area. They provide fair and competitive prices and 24-hour service for those plumbing emergencies that just won’t wait till morning. Call now for plumbing service!