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Bowling alleys, movie theaters, and swimming pools: 17 things first families have added to the White House


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The White House has 132 rooms and its grounds span 18.7 acres. Throughout US history, first families have made the space their own with new additions and renovations depending on their interests.

Most recently, former first lady Melania Trump announced the completion of a Tennis Pavilion.

Here are 17 amenities that presidents, first ladies, and their families have added to the White House through the years.

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James Buchanan's niece Harriet Lane, who acted as his first lady, had a greenhouse built on the roof of the west terrace of the White House in 1857.

Buchanan's niece Harriet Lane acted as White House hostess and first lady during the lifelong bachelor's presidency. The greenhouse burned down in 1867 and was replaced with a larger one made of iron and wood.

Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes continued adding conservatories throughout the 1870s and 1880s.

The White House conservatories included rose houses, a camellia house, orchid houses, and a palm court for tropical plants.

Theodore Roosevelt removed the conservatories in 1902 to make room for the West Wing and built a small greenhouse that is now the site of the Smithsonian American History Museum.

Theodore Roosevelt added tennis courts behind the West Wing, and William Howard Taft moved them further south in 1910.

The tennis court eventually became the site of the White House's outdoor swimming pool, and a different tennis court was built. President George H.W. Bush expanded the tennis court in 1989, and Melania Trump refurbished it in 2020.

Ellen Wilson, the wife of Woodrow Wilson, established the Rose Garden in 1913.

The Rose Garden was designed by George E. Burnap and Beatrix Farrand as a formal flower garden, before the space was used for events and press conferences. The garden was organized in rows with a lawn in the center.

Read more: Melania Trump redesigned the White House's Rose Garden. Here's how the space has changed over the years.

The Solarium, or Sun Room, dates back to Taft's presidency, but was officially built on the third floor in 1927 when Calvin Coolidge held office.

Taft originally built a "sleeping porch" while in office as a place to cool off in the summertime. When the third floor of the White House was expanded in 1927, Grace Coolidge dubbed the cozy, sunny room the "Sky Parlor." It was remodeled again in 1952 under Truman, who added a kitchenette.

The Solarium has been used recreationally by many presidents and their families — Eisenhower enjoyed grilling on the Promenade outside, and Lyndon Johnson's teenage daughters Luci and Lynda used it as a hangout.

The White House's indoor swimming pool was built in 1933 for Franklin D. Roosevelt's physical therapy exercises.

The pool, built between the White House and the West Wing in the west terrace, was covered up when the press briefing room was built in 1970 during Nixon's presidency.

FDR also oversaw the conversion of a cloakroom into a movie theater in 1942.

The theater's decor has changed over the years — it went from green chairs and mustard curtains to white chairs and floral drapes, and then to its current all-red design.

The White House Bowling Alley was built as a birthday present for Harry Truman in 1947.

The bowling alley was originally built on the ground floor of the West Wing, which is now the Situation Room. It moved to the Executive Office Building in 1955. Bowling fans Richard and Pat Nixon then had a one-lane bowling alley built under the North Portico in 1969.

Dwight Eisenhower had a putting green installed in 1954.

In 1995, Bill Clinton had the putting green moved outside the Oval Office, where it remains today.

Gerald Ford had an outdoor swimming pool built in 1975.

Ford also added a cabana with changing areas and showers, as well as a tunnel from the cabana to the West Wing ground floor so that he could move between the two without going outside.

Nixon had a bedroom transformed into the White House Game Room in 1970.

The game room, outfitted with pool and ping-pong tables, is located on the third floor of the White House.

Pool tables at the White House date back to John Quincy Adams, and many presidents have made use of them through the years. Abraham Lincoln described himself as a "billiards addict," Eisenhower added four pool tables to Camp David, and Reagan was known for being a talented player.

A half basketball court on the South Lawn was installed by George H.W. Bush in 1991.

The court is mostly used by presidents, their staff, and families.

Clinton's jogging habit spurred the creation of a track in 1993.

Clinton used to jog around Washington, DC, but his heavy Secret Service protection disrupted traffic. A quarter-mile track along the South Lawn was built for him to use instead, at a cost of $30,000 — although, sometimes he still opted to run along the National Mall, according to reports at the time.

Hillary Clinton gifted Bill the White House Music Room for his birthday in 1996.

The Music Room provided a soundproof space on the third floor where Bill could practice his saxophone and display music-related memorabilia. It had previously been a sitting room, John Kennedy Jr.'s preschool room, and Jack Ford's bedroom.

Read more: How the White House's decor has changed over the years

Barack Obama had the White House tennis court adapted for full-court basketball with painted lines and removable basketball hoops.

Obama often played basketball with members of his staff. He and his body man Reggie Love even helped coach his daughter Sasha's fourth grade basketball team, the Vipers. President-elect Joe Biden's granddaughter Maisy was also a member of the team.

"When the Vipers won the league championships in an 18-16 nail-biter, Reggie and I celebrated like it was the NCAA finals," Obama wrote in his memoir, "A Promised Land."

In 2009, Michelle Obama planted the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn as part of her initiative to encourage healthy living.

The 2,800-square-foot garden grows a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and provides around 2,000 pounds of food for the White House each year. Melania Trump has continued tending to the vegetable garden and inviting local schoolchildren to help harvest its food.

Melania Trump oversaw the construction of a new Tennis Pavilion in 2020.

The design for the pavilion was inspired by the East and West Wings of the White House, with a colonnade, parapet wall, and fanlight windows.

"I am pleased to announce the completion of the Tennis Pavilion on the White House grounds. Thank you to all of the talented craftsmen who made this project possible and to the generous supporters of the White House," Trump said in a statement released by the White House on December 7. "It is my hope that this private space will function as both a place of leisure and gathering for future First Families."



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