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TITLE: The White House Gets a Facelift

This baluster and lintel were removed from the White House during the first major restoration of its exterior in 1980-97. George Washington directed that the White House be made of stone, as were all important European buildings at that time.

[Photo: Lintel]
Pierre L’Enfant, architect of the new federal city, contracted with the owners of Virginia’s Aquia Creek quarry for their sandstone. But it was not durable.

Can you spot the concrete patch on the lintel? It was one of hundreds of cosmetic repairs made before the White House restoration. Until then, iron sutures and braces joined cracked stones, sheet metal capped eroded carvings, and paint camouflaged everything. [Photo: Baluster]For about 190 years, cosmetic repairs such as these kept up the exterior appearance of the White House. Finally, however, the problems were too great.

After scraping off 28 layers of white paint, modern stone carvers restored the exterior, using recycled sandstone from the Capitol’s east front.

During the restoration, some unsalvageable stone was replaced with recarved sandstone that had been removed from the Capitol in the 1950s.

[Painting: White House]

The White House around 1827.

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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Mineral Sciences website Credits