In the area of President's Park controls consist of a levee from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument and, during flood warnings, temporary closures at 23rd Street and constitution Avenue and at 1 7th Street, NW, just south of Constitution Avenue. Responsibility for these closures rests with the National Park Service and involves constructing large levees with fill and sandbags. Other controls include floodgates on sewer outlets and temporary closures at P and Canal Streets, SW. These measures will contain a coincident tidal flood and river discharge of 700,000 cfs, with 1' of freeboard, protecting downtown Washington and the White House.

If temporary closures along Constitution Avenue are not put in place or are broken through, portions of downtown Washington D.C., including southern sections of the Ellipse, could be inundated. However, the elevation of Lafayette Park, the White House and its grounds, and the northern sections of the Ellipse area would remain above the flood level (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 1992).


No known wetlands exist within President's Park, although historically the southern section of the Ellipse and beyond were once creek bottoms and wetlands.

When the city was first established, Goose Creek, a large perennial stream, drained much of the city, flowing from the north to just west of where the Capitol is today and then west to the Potomac River. The creek? known locally as Tiber Creek, had a wide mouth and extended well into what is now Constitution Avenue and the National Mall. The areas surrounding the creek were low-lying and swampy (Reps 1991).

The Washington Canal replaced Tiber Creek in the early 1800s as a connection between the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. The canal never attracted the traffic anticipated, and by 1873 the canal was converted to a trunk sewer, about the same time the Ellipse area was gradually filled. Much of the area south of the Washington Monument was created when the Tiber Creek valley was drained and filled (SCS 1976).


Vegetation within President's Park has been highly manipulated for over 200 years, with no resemblance to the vegetation patterns of the Coastal Plain province to the north, east, and south or to the Piedmont province to the west The factors most influencing vegetation establishment and prosperity on the site are climate, soil type, water table, and urban stresses.

The landscape within the White House grounds and President's Park has been specifically designed and manipulated to establish and define an appropriate setting for the home and office of the president. Plantings have been selected for aesthetics, climatic control' and privacy, while landforms have been altered to create building sites, street alignments, and park-like settings.

The predominant vegetation within President's Park consists of plantings of mixed deciduous shade and canopy trees, deciduous ornamental trees, foundation plantings of evergreen and deciduous shrubs, and ground covers, including grass lawn.

Lafayette Park

Vegetation in Lafayette Park, despite the urban stresses of pollution, soil compaction, litter, damage, and vandalism, is carefully maintained and healthy. The 212 trees in the park represent a large number of native and nonnative species, but four tree species comprise


over 60% of the trees: native willow oaks and American elms and exotic ginkgos (all tall spreading trees) are planted in tree wells in the sidewalks surrounding the park, while the nonnative saucer magnolias (a bushlike tree) are found throughout the interior of the park. The other tree species in the park are represented by a few specimens in informal plantings throughout the interior of the park.

White House Grounds

The White House grounds are a highly manicured landscape consisting of large expanses of turf, annual and perennial plants in formally designed beds, ground covers, flowering and evergreen shrubs, and understory and canopy trees representing native, nonnative, and ornamental species, Vegetation has been chosen for privacy and security screening, aesthetics, and commemorative purposes. The White House grounds have traditionally been maintained to a higher level than surrounding areas.

In addition to the commemorative plantings on the White House grounds (as described in the "Cultural Resources" section; see page 141), predominant deciduous tree species throughout the grounds include elms, oaks, and maples. Flowering trees include dogwoods and crab apples, evergreen species include broadleaf southern magnolias, pines, spruces, and yews. Shrubs include evergreen azaleas, boxwoods, and hollies, and deciduous forsythia, spirea, and viburnums. English ivy and wintercreeper ground covers are planted along berms and under trees throughout the grounds.

Within the White House grounds are several small-scale ornamental gardens, such as the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden on the east side, the Rose Garden on the west side, the swimming pool area, and the Children's Garden. The east and west gardens are characterized by formal, ornamental plantings, while the remaining gardens are more informally designed, with a mixture of native and ornamental species.

First Division Monument

The dominant tree species within the First Division Monument area is the American linden (approximately 77% of the trees surrounding the memorial). There is no understory layer. The vegetation is arranged in a formal pattern and is approaching maturity.

Sherman Park

Large, mature willow oaks are the dominant species in Sherman Park, with American elms and other species along adjacent streets. Formal clipped hedges and floral displays flank the four sides of the central monument, together with informal masses of azaleas at the corners of the park.

The Ellipse

On the Ellipse American elms, which were first planted in 1879-81, flank the Ellipse roadway and border 15th Street, 17th Street, and Constitution Avenue. Of the 392 trees on the Ellipse, 215 are American elms and 13 are other species of elms, representing 58% of the Ellipse trees.

American elms are a native species that is well adapted to the Coastal Plain and tolerant of urban conditions. However, Dutch elm disease continues to take its toll of 1% to 3% of the total elm population on the Ellipse annually. Urban stresses such as soil compaction (due to overuse during special events and heavy pedestrian traffic leading to poor aeration), root constraints, root abrasions (leading to infections and disease), and air pollution also lead to early mortality.

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The Affected Environment

To combat Dutch elm disease in the capital, the National Park Service is working with the District of Columbia, the General Services Administration, the Department of Defense, the Architect of the Capitol, and the Smithsonian Institution to develop a management program for elm trees. Post-and-chain barriers are being used to protect elms in areas of heavy pedestrian traffic. Elms that are lost in President's Park are replaced with American elms or with strains resistant to disease, such as the Washington elm (Ulmus americana var. 'Washington').

The panels to the east and west are planted with canopy and ornamental trees, shrubs, and ground covers. Trees in these areas are primarily native American lindens, plus hedge maple, star magnolia, and bald cypress (the tallest trees in the park). Tree species occurring in smaller numbers throughout the Ellipse include oaks, hackberry, Japanese pagoda, and a variety of evergreens (including pine, fir, and spruce).

Animal Species

Because the study area is in a highly disturbed urban setting, habitat is relatively poor. There are no undisturbed native vegetation types, and a wide variety of human activities occur regularly at and around the site. Other than fountains, there are no surface water bodies or flowing surface streams, and there are no fish or other aquatic life in the study area.

Common species in the study area include squirrels, pigeons, seagulls, sparrows, starlings, and Norway rats. Other species occasionally observed include raccoons, deer, peregrine falcons, and migratory birds

Landscape maintenance activities include the management of the Norway rat in President's Park. Because rat infestation is high on adjacent properties, control methods mitigate but cannot eradicate the population. The management program includes monitoring and baiting burrows and removing overgrown vegetation. In addition, trash containers need to be modified to reduce foraging.

Several other species occur in numbers high enough to present difficulties. Pigeons and seagulls in Lafayette Park crowd walkways and leave bird droppings on benches, statuary, walkways, and plant materials. Sparrow numbers are increasing in Lafayette Park and may be inhibiting the growth of newly planted trees. Park staff currently do not administer management programs for these species.

In the past gray squirrels have damaged a significant number of trees and flowering plants in the park. The park supported as many as 150 to 200 squirrels per acre prior to a relocation program in 19X5, while habitat modification decreased the number of available den sites. Past management activities also included monitoring the size and condition of the squirrel population and educating the public on the deleterious effects of feeding them. The squirrel population has stabilized at 35 to 40 animals per acre. As a result, the park staff does not need to relocate squirrels.

Threatened or Endangered Species

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 requires all federal agencies to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by the agency does not jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or critical habitat There are no known federally listed threatened or endangered species in the area.


Cultural and Natural Resources

Site Capacity

The maximum number and level of services and functions that can be provided or accommodated within President's Park, and specifically the White House and its grounds, directly affect the preservation of resources and the character of the site. Present uses include functions related to the White House as the home and office of the president (access for public tours, official visitors, staff, and the press and media; security; and deliveries) and to President's Park as a setting for state events, national marches and demonstrations, and First Amendment activities. The fact that President's Park is in the center of a vibrant urban area means that thousands of vehicles pass alongside and through the site daily.

The number of people taking the White House public tour has fluctuated over the years. Visitation increased after World War II, and in the 1950s and 1960s it reached all-time highs, with as many as 11,000 visitors over an entire day. Currently, a daily average of 5,000 people visit the White House over a four-hour period five days a week. Thousands more use the site because of official functions and daily uses. Based on these use patterns, it appears that the current tour volume is the capacity of the house. This number could be refined in the future as a result of a visitor experience / resource protection analysis (see appendix F).

In addition to public tours, a variety of other demands are made on the White House and its infrastructure. Deliveries (from chairs and tents to flowers and food) are made daily at various entrances Installations for special events require the removal and replacement of turf. In the case of a state visit, buses for honor guards and bands are parked on E Street and in the Ellipse area while artillery is set up on the Ellipse proper to render a 21-gun salute to the visiting head of state. Over a year's time as many as 10 such visits, along with many additional smaller affairs requiring less equipment, may also be held on the site.

Traffic and the need to provide parking has played a significant role in the evolution of the site. With the location of the Executive Residence between Georgetown and Capitol Hill, there was an early need for east/west connections across President's Park. In more recent times these roads have become major thoroughfares that bisect the park. Parking has been congested since the 19th century when large stables were built on the grounds for workers and visitors. Formal events turned the Ellipse area into a carriage lot for White House guests. The development of streets like East and West Executive Avenues and State and Hamilton Places further fragmented the site following the Civil War.

The arrival of automobiles created additional transportation problems, which were accentuated during the 1920s and 1930s by the construction of additional buildings, such as the Department of Commerce. Designers made various "improvements," including extending E Street through the southern half of the site. World War II compounded traffic and parking problems when temporary barracks were established south of the First Division Monument and elsewhere. Continuing pressure in the l950s and 1960s by both federal government employees and the general public caused areas like the Ellipse roadways to be increasingly used as parking areas rather than formal drives. The introduction of the subway system alleviated some traffic pressure but created new problems by making the area easily accessible to large numbers of visitors.

The White House and President's Park traditionally have been a point of public assembly, both for celebration as well as to petition the president. Citizens have regularly assembled to hold vigils, to honor a new president, to mourn the death of a president and to protest



government policies as an exercise of their rights to public assembly and free speech.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Lafayette Park became a focus for demonstrating groups, even though all public portions of the site have been used for such purposes. Some demonstrators are ensconced on the curb across from the north entrance of the White House, others appear as the situation requires. Demonstrations have been the subject of various court decisions, resulting in regulations about the numbers of participants and the locations of demonstrations.

The effect of all these demands is that today many of the resources of the White House and President's Park are at their limits. A visitor experience / resource protection analysis would be needed to determine at what point use triggers resource degradation and what protective measures should be taken.


Home and Office of the President

The White House is first and foremost the home of the president and the first family. In addition, it is the site of the office of the president. Until the early 1900s various rooms on the second floor of the White House were used as the office of the president. During the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft the was moved from the Executive Residence to a newly created `'executive office" building on the west side of the house. In 1911 President Taft began using the newly completed Oval Office.

As the home and office of the president, the White House and the surrounding grounds accommodate a variety of uses related to the presidency. Those who have lived and worked in the White House have made changes to the home itself and to the grounds and gardens. However, these changes have always been made with an eye to preserving plans and designs that have endured since 1791.

The White House began as a site where ordinary citizens could wander freely about the grounds. Those wanting to see the president sometimes came to the door unannounced and sat waiting in the first floor cross hallway. Changing conditions and increasing complexity have gradually resulted in a more structured access system, with visitors now required to enter only by appointment through security gatehouses.

Interior structural changes have occurred throughout the history of the house, reflecting the tastes of the residents as well as contemporary interior design styles and technological innovations. The house was completely refurbished in 1902. In 1927 a third floor was added. Porticos had been added to the north and south sides in the 1800s, and a balcony was added on the south side of the house during the Truman administration. Between 1949 and 1952 the structure was completely renovated to correct structural deficiencies.

The design of the grounds has also evolved, with influences varying from presidents such as Jefferson to landscape designers such as Andrew Jackson Downing and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. These landscape designs continue to guide management of the grounds today. The Rose Garden on the west and the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden on the east provide outdoor spaces for official events and activities, while the south grounds provide the setting to formally welcome visiting heads of state.

Executive Residence

Family Space

First families currently use portions of the second and third floors of the White House as family quarters, with the ground and state floors largely reserved for official events and gatherings, as well as public tours. There is little informal space within the White House that families can use for recreation.

A theater is available for use by the first family. During the Nixon administration a single bowling lane was added in the basement area adjacent to the house. The lane is accessed through basement utility corridors and is often used for storage when not being used by first families. The indoor swimming pool installed during the Roosevelt administration was covered during the Nixon administration so this area could be used by the press corps.

Private, outdoor space for the first family is provided on the south grounds of the White House. An outdoor swimming pool, a tennis



court, a small putting green, a basketball hoop with a small asphalt half court, and a narrow running track along the edge of the south grounds drive are available. Several garden areas on the south grounds provide shade and private areas for first families.

Public Access

An open, accessible White House has been a tradition at the site. This access is viewed as an important aspect of our democracy, and where possible events and staff schedules are adjusted to accommodate public tours. Public White House tours are conducted Tuesday through Saturday (for details see "Visitor Use, Services, and Experience," pages 164 167).

The privacy needs of the first family must be continually balanced with the business uses of the house and the desire for public access. To help accommodate all uses, staff of both the residence and the office of the president coordinate with tour operations. White House events can cause tours to be suspended for a day or a portion of a day. Sometimes events in one portion of the state floor allow for tours to continue, with just one or two rooms being closed to the public.


Space at the White House is inadequate for the demands required of the site. Every part of the house is used to store supplies, materials, and equipment. Makeshift workspace is often created to meet temporary needs, such as using the Family Dining Room as catering space during state dinners and arranging flowers outside in the small service drive on the east.

Items from the White House collection that are not currently in use are also stored offsite. Damaged furnishings and objects must be transported offsite for repair, increasing the possibility of further damage in transit.


Some utilities at the site are outdated, limiting some uses. Recent projects that have updated utilities include new fire detection/suppression systems in the Executive Residence; new electrical wiring throughout the residence; renovation of the heating/air conditioning/ ventilation system; an electrical vault project, along with the replacement of transformers and electrical panels; automated systems controls for the residence; and electrical upgrades in the military facility. Utilities at the Old Executive Office Building that need updating include electrical, fire, and life safety systems.

Executive Office Support Services

The Executive Office of the President consists of 13 entities -- the White House Office, the Office of the Vice President, the Council of Economic Advisors, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Executive Residence, the National Security Council, the Office of Administration, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Office of Policy Development, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative. The number of employees and others who work within the complex (including the New Executive Office Building) ranges from 4,000 to 4,500, of whom as many as 3,000 may be on duty in the complex at any given time.

Visitor Arrivals

Thousands of diplomatic and business visitors enter the White House complex each year; in addition, thousands of individuals attend

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Home and Office of the President

meetings and events at the White House. Visitors use various entrances into the complex. Business visitors often enter through the East and West Wings, while ambassadors and heads of state enter through the more ceremonial north and south porticos. Dinner guests during large events often enter through the East Wing. Flexibility in access to the White House is an important attribute that is continually preserved.

Meeting Space

White House officials host hundreds of meetings each day, ranging from as few as half a dozen participants to as many as several hundred. A 1993 survey identified the lack of meeting space within the White House complex as one of the major workplace problems.

Meeting spaces within the White House complex were never designed for today's large gatherings and multimedia needs. There is limited meeting space in the West Wing, and often, historic rooms in the White House and the Old Executive Office Building are used for meetings because they are the only spaces large enough. These spaces do not have up-to-date electronic equipment needed for meetings or the flexibility to accommodate groups of varying size. This use is affecting historic furnishings and fabrics, as well as limiting or precluding public tours. Poor acoustics in the large rooms of the Old Executive Office Building affect meetings and gatherings held there.

The White House Conference Center on Jackson Place, which was constructed to address the need for meeting space, has five general use conference rooms, ranging in capacity from 10 to 100 people. The conference center is used more the 65% of the time available ( 100% utilization is not feasible since there are periods such as holiday weeks when the center is not fully used). The Old Executive Office Building has five meeting rooms, with capacities ranging from 24 to 220, and the New Executive Office Building has two, ranging from 30 to 100. Average use of these rooms during prime meeting times ( 10 A.M.-noon and 2 - 4 P.M.) ranges from 80% to 95% year-round, depending on the room. Smaller rooms that can only hold meetings that could be held in an office are less used; larger rooms are more heavily used. At peak times, for example, during budget preparations with the Office of Management and Budget, use is 100% for weeks on end. It is not unusual to find large groups crowded into small offices. In some cases meetings have to be canceled with no notice and participants turned away because the limited meeting space available is needed by the president or vice president at the last minute.

Staff Parking

Parking is provided for all but two of the entities that comprise the Executive Office of the President (Office of National Drug Control Policy and the United States Trade Representative). Currently, 1,400 parking permits are issued; allowing for both shift work and normal travel and leave, this number exceeds the number of parking spaces available (see table 5). In addition, parking is required by and provided for staff of the many support organizations, including the U.S. Secret Service, the General Services Administration, the National Park Service, military support staffs, contractors, a small number of other agency staff temporarily assigned to support interagency task forces housed in the study area, and entities housed in the townhouses on Jackson Place.




Type/Location Number of Spaces  
Secured Parking Spaces
. OEOB courtyards 49  
. West Executive Avenue 106  
. East Executive Avenue 17  
. Treasury Building moat 11  
. Offsite 50  
. . Subtotal 233  
Unsecured Spaces within President's Park  
. Staff Permit (OEOB,
White House, Treasury)
. NPS Permit 26  
. . Subtotal 846  
Official Business 61  
. . Total 1,140  

SOURCE: BRW,Inc.1994b and National Park Service.

Various functions within the White House complex operate around the clock, such as communications, computer support, national security, presidential and physical security, building maintenance, and support to the first family. While evening and midnight shifts operate during off-hours when on-street parking may be available, staff are required to report during (or their shifts overlap into) times when daytime and rush-hour parking restrictions are in effect, or their shifts end or begin at times when public transit is unavailable. In addition, many staff are on-call at all hours, and the normal workday for most does not begin or end at a predictable time. In some operations staff work in excess of 12-hour days and six or seven days a week.

To accommodate the staff parking demand, permit parking spaces are shared by shift workers, parking in fringe areas is provided for staff on fixed shifts, shuttle transit services are available for staff who divide their time between the White House complex and remote locations, and incentives are offered for car pooling when allocating parking permits.

When the historic buildings within the White House complex were built, the future need for parking was not a consideration, and there are limited opportunities now to retrofit these structures to provide parking. As a result, parking at this site is not comparable to parking normally provided for modern office buildings, hotels, or the U.S. Congress. Currently, the Ellipse roadway and streets surrounding the White House are used to provide permit parking for staff.

The parking supply in President's Park fluctuates based on competing demands for the use of the specific spaces. The number of spaces available can be affected by construction staging, temporary or permanent roadway closures, or security needs. Consequently, this supply has varied over recent years and can even change daily. For the purposes of this document, the information in table 5 is used to represent the existing White House complex parking supply. This information is based on several sources, including parking inventories. There are 846 spaces in unsecured areas of President's Park and 233 spaces in secured areas. In addition to designated parking spaces, an estimated 61 vehicles for official business functions are staged within the secured White House complex. The number of official business vehicles staged throughout the complex varies daily because it is directly related to activities at the White House.

Based on parking surveys in July/August 1992 and November 1994, the permit parking areas are at capacity during the day. In fact, in many locations permit holders parked in no-parking zones because the permit spaces were full. On weekdays the restrictions on permit spaces start at 6 or 7 A.M., depending on location. At 3 P.M. restrictions end for permit spaces on the Ellipse, State Place, and E Street, representing more than half of the permit designated spaces; however, based on the November 1994 parking survey, the number of staff departures for permit spaces are generally offset by other staff arrivals (permit holders) until 5 P.M. The remainder of the spaces are restricted from public use until at least 6:30 P.M.


Home and Office of the President


Deliveries to the White House complex consist of mail; supplies, furniture, and equipment for staff; food for the cafeteria and caterers for special events in the Old Executive Office Building; food and supplies for the White House mess in the West Wing; food, supplies, and furnishings used by the first family; and supplies and equipment used to stage events in the White House and on the grounds, including staging, audio equipment, tents, tables, and chairs.

Due to inadequate storage space, many items must be stored offsite and repeatedly transported to and from the complex as needed. l he staging of deliveries is a major logistical operation, with materials and equipment thoroughly checked by security each time they are brought into the complex.

Between 500 and 600 deliveries are made to the White House complex each week. For special events or holiday preparations that number increases substantially. Deliveries are made through all entrances to the site, resulting in a haphazard appearance with delivery trucks, vans, and hand trucks crossing paths with people taking public tours, business visitors, diplomatic arrivals, media equipment, and staff moving from place to place. Deliveries to the Old Executive Office Building must often use West Executive Avenue for access and staging, further clogging and congesting this area.

Staff Circulation

Staff require access between the East and West Wings, as well as to the Old Executive Office Building and the Treasury Building.

On a typical day there are several hundred staff trips between the Old Executive Office Building and the West Wing for meetings and to deliver mail and packages. Staff people and most materials move across the site by way of a small corridor north of the house, which is also used to store items used for special events. This situation results in an inefficient, crowded, and unsafe condition for staff, and it infringes on privacy for the first family.

News Media Facilities

When the West Wing was built in 1902, for the first time a small room to the right of the front (north) entrance was provided for use by the press. Current media facilities are in the west colonnade and include a briefing room with a camera platform, media-assigned office carrels, tape-reviewing offices, recording booths, and vending and restroom areas.

The number of journalists assigned to the White House has expanded greatly, now more than filling one and a half floors in the west colonnade. The press booths and work areas are small and cramped. There is no adequate space for photographers to store equipment while onsite. Limited space is available for foreign and out-of-town press representatives.

The existing presidential briefing space is relatively small, with 48 seats for the press. During press conferences journalists often crowd into the adjacent room and downstairs. The briefing space does not have the audiovisual capabilities normally associated with modern briefing or speaking facilities. Because of inadequate storage space, ladders and wheels of cabling fill the aisles of the briefing room and any other available space.


Affected Environment








Early morning visitors line up to await the opening of the White House visitor center so they can obtain their White House public tour tickets.



The 48-seat White House briefing room in the west colonnade lacks storage space, and photographers' ladders and television cabling are stored in every available space.



Large special events on the Ellipse, such as the annual Pageant of Peace, require several weeks to set up and take down. During this period the dignity and original design of President's Park are compromised by temporary facilities. Here maintenance crews prepare a temporary roadway. In the background, temporary bleachers (some with tented tops) where visitors wait for public tours of the White House also detract from the appearance of the site.






Visitors queue for the White House public tour along the fence.





Vehicles parked along West Executive Avenue create a cluttered, rather than a dignified, appearance for the home and office of the president

A large First Amendment demonstration on the Ellipse shows the type of use this portion of President's Park receives. The Pageant of Peace site is still being dismantled in the top left of the picture. Portable toilets flank the Ellipse roadway on the top right. Staff parking around the Ellipse has been removed for the day. This photo predates the building of the Ellipse visitor pavilion in 1994.



The current visitor experience at the White House and President's Park consists of several facets -- public tours of the residence, museum displays, brochures, guided tours, planned programs, and coincidental events. Unplanned experiences consist of individual exploration of the site and the various happenings - motorcades, helicopter landings, state visits, protests, celebrations, public recreation, and various special events. Many of these events happen simultaneously and are important to the dynamic experience. Visitors are both fascinated and confused by what is happening, and there is little explanation of how uses interrelate or their significance.

Who comes to the White House has changed over the years to include a gradually wider segment of the population than in Thomas Jefferson's time - for example, few women would have entered the White House unescorted except for servants, black visitors, whether slave or free, would have had little opportunity to be welcomed. American Indians were invited to see the president as members of formal groups, but only rarely. Not until the second half of the 20th century has public access to the White House been broadened to include a wider spectrum of the nation's population.

In addition to public visitors to the White House, President's Park serves a wide array of users, highlighting the park's value as well designed open space at the heart of a vibrant urban area. Local workers take advantage of the park's shaded spaces for quiet lunches. Teams from throughout the city play sports within sight of the White House. Citizens exercising their First Amendment rights place President's Park in the eye of the world. The role of President's Park is constantly redefined as a reflection of the heeds of the users.

Public Access to the White House

Historical Overview

Visitors started coming to the White House when it was under construction, and officials had to limit access by issuing official passes. John Adams limited visitors to officials, but Thomas Jefferson began the tradition of opening "The People's House" to the public, establishing a precedent of welcoming the American public to the house and grounds. The north forecourt became a public park during Jefferson's administration and later became known as Lafayette Square.

By the time of Andrew Jackson, the public increasingly saw the house and grounds as public domain, illustrated by the fact that immediately after his inauguration hundreds of supporters jammed the White House to celebrate. Jackson's administration also saw the first attempted assassination of a president, and from the 1830s security concerns increased, but the house remained open. Band concerts were given on the grounds, and citizens regularly wandered through the gardens. Access remained informal, but security concerns slowly tightened over the years.

During the Civil War President's Park was turned into an armed camp. Easy access was no longer allowed to the house or the grounds. At the end of the war the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took over the administrative responsibilities. Security concerns increased after Lincoln's assassination in 1865, and visitation became more restricted and formalized.

By the beginning of the 20th century, changes in the concepts of both recreation and tourism had great implications for the White House and President's Park. Public use of the property


Visitor Use. Services. and Experience

increased despite two additional presidential assassinations, creating security problems and safety concerns. Celebrations, demonstrations, and official events continued to be held at the house and on the grounds, including state receptions, Fourth of July celebrations, gatherings of military, religious and political groups, and public protests.

With the invention of the automobile and the radio, the demand for access to the park and house increased dramatically. Events on the grounds, such as the traditional Easter egg roll and the annual Christmas tree lighting (dating from the 1920s) also increased public use. Radio programs broadcast from the White House, such as President Roosevelt's fireside chats, caused Americans to identify more closely with the White House than ever before. As a result, visitors increased to 10,000 over a full day, complicating both security and presidential privacy. The White House was closed to the public for five years during World War II and during the renovation from 1949 to 1952.

The National Park Service assumed responsibility for the property in 1933. In the 1950s the Park Service established a formal interpretive division' and NPS interpreters made their initial tour of the White House on March 18, 1959. In the 1960s a structured visitor information program was established for the site, including information kiosks, brochures, and rangers trained to assist the public. As in the past, however, tours of the Executive Residence were conducted by officers of the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division.

In fall 1975, in preparation for the Bicentennial celebration, the National Park Service instituted a visitor program and ticketing process for people taking public tours of the White House. The visitor program, which operated during the busy visitation periods, incorporated entertainment for visitors waiting to tour the mansion. Over the years the Park Service has offered various interpretive activities and special events throughout President's Park, including walking tours of the Ellipse and Lafayette Park, as well as Twilight Tattoos on the Ellipse in cooperation with the {J. S. Army. President's Park rangers have provided interpretive slide shows in regional schools, have led special educational White House tours for schoolchildren, and have assisted in the spring and fall White House garden tours.

Current Visitation and Projected Trends

Today visitation to the White House averages about 5,000 visitors a day. The visitor experience has been somewhat improved as a result of opening a visitor center in Baldrige Hall in the Commerce Building and a visitor pavilion just northeast of the Ellipse.

Visitation numbers have remained relatively stable from year to year, as shown in table 6, because the number of people on daily White House tours is limited by the size of the structure and routine operations. Generally, the demand for White House tours exceeds the available tour capacity. Yearly variations in total visitation are attributable to tour cancellations because of White House events and seasonal variations in visitation.

In 1996 the White House visitor center (which opened in 1995) hosted 836,996 visitors. A substantial portion of this use was by people acquiring public tour tickets. However, during the peak season many visitors are unable to acquire a ticket because of the high demand. These visitors can now look at videos and exhibits in the visitor center, giving them some understanding of White House functions and history. In 1996 at least 22,500 people visited the center but did not go on the public tour.

As future visitation to Washington, D.C., increases, use of the White House visitor center


is also expected to grow. Approximately 20 million visitors came to Washington in 1995 (visitation varied from l8.5 to 20.4 million between 1987 and 1996; Washington, D.C., Convention and Visitors Association, 1996). Visitation is projected to increase to 21 to 22 million visitors in the next five to eight years. With this growth, it is expected that more and more visitors will only go to the visitor center because they cannot be accommodated on public White House tours. Thus, the visitor center will play an increasingly important role in providing White House related experiences.

Who Visits the White House and President's Park?

Public tour visitors are diverse in their group sizes, group type, age, and number of times they have taken the White House tour. A 1989-91 survey of visitors during spring, summer, and fall showed the following (Univ. Of Idaho, CPSU 1993):

*Group size -- Most commonly, groups consisted of two (31%) or four (18%) people; but varied throughout the year. The most common group size was two in the fall (45%) and spring (30%), and four in the summer (24%).

*Group type Families were the most common group type (54%) taking the tour. During summer 64% of the visitor groups were families, compared to 51 % in spring and 49% in fall.

*Age -- The most common visitor ages were 36 45 (24%), followed by children 15 years or younger (21%). During summer children 15 years or younger were the most common (30%); during fall this percentage fell to 10%.

*Number of times on the White House tour -- Eighty percent of the visitors were on their first tour, while 17% had taken the tour two to four times. Slightly more spring visitors (83%) were on their first tour than fall (80%) or summer (79%) visitors.

The survey showed that 46 states were represented on White House tours, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Visitors from California made up the largest proportion of visitors (13%). Other states frequently represented were New York (12%), Pennsylvania (6%), Texas (5%), Florida (5%), and Virginia (5%).

Overall, 14% of the visitors surveyed were from other countries-principally Great Britain (12%), Germany (10%), Canada (9%), Sweden (6%), Austria (6%), France (5%), and China (4%). The proportion of international visitors varied by season: 24% of the fall visitors, 14% of the spring visitors, and 8% of the summer visitors.

1987 329,000 749,000 1,078,000
1988 299,000 791,000 1,090,000
1989 247,000 814,000 1,061,000
1990 243,000 847,000 1,090,000
1991 198,000 742,000 940,000
1992 241,000 824,000 1,065,000
1993 258,000 837,000 1,095,000
1994 256,000 869,000 1,125,000
1995 223,000 808,000 1,031,000
1996 255,000 814,000 1,069,000

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Visitor Use, Services, and Experience

Demographic profiles of current and potential tourist markets conducted by the National Park Service, using the 1989-91 visitor survey data and correlating it with census and commercial data, reveal clear patterns of participation and underrepresentation in White House public tours (NPS, Galipeau 1995d). The analysis showed that regional visitors- defined as residents living within a 3 1/2-hour drive of the White House -- made up only 12.6% of domestic visitors, while visitors from outside the region accounted for a higher than expected proportion of visitors. Using trip times as an indicator of the relative cost (in time and money) of visiting the White House, this finding indicates that nonregional visitors can afford to and will visit the White House despite relatively high costs, while regional visitors have a lower than expected rate of participation in tours.

Matching zip codes and demographic data (such as education, family type, age of housing stock, and income distribution) to the visitor survey revealed that while one would expect White House tour visitation to reflect a similar percentage of blacks as in the U.S. population (12.4%), the actual proportion was only 4.1%. In contrast, visitor proportions from affluent, overwhelmingly white areas were higher than expected (11% expected with 17.9% actual; NPS, Galipeau 1995d). Individuals on White House tours do not currently represent a cross-section of American society. The reasons for this phenomenon are not clear and need to be further researched.

The Visitor Experience

Visitor Orientation and Information

The 1989-91 visitor survey showed that visitors rely on a variety of sources to learn about public tours of the White House. Almost half (42%) consulted a tour guide or tour book for information, 36% received information from friends or relatives, 21% knew about the site from previous visits, and 15% contacted their congressional offices or saw signs around the White House. Ten percent of visitors did not receive any information before their visits.

Within President's Park there are orientation exhibits at either end of East Executive Park, plus a staffed information booth at the Ellipse visitor pavilion. However, most onsite visitor orientation and information is provided at the White House visitor center.

NPS rangers and volunteers provide information throughout the day and assist visitors as they wait for tour tickets. White House brochures are available upon request in some foreign languages.

Visitor Center

The White House visitor center is open daily 7:30 A.M. to 4 P.M. year round except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Days. Although not designed to provide indepth educational experiences, the visitor center includes static exhibits organized along the following themes: architectural history of the White House; symbol and image; first families; the working White House; ceremony and celebration; and White House interiors. An interpretive videotape, which provides an overview of the history and use of the White House, is shown in the east end of the hall. Because the video is shown in an area where visitors queue for tickets and is not available when tickets are being distributed, most visitors who view the presentation do so after their tour. Only those who arrive a day early view it before their tours.

Since the visitor center has been in operation, the perception by visitors of the overall quality of services and facilities has notably increased. A survey of visitors using the visitor center in the last week of October 1995 showed that of the visitors who responded to



the survey, 64% thought the overall quality of services and facilities was very good, 34% rated them as good, and 2% as average. Items that were rated included directional and safety signs, prompt and courteous service, cleanliness of visitor center facilities, quality of audiovisual programs, quality of brochures/ maps and exhibits, quality of recreational opportunities, and quality of educational opportunities (Univ. of Idaho, CPSU 1995).


The visitor center affords the major opportunities for interpretive information about the White House and President's Park. NPS publications are limited. The White House Historical Association sells an array of educational materials about the White House, presidents, and first ladies.

Interpretive services throughout President's Park are limited. A recorded message about the history of the White House is broadcast from small speakers along the fence line.

Within the White House exhibits in the east colonnade provide a quick overview of White House history and can cause bottlenecks as visitors stop to read them. There are descriptive signs in some rooms.

All interpretation within the White House is provided by police officers from the Uniformed Division of the U.S. Secret Service. These guides escort congressional and passholder tours before the public tours start. Once public tours start, they are stationed in the rooms on the state floor to answer questions.

During the White House garden tours visitors can read signs placed about the grounds and a descriptive booklet produced for the event.

Bus companies provide a number of tours of the Washington, D.C., area; however, none is specific to the White House or focuses on President's Park.

White House Tours

White House public tours, along with occasional park interpretive tours, are managed by the National Park Service. Congressional tours are arranged through the offices of individual members of Congress, as are most group tours. Tours are sometimes interrupted due to state functions or special events. Congressional and passholder tours are generally in the house between 8:00 and 8:45 A.M., when groups of about 75 are led by officers through the Vermeil, China, and Diplomatic Reception Rooms on the ground floor and all rooms on the state floor. Personnel from the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division provide information and stories about what visitors are seeing.

Public tours are between 10 A.M. and noon Tuesday through Saturday. From March to Labor Day public tour visitors pick up free tickets (indicating a specific tour time) on the day of the tour at the visitor center. Tickets are available beginning at 7:30 A.M. and are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Because tickets are limited, many visitors are turned away during the peak season.

After receiving their tickets, visitors return at the time indicated on their tickets and wait on the Ellipse for their tour group number to be called. At 1 5-minute intervals NPS personnel take groups of up to 300 visitors across E Street to stand in line along the White House fence before going through security in the visitor entrance building and entering the East Wing of the White House. During the rest of the year visitors proceed on their own directly to the visitor entrance building at the time indicated on their tickets.





White House Public Tour Route

Public tour visitors glance into the Library and Vermeil Rooms on the ground floor before proceeding upstairs to the state floor. On the state floor, officers of the U.S. Secret Service are stationed in each of the main rooms, where they give short talks and answer questions as individuals move from room to room. A public tour participant generally spends less than half an hour in the house. Although visitors may stop in a room if they would like a longer view, they do not know this and they are not encouraged to do so, and the influx of visitors behind them frequently pushes them along.

Visitors to the White House express interests in many areas. History, the first families, official events, and daily activities top the list.

Many are interested in the architecture, furnishings, and art. For most visitors, though, a tour of the White House takes on a symbolic meaning beyond being a sightseeing or educational stop. For these visitors access to the house is enough and the actual tour is incidental; visitors frequently pause on the north lawn as if to reflect on where they are. For other visitors, the tour is too fast as people are pressed to move from room to room, with little opportunity to linger for a longer look. For the most part, however, visitors are satisfied that they have been in the White House.

Visitors have varying opinions about the quality of each of the services and facilities they use during their public tour. On the 1995 visitor survey, information and interpretive


Visitor Use. Services, and Experience

services were rated as good or very good (maps/brochures, 74%; NPS ranger assistance, 72%; and the NPS information kiosk, 70%). The White House roosts guides were rated as good or very good by 64% of the visitors. Educational sales in the visitor center were rated as good or very good by 63% (Univ. of Idaho, CPSU 1995).

Other Tours and Interpretation

Public tours of the Old Executive Office Building and the Treasury Building are conducted on Saturdays by volunteer docents. These tours are only by reservation, which can be made by calling the curator's office for the respective building.

Museums adjacent to the site include the Renwick Gallery, Corcoran Gallery, Decatur House, National Aquarium, and Octagon House. T he displays at these sites are specific to their histories or functions, however, and none has extensive displays relating to the White House and President's Park.

Tourmobile Sightseeing, Inc., a concession operation under contract to the National Park Service, operates four tour routes, with onboard interpretive services for each tour. Two routes are entirely within the Monumental Core area-the Washington Mall tour and the Arlington National Cemetery tour; the other two tours go to Mount Vernon and the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.

The 13.3-mile Washington Mall tour includes President's Park and the White House, plus the Smithsonian museums, Union Station, the U.S. Capitol, the Holocaust Museum, the Washington Monument, the Bureau of En-graving and Printing, the Jefferson Memorial, West Potomac Park, the Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery.

Various organizations interested in the visitor experience work with the National Park Service, including the White House Visitors Of lice, the Washington, D.C., Convention and Visitors Association, the White House Historical Association, the Smithsonian Institution, the First Division Society, the Military District of Washington, the Lafayette Park Consortium (including the National Trust for Historic Preservation), the National Archives: Presidential Libraries, and the Christmas Pageant of Peace Committee.

Site Amenities

Few amenities for the visiting public are offered onsite. The visitor center offers water and restrooms, as does the visitor pavilion on the Ellipse. Temporary water fountains are placed along East Executive Park during the summer, and benches can be found throughout President's Park. Limited food services are provided at the Ellipse visitor pavilion.


Various recreational activities occur through-out President's Park. The Ellipse is frequently used for informal games of softball, football, and volleyball and other activities, and the side panels are used for picnicking. Lafayette Park offers chess and checker tables and is the site of much lunchtime activity. Since Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to public vehicular traffic, in-line skaters have become a common sight in front of the White House.


Community Noise Levels

Community noise levels fluctuate continually, with many factors affecting how humans perceive sound. These factors include background noise, the actual noise level associated with an activity, the frequency of noise, the length of time exposed, and changes in noise levels



during exposure. Noise levels are measured in A-weighted decibels (dB(A)).

Noise level changes less than 3 dB(A) are barely perceived by most listeners, whereas a 10 dB(A) change is normally perceived as a doubling (or halving) of the sound. Most noise acceptability criteria are based on the principle that a change in noise is likely to cause annoyance wherever it intrudes on existing noise from all other sources (i.e., annoyance depends On level of background noise be-fore a noise starts or an existing one increases).

Background (Ambient) Noise Levels

The President's Park study area exhibits high background ambient noise levels, which are characteristic of busy urbanized areas. The study area is bordered mainly by institutional and commercial land uses. Although no specific field measurements were taken for this study, noise levels in urbanized landscapes similar to the study area typically range between 45 dB(A) and 85 dB(A), with 45 dB(A) typical of nighttime levels in an interior building room and 85 dB(A) typical of levels on a sidewalk adjacent to heavy traffic. For reference, a typical man's voice at 3' is in the 60-70 dB(A) range, and rustling leaves are in the 40-50 dB(A) range.

Motor vehicle traffic (cars, tour buses, commuter buses' and delivery vehicles) is the dominant source of noise in the study area. Consequently, noise levels are greatest during rush hours, the same or somewhat lower during other daytime periods, lower still during the evening hours, and considerably lower during the nighttime. Other sources of noise in the study area are activities associated with touring visitors, delivery activities, and mechanical equipment (such as fans and heating/ cooling equipment).

In general, automobiles and transit modes are moving sources of noise. However, noise is generated by motor vehicles even when they are stationary. In addition to engine noise, sources of automobile and truck noise include exhaust systems, shifting gears, and deceleration/acceleration at traffic signals.

For both demonstrations and special events, federal regulations stipulate that sound amplification equipment may not be used on the White House sidewalk (other than hand-port-able equipment for crowd control purposes).

Also, sound amplification equipment may be limited so that it will not unreasonably disturb nonparticipating persons in, or in the vicinity of, the area (36 CFR 7.96). D.C. regulations also address sound/disturbance restrictions.

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Special Events and Demonstrations

The White House, as the home and office of president of the United States, is the setting for state events, including welcoming ceremonies for visiting heads of state, state dinners, and receptions. However, the White House is also a focus for citizens wishing to petition the president, as well as for those wishing to associate themselves and their events with the power associated with the U.S. presidency. The importance of the White House as a national symbol of our democracy becomes most evident as individuals and groups vie to associate themselves with this symbol, thereby gaining publicity.

Traditionally, access and proximity have made Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Park on the north side of the White House the most appropriate place for demonstrations, ranging from Veterans' Day celebrants to antiwar protesters. However, larger groups also gather on the south side, using the Ellipse and the Washington Monument as staging areas.

Special events range from the annual Pageant of Peace celebration on the Ellipse to the egg roll traditionally held on the south White House grounds the Monday following Easter Sunday. Other events vary throughout the year and number in the hundreds, from military assemblies to commemorative gatherings at individual memorials, to graduation exercises and state dinners (see table 7). The site accommodates ceremonial access in a variety of ways, from foreign dignitaries to special gatherings of school groups.

On average, 55 special events and 150 First Amendment activities occur annually within President's Park. These events and demonstrations use many large areas within President's Park and the White House, as shown on the Special Events maps. Between two and five of those events each year are very large, accommodating 50,000 or more people per event.


The extent and type of events that may be held throughout President's Park are defined by law and regulation (16 U.S.C. 1, 3, 9a, 462(k); 36 CFR 7.96(g)). By definition, the term "demonstration" includes demonstrations, picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding vigils or religious services, and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances. These activities may be engaged in by one or more persons, and they generally draw a crowd or onlookers.

Special events include sports events, pageants, celebrations, historical reenactments, entertainments, exhibitions, parades, fairs, festivals, and similar happenings that are not defined as demonstrations. Permit applications for demonstrations and special events within President's Park are handled by the National Capital Parks Central, Office of Park Programs.

Within President's Park, special events are only permitted on the Ellipse, except for special wreath-laying ceremonies relating to the statues in Lafayette Park and at the First Division Monument. Permitted demonstrations are only allowed on the White House sidewalk (on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue), in Lafayette Park, and on the Ellipse. Without special permission, no more than 750 perfects are permitted to conduct a demonstration on the White House sidewalk at any one time, and no more than 3,000 per-sons are permitted to conduct a demonstration in Lafayette Park at any one time. No permit will be issued authorizing special events or demonstrations in excess of three weeks on the Ellipse or seven days in the remainder of President's Park.

Other limitations are imposed throughout President's Park for structures, signs, and the like. In Lafayette Park most structures and signs are prohibited. However, as evidenced by long-term First Amendment activists in the park, signs that are not hand-carried and that meet size requirements outlined in the regulations are allowed so long as they are attended at all times.

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TABLE 7: Special Events within President's Park
Lafayette Park / Pennsylvania Avenue
1st Amendment Demonstrations Ex.: Southeast quadrant of park . . .
* National Smoke-in " July 4 Hemp legalization rally 1,000
* Nuclear Vigil " Continuous Protesting nuclear arms 3 to a maximum of 3,000
Presidential Inaugural Parade Pennsylvania Avenue (Lafayette Park is used for media stands, event staging, and other reviewing stands) Every four years Preparations begin in November; facilities are removed by the end of February, with restoration taking place through March. 250,000 to 500,000
White House and Grounds
State Dinners White House state rooms 6-10 times per year Held in honor of visiting heads of state 130
State Arrivals White House south grounds and Ellipse 6-10 times per Year Formal military parade on south lawn with 21-gun salute. 4,000
Easter Egg Roll White House south grounds and Ellipse Monday following Easter Children six years of age and younger, accompanied by adults. Lines form on or around the Ellipse, with activities provided on the Ellipse and the White House grounds. Free, timed tickets are provided for entry to the White House grounds; additional activities are provided on the Ellipse. 25,000
Spring and Fall Garden Tours White House grounds Annually-Second or third weekend in April and October Includes tours of both the White House and grounds. 25,000
Candlelight Tours White House state rooms Annually-Three evenings between Christmas and New Year's Day. Tours of the ground and state floors with seasonal decorations 33,000
Family Social Events
South grounds 5 - times per year Events such as congressional barbecues; some-times includes tents and stage construction 1,200 to 5,000
Tapings for TV Broadcast East Room 3-4 times per year Tapings of special presentations for broadcast on public TV 200
First Amendment Demonstrations
* Right to Life March
Ellipse January 22 Roe v. Wade protest 125,000
Pageant of Peace Northeast quadrant 3 weeks in December Northeast quadrant of Ellipse is used as a stage for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree and other holiday events. Construction begins in October; site restoration Until May 270,000
George Washington University Graduation Western half of Ellipse and part of southeast quadrant mid-May Chairs, stages, and event infrastructure are erected 20,000
Military District of Washington Twilight Tattoo Northeast quadrant Every Wednesday evening during summer U.S. Army presentation of ceremonial troops marching and performing drills. 10,000
Parades on Constitution Avenue Southern portion of the Ellipse Four times a year (St. Patrick's Day, Cherry Blossom, Safety Patrol, and Fourth of July) Bleachers and reviewing stands are placed along Constitution Avenue. 20,000 to 100,000

Special Events

White House Events

A variety of special events are initiated by the White House each year, both public and private. Those of a private nature are usually by invitation only and specifically organized for the president or the first family. The events may be small or extensive, sometimes taking place in state rooms in the residence and extending to large tents erected for the occasion on the south lawn.

Each year the White House, in cooperation with the National Park Service, conducts a number of special public events in the White House or on the grounds, or within President's Park. In addition to public tours of the White House, four other events are conducted, as described below.

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Comprehensive Design Plan Continued