October 15, 2021

Alexandra Beer House

The Real Estate Experts

How the White House almost looked: 5 rejected designs

The White House would have looked entirely different today if it weren’t for an intense competition to determine its design. 

In 1792, George Washington spearheaded a contest for those interested in designing the president’s home. Irish-born James Hoban ended up the lucky winner after his neoclassical mansion — known today as the White House — was chosen. 

But as with any competition, several entries were rejected. For the first time ever, The Post has obtained the sketches of what the White House could have looked like — had a different entry been selected. 

The plans come courtesy of cleaning company HouseFresh, which collaborated with The Maryland Center for History and Culture to digitize a series of previously unseen competition entries that didn’t make the cut. Each design was sketched with a single sheet of crème paper with pricked guide points, pen and iron gall ink, with pencil shading.

White House architect James Hoban on an American stamp.
Alamy Stock Photo
A general view of the White House.
A general view of the White House designed by James Hoban.
Courtesy of HouseFresh

As for Hoban’s eventual winner, it actually had a tragic start. After eight years of construction, the nation’s second president, John Adams, and his wife, Abigail, moved into the still-unfinished residence. But after the British set fire to the president’s house during the War of 1812, James Hoban was summoned to rebuild it.

Every president since Adams has occupied the White House, which is made up of a total of 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms and six levels in the residence.

Scroll through to see each drawing, as well as digital depictions of them. 

A collection of all the White House sketches that did not make the cut.
A collection of all the White House sketches that did not make the cut.
HouseFresh

1. Jefferson Plan 

The Thomas Jefferson design.
The Thomas Jefferson design.
Courtesy of HouseFresh
Thomas Jefferson's sketch.
Thomas Jefferson’s sketch.
The Maryland Center for History and Culture

Thomas Jefferson himself took part in the competition. His design was a more simplistic option that imitated a church and held a single cross on top. 

2. Hart’s Plan

The Philip Hart design.
The Philip Hart design.
Courtesy of HouseFresh
Philip Hart's sketch.
Philip Hart’s sketch.
The Maryland Center for History and Culture

Philip Hart’s design was more complex, featuring three levels and two front balconies. 

3. Mayfield’s Plan

The Andrew Mayfield Carshore design.
The Andrew Mayfield Carshore design.
Courtesy of HouseFresh
Andrew Mayfield's sketch.
One of Andrew Mayfield Carshore’s sketches.
The Maryland Center for History and Culture
Andrew Mayfield Carshore's sketch.
Another Andrew Mayfield Carshore sketch.
The Maryland Center for History and Culture

Andrew Mayfield Carshore — a linguist, former British soldier and teacher — offered up a design that resembled a much smaller version of the Palace of Versailles, with a center area created for a courtyard. 

4. Small’s Plan

The Jacob Small design.
The Jacob Small design.
Courtesy of HouseFresh
Jacob Small's sketch.
Jacob Small’s sketch.
The Maryland Center for History and Culture

Jacob Small’s design seems to be an extended version of Jefferson’s design with two additional structures added onto the sides of the main building. 

5. Diamond’s Plan

The James Diamond design.
The James Diamond design.
Courtesy of HouseFresh
James Diamond sketch.
James Diamond sketch.
The Maryland Center for History and Culture

James Diamond’s design is the most intricate of them all, with three stories and four columns, as well as two arched corridors.

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