June 03, 1801

Thomas Jefferson Describes the White House as a Really Pleasant Country Residence

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Writing this letter from the grandest house in America which stood, incongruously, in the midst of a barren field, President Jefferson would have had an unobstructed view, sitting in his just completed office, all the way down the Potomac to Alexandria: a wild and romantic view, the recently vacated Mrs. Adams called it, albeit noting, in a wilderness. But Jefferson, who had a higher tolerance for unfinished projects – it took him forty years to complete Monticello – saw in the desolation not so much a wasteland, but a “pleasant country neighborhood.” Here, then, is his description of the “President’s House” in the new Capitol city…
 
It is really a pleasant country residence, with an excellent society & quite enough of it. It is in the style of a good country neighborhood. They are building very rapidly, & certain measures we have been able to adopt, are likely to give a confidence very friendly to the growth of the place.
 
Jefferson’s office, in today’s White House State Dining Room, was one of the few finished rooms in the mansion, and the mansion, one of the few quasi-functional government structures that comprised the seat of government. Standing nearby the “President’s House” were two brick buildings – the Treasury and the State, War and Navy departments – and at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Capitol; the rest was, as Jefferson notes, “very rapidly” being built.

Autograph Letter Signed, as President, 1 page, quarto, Washington, June 3, 1801.  To “Dear Sir.”

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Transcript

Washington, June 3, 1801

Dear Sir

Your favor of May 25 came safely to hand.  I ought not to be surprised at any shape which calumny can assume.  yet I confess I was at the one mentioned by you to be in circulation.  I thought my age & ordinary demeanor would have prevented any suggestions in that form, from the improbability of their obtaining  belief. The persons alluded to, staid a few days, till they could procure & furnish a house, wherein they have now been living for some time.  I believe all the persons concerned are too conscious of innocence to feel the slander.

I was in hopes that, being so near as in Alexandria, your curiosity would have brought you to this place.  it is really a pleasant country residence, with an excellent society & quite enough of it.  it is in the stile [sic] of a good country neighborhood. They are building very rapidly, & certain measures we have been able to adopt, are likely to give a confidence very friendly to the growth of the place.

Accept assurances of my perfect esteem & respect

TH: JEFFERSON