Feature

The Vice President's House

By Cody Sung

Volume 1 Issue 4

January 20, 2021

The Vice President's House

Image provided by Wikipedia

Have you ever wondered where the vice president of the United States lives during his/her time in office?  Personally, I always believed that the vice president lived with the president back in the White House.  But that is not the case. Instead, the Vice President resides in Northwestern Washington D.C., at the address of Number One Observatory Circle.


First, we need a little bit of context.  The house in question was built in 1893 on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory, a government organization which provides information on positioning, navigation, and timing for the United States Navy and Department of Defense.  The organization also performs research operations, and much more. Originally, the house was built for the superintendent of the organization. However, in 1923, the chief of naval operations removed the superintendent due to his fondness for the house. He then moved in himself. Prior to 1974, vice presidents and their families lived in their own private homes, but since the cost of securing those homes steadily increased, Congress agreed to tidy up the house and make it the vice president’s residence in 1974.


Interestingly enough, no vice president lived there for three years.  Gerald Ford was president before he used the home, and Nelson Rockefeller (Ford’s Vice President) used it for entertainment purposes only. Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter’s vice president, was the first to use the home in 1977.  Since then, George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden have all lived in the home.  Currently, Mike and Karen Pence reside in the house.


So, what is it like in this home?  The rooms, besides what you would normally see in a home, include a reception hall, garden room, a master suite, a study, and a sitting room.  There are also new additions to the home with each vice president.  For example, George H.W. Bush installed a horseshoe pit on the house grounds when he was vice president.  Dan Quayle also made additions, such as a swimming pool and an exercise room.  Karen Pence has added beehives to the grounds.  Overall, at least at first sight, the house is fancy, but not as fancy as the famed White House.  Unfortunately, there are no tours offered of the house, as it’s hidden from the street.


Although not as famed as the White house, the vice president’s quarters has its fair share of events.  The vice president usually uses the house to host important figures, such as politicians and world leaders.  For example, Joe Biden hosted Enda Kenny, Ireland’s former prime minister for St. Patrick’s Day.  Number One Observatory Circle also gets decorated for Christmas, including a Christmas tree and general Christmas decorations.  The Pence family have also decorated for Halloween and have greeted trick-or-treaters. There are also general events and parties, such as the Pence family hosting an annual pool party for veterans.


Number One Observatory Circle is quite the house, constantly shaped by new residents moving in every 4-8 years.  Just 2.5 miles from the White House, Jill Biden has said that the house provides a contrast from the nature of Washington life.  Just like lots of other homes in America, decorations pop up there for Christmas, and events and parties are regularly held.  So, the next time you ever wonder where the vice president resides, just think of the quiet home on the site of a government observatory.


With that said, let’s welcome Kamala Harris and her husband, the second gentleman, Doug Emhoff to Number One Observatory Circle. Harris will be the first female Vice President, as well as the first African American and South Asian. As for her husband, Emhoff will be the first second gentleman in the history of the United States.