Blair House is the official state guest house for the President of the United States. It is located at 1651-1653 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., opposite the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, off the corner of Lafayette Park.
The main house was built in 1824 of buff-colored limestone and is a late example of the Federal Style. The house was built as a private home for Joseph Lovell, eighth Surgeon General of the United States Army. In 1836 it was acquired by Francis Preston Blair, a newspaper publisher and influential advisor to President Andrew Jackson. It would remain in his family for the following century.
In 1859, Blair built a house for his daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth Blair Lee and Captain Samuel Phillips Lee, at 1653 Pennsylvania Avenue, next door to Blair House at 1651 Pennsylvania Avenue. Captain Lee (later an admiral) was a grandson of Richard Henry Lee and third cousin of Robert E. Lee. The houses have since been combined, and the complex is sometimes referred to as the Blair-Lee House, though Blair House is the official name today.
In 1942 the house was purchased by the U.S. government and has since been the official residence for guests of the U.S. president. Blair House is primarily used to house foreign heads of state visiting the president (when foreign leaders stay there, the house flies their flag), but it has also been used for domestic guests. Several presidents-elect of the United States and their families have spent the last few nights before their initial inauguration as guests in the house.Facade of the original Blair House during the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in 2007 (as indicated by the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom).
During much of the presidency of Harry Truman, it served as the residence of the president of the United States, while the interior of the White House, which had been found to have serious structural faults, was completely gutted and rebuilt. The east and west wings of the White House, constructed in 1942 and 1902, respectively, remained in operation while the main structure was rebuilt; President Truman commuted between Blair House and the West Wing each day. On November 1, 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate President Truman in Blair House. The assassination was foiled, in part by White House Policeman Leslie Coffelt, who killed Torresola, but was mortally wounded by him. A plaque at Blair House commemorates Coffelt's heroism and sacrifice.
Blair House is now a complex of four connected townhouses, including the original Blair House. During the 1980s, Blair House underwent significant restorations, with a new wing added on the north. An adjacent townhouse, Trowbridge House, is being renovated to serve as an official guest residence for former U.S. presidents while in the capital. The combined square footage of the four adjacent townhouses exceeds 70,000 square feet (6,500 m2), making it larger than the White House (with approximately 55,000 square feet). With 119 rooms, the Blair House includes:
The Office of the Chief of Protocol manages the estate with a staff to wait on the needs of any guests at all times.