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Thanks to Wikipedia's "On this day" feature, I’ve just seen this painting of the White House after it was burned by the British forces in 1812:

The White House

The background appears to be farmland, but certainly shows that the area was not yet a heavily built-up city at the time of the burning. This in turn makes the current address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue seem strange, specifically because of the high number.

When and why did the building get the number 1600?

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  • 6
    From using historic directories over the years, I know that the modern numbering of buildings in Washington DC dates from 1869, so it is presumably no earlier than that. Aug 24, 2020 at 21:16
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    You mean "1600 Black Lives Matter Plaza"? I believe it got that address on June 5, 2020
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 24, 2020 at 22:35
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    @T.E.D. Wasn't that a portion of 16th St NW that was renamed, not of Pennsylvania Ave NW? As great of an address that'd be for the White House, I don't think it's true.
    – derobert
    Aug 29, 2020 at 0:57
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    @T.E.D. well, when I Google it, I get things like snopes.com/fact-check/black-lives-matter-plaza telling me its false.
    – derobert
    Aug 29, 2020 at 2:14
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    @MCW well, it's between 15th and 17th streets and bisected by the axis of 16th. The main issue though about the address is whether to consider it on Pennsylvania vs New York vs G Street or some other street. Also there is the issue of when the system of 100 address units per block was applied to DC.
    – DavePhD
    Jan 27, 2022 at 19:07

1 Answer 1

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The oldest mention I see of the White House being at "1600 Pennsylvania" is in The Advance 7 June 1906 which says:

The President is not referred to in the rooms around Congress nowadays as "the President" or as "the man in the White House." Instead they say "the man up at 1600" and the explanation of it is that the White House is 1600 Pennsylvania avenue.

Older references say the White House is at Pennsylvania and 16th, rather than using the number "1600".

For example, the 1888 Washington, what to See, and how to See it A Sightseer's Guide says:

Pa. Ave & 16th st.

Roose's companion and guide to Washington and vicinity (1877) says:

The President's House is about a mile and a half from the Capitol, in a direction west by north. It stands between 15th and 17th sts. n. w., on a high plateau, where Pennsylvania and New York avenues intersect, and fronting it is Lafayette Square. It is built of a yellowish freestone painted white, and is popularly known as The White House.

An 1884 map considers the White House to be on G street.

The 1863 Diary by Adam Gurowski also says:

White House in G street

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