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The First Ever Photograph of the White House Was Taken 170 Years Ago

Photograph via Library of Congress

The White House has persisted through a lot: 43 presidents, countless renovations, and the occasional fence jumper. But not that long ago, it wasn’t much more than a large mansion for the commander-in-chief and his family which was almost never seen by people outside Washington.

On Wednesday, the White House Historical Association shared an 1846 image it claims is the first ever photograph of the White House, and it’s easy to see that the building has changed a lot in 170 years. The photo, taken by John Plumbe, depicts the building as it appeared after the construction of the north and south porticos, but years before the additions of the East and West wings, the third-floor attic (added in 1927), and Harry S. Truman’s second-floor balcony (built in 1952). It also appears the picture was taken in winter, too; there’s some snow on the ground and many of the property’s trees are bare.

But even with all the additions over the years, the White House’s façade and overall look have remained the same. Perhaps a photographer another 170 years from now will capture a White House modified by future President Donald Trump.

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