On This Date in History: If you’ve ever been to the White House, then you know it’s a large house but not nearly as large as many private mansions and certainly not as ornate as many of the residences built in the guilded age out on the Hamptons. Now, Washington DC came to be the site for the capitol after a negotiation between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson regarding the Assumption Bill in 1790. Virginians wanted the captiol closer to them in the South and Hamilton wanted a bill that allowed for the Federal Gov’t to assume state debts through the issuance of bonds. This type of governmental power was more than Jefferson liked, but I guess that he liked the idea of having the capitol near his home more than his ideals so he agreed over dinner with Hamilton to push for support for the bill in return for Hamilton’s support of placing the capitol in or near Virginia. The site agreed upon was on the banks of the Potomac River that separated Virginia from Maryland. The exact site was chosen by that old surveyor himself, General George Washington who was the President of the United States at that time.
As for the residence of the Chief Executive, Washington was in favor of a mansion about 5 times larger than the ultimate final product. In the spring of 1791, he and French architect Charles L’Enfant laid out their vision for the city planning and a huge presidential mansion was on the drawing board. But, the building commissioners took one look at L’Enfant’s plan and probably almost had a collective heart attack when they saw the proposed extravagence and grandeur of not just the presidential residence, but also all of the buildings.
L’Enfant wasn’t too clued in on how a democracy operated and so he just assumed that if he had Washington’s blessing, it was a done deal. So, he started working on the proposed big house right away. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson fired him in February 1792 after the grounds had been staked out, the cellar excavated and delivery of the stone for part of the foundation had been delivered. Ever the egalitarian, Jefferson instead proposed that an open competition be commenced with a $500 prize be awarded for whichever plan was accepted. Washington agreed to the new scheme and Irish architech James Hoban was the winner. Washington and the commission thought that his traditional 18th century mansion was “convenient, elegant and within moderate expense.”
On this date in 1792, the cornerstone for the executive mansion was laid but the Capitol and other governmental buildings took priority. I guess Congress figured that the country could operate just fine with a homeless president but not without a building for the Congress. So, Washington never lived to see the house. It was not complete until John Adams took up residence in November 1800. Abigail Adams at first thought it was “built for ages to come” and “a castle of a house.” It may have been built for ages to come but Abigail soon found it wasn’t built for them because only half of the walls had been plastered. She complained that “not one room or chamber is finished as a whole.” There was shabby furniture provided by the government and outside the construction workers left tree stumps, piles of debris, hacked weeds and in full view, a very conspicuous presidential privy. Well, Abigail didn’t have to suffer for long. Jefferson defeated Adams in the presidential election and by March 1801, the Adams’ were asked to leave and Thomas Jefferson moved in to what I”m sure he deemed as a “fixer upper.”
Weather Bottom Line: There is some interesting stuff going on. While the Atlantic Hurricane Season has been pretty benign, the Pacific has been pretty active. I’ve been bemoaning the fact that no one seems to care about the plight of the Philippines following back-to-back tropical cyclones that have killed over 600 people, hampered the economy and brought general misery. They’re even having to import coffins. The US media has largely been silent. Anyway, the second of these storms was Typhoon Parma that came back to the Philippines after initially striking the nation. It did so in reaction to the passing of Super Typhoon Melor as it was on its way to Japan. Well, in less than a week, the remnant of Typhoon Melor made its way all the way across the Pacific and is now bringing heavy rain to California, which could be a problem in areas absent of vegetation from recent wildfires. It will also bring heavy snow to the higher elevations of the Sierra and also winds as high as 100 mph on mountain peaks.
Now, the subtropical jetstream is set up with a flow from around Acapulco to the Ohio Valley and Southeastern US. Tropical moisture is being gathered from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific that will bring clouds and rain our way. There is a tropical storm that is dying just off the Pacific coast of Mexico that will do nothing but add more moisture to the flow. We have relatively cool air in place with all of this moisture set to come up from the Southwest and run over the top of us. What that ultimately means to us is cloudy conditions with periods of rain for the last two days of the week and perhaps Saturday. The clouds and rain will make it tough for us to get out of the 40’s until Sunday as a cold front comes through and clears out the mess. But it also serves to drag down air that will take us into the 30’s each morning for the first few days of next week. Don’t even bother consider the 60’s any time soon and remind yourself of the threat of global warming as you turn on your furnace.