Everyone knows about the White House, but have you ever asked yourself, "Where does the vice president live?" The vice president's home has an equally unique history and set of rules that govern it. Here you'll learn all about Number One Observatory Circle, the official digs of the nation's VP.
Unlike the White House, which was built in 1792, Number One Observatory Circle is a relatively new abode, first sanctioned in the 1970s. Before then, VPs were responsible for finding their own housing, but increasing security concerns and the associated costs inspired Congress to give the vice president official lodgings. Although the place may not have the prestige and perks of the big white house located 2.5 miles away, stories from Number One Observatory Circle suggest that it has a rich character and personality of its own - right down to the potential ghosts.
In 1966, after John F. Kennedy's assassination, there was a significant increase in concern over the safety of the nation's highest elected officials. Congress designated an official residence for the vice president, stipulating that 10 acres at the US Naval Observatory were to be reserved for the new home.
The Vietnam War interrupted the process, becoming a huge sap on the government's financial resources, and Congress' plans were put on hold. It wasn't until 1974 that Congress revisited the idea of a vice presidential home on the Observatory grounds. They designated the Admiral's House, constructed in 1893, to serve the purpose.
There was just one problem: the Chief of Naval Operations was already living there. Congress passed a law that gave the home to the vice president instead.
Admiral Elmo Zumwalt was the Chief of Naval Operations in 1974 - meaning he lived at the Admiral's House when Congress decided to make it the vice presidential abode. Zumwalt was none too pleased at being ousted from his house. He talked openly to members of Congress - including Senator Harry Byrd, head of the congressional committee that spearheaded the legislation for the new house - about how unlivable and unappealing the house was in an attempt to get them to quash their plans. It didn't work.
Zumwalt was so upset that he couldn't convince Byrd to reconsider that he ended up running against Byrd in 1976. Zumwalt lost.
Gerald Ford was supposed to be the first vice president to live in the house, but he became president before he could move in.
Ford's vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, was slated to take over the home. The uber-rich Rockefeller, however, wasn't interested in the lodgings; he used the house only for entertaining. Rockefeller and his wife, Happy, did decorate it with art and antiques.
One of the items Nelson Rockefeller bought for Number One Observatory Circle was a bed that cost a whopping $35,000. But this was no ordinary bed. Designed by artist Max Ernst, the so-called "Cage Bed with Screen" was "covered in mink, watched over at the head and foot by medallions of the sun and moon," according to Barbara Walters.
Rockefeller reportedly offered to leave it for the next family, but Barbara Bush told him, "You’re welcome anytime; We don’t need the bed."