Vice President Kamala Harris has made a quick transition to her new role in Washington, but she and second gentleman Doug Emhoff won’t be settling into their official residence for a while.
That’s because the official VP’s home at the U.S. Naval Observatory in northwestern Washington, D.C., is undergoing maintenance ordered by the Navy. Instead, Harris and her husband moved into their temporary digs last Thursday — right across from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. Known as Blair House, the residence serves as the president’s guest house.
President Joe Biden stayed at Blair House the night before the inauguration last Wednesday, a pre-inaugural tradition for incoming presidents that goes back more than 40 years to Jimmy Carter’s term. It has since hosted the Reagans for six nights, both Bushes and their big families, the Clintons for three nights and Trumps for just one night.
The Obamas ran into some issues in 2009 when they planned to move into the home on Jan. 5 but the home was already reserved for the Australian prime minister, so the incoming first family stayed in a hotel until they could move into Blair House on Jan. 15
According to the official Blair House website, the U.S. government purchased the home in 1942 following insistence from President Franklin D. Roosevelt that it was needed for diplomacy during World War II. Now, world leaders and their delegations stay in the residence that features 14 guest rooms each with a bathroom, three formal dining rooms, two conference rooms, a beauty salon, exercise room and fully equipped kitchen with an executive chef.
From 1948 to 1952, President Harry Truman lived in Blair House while the White House underwent a major renovation. The home is part of a larger 60,000-square-foot complex of four connected townhomes that includes more than 120 rooms and a full-time staff of 18. During the 1980s, a renovation of the Blair House included the addition of pristine gardens.
The entire Blair House complex actually is a bit larger than the White House, which comprises about 55,000 square feet with 132 rooms, including 16 family-guest rooms, three kitchens and 35 bathrooms.
Number One Observatory Circle at the U.S. Naval Observatory is the official vice presidential residence. It was built in 1893 for the superintendent, but in 1923, the chief of naval operations liked the house so much he moved in instead, according to the official website.
Until 1974, vice presidents and their families lived in their own homes, but they were difficult and costly to secure, so the house at the observatory was renovated. Vice President Walter Mondale was the first to move in when he took office in 1977. Since then, vice presidents George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Joe Biden, and Mike Pence and their families all lived in the mansion.
The 9,000-square-foot Queen Anne-style home was designed by Leon E. Dessez and is just 2.5 miles from the White House. It features three stories, six bedrooms, a wraparound veranda and reception hall. Through the years, vice presidents put in additions including a track and swimming pool.
It’s unclear when Harris and Emhoff will move to their permanent home. Harris is a Bay Area native who served as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general before her election to the U.S. Senate in 2016. According a report by Business Insider, she and her husband, a Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer who put his career on hiatus to join Harris on the campaign trail, own several properties in California and Washington:
• A 1,000-square-foot loft-style condominium in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood purchased by Harris for a little under half a million dollars when she became district attorney in 2004.
• A $1.78 million two-bedroom condo in D.C., just over a mile from the White House, that she purchased in 2017 after she was elected to the Senate. The residence reportedly did not meet security requirements for a sitting vice president.
• A 3,500-square-foot home purchased by Emhoff in the exclusive Brentwood area of Los Angeles, the couple’s primary residence.