A Look At The House Kamala Harris Will Live In While Vice President

Caroline Bologna
·Senior Reporter, HuffPost Life
·4 min read
The vice president's residence is located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The vice president's residence is located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are settling into their new home at the White House. Vice President Kamala Harris, however, had to delay her move to Number One Observatory Circle, the traditional residence for veeps on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Reports emerged this week that Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff are staying at Blair House temporarily while the 19th century vice president’s residence undergoes repairs. Once the maintenance is completed, they will be the eighth vice presidential family to live at the historic mansion.

This tradition dates back to 1977, when President Jimmy Carter’s vice president, Walter Mondale, moved into Number One Observatory Circle ― also known as the Superintendent’s House, the Admiral’s House, or VPR (vice president’s residence).

Number One Observatory Circle was built in 1893. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Number One Observatory Circle was built in 1893. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Since Mondale’s tenure, the vice presidential mansion has housed George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Biden and Mike Pence.

Constructed in 1893, Number One Observatory Circle boasts three floors, six bedrooms, a wraparound porch, sun room, and, according to rumors, an underground bunker. Architect Leon E. Dessez designed the Queen Anne-style house, which reportedly cost around $20,000 to build. It was built with a dark red brick but was later painted white in the 1960s, after Victorian-style architecture fell out of fashion.

The vice presidential residence does not offer public tours, but the interiors have been photographed over the years for various publications and during events, like visits from foreign dignitaries.

Interiors of the vice president's then-newly remodeled residence on Feb. 25, 2018. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Interiors of the vice president's then-newly remodeled residence on Feb. 25, 2018. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The wraparound porch at the residence in 2016. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The wraparound porch at the residence in 2016. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The dining room at Number One Observatory Circle in 2018. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The dining room at Number One Observatory Circle in 2018. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Bidens' favorite room in the house was reportedly the solarium, photographed here in 2016. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Bidens' favorite room in the house was reportedly the solarium, photographed here in 2016. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The foyer as decorated for the holidays by Karen Pence in 2020. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The foyer as decorated for the holidays by Karen Pence in 2020. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
A china cabinet holds the dishes selected by vice presidents past and current. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
A china cabinet holds the dishes selected by vice presidents past and current. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The library of the vice president's residence as it was in 2016. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The library of the vice president's residence as it was in 2016. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The entryway in 2016. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The entryway in 2016. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Elementary school children from the D.C. area got a tour of the the home in 2009. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Elementary school children from the D.C. area got a tour of the the home in 2009. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Number One Observatory Circle is located on the 72-acre grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington, D.C. The property is about 2 1/2 miles from the vice president’s offices at the White House and Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The USNO is one of the oldest scientific agencies and focuses on providing astronomy-related information to the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense. In addition to scientists and leaders, the Naval Observatory has supposedly been visited by supernatural beings. One night at Number One Observatory Circle, Mondale’s teenage daughter Eleanor claimed she fainted out of fear after seeing a ghost.

“Upon coming to, I phoned the Secret Service Command Post,” she recalled in a 1998 article in Swing magazine. “I whispered that there was a man in my room and hung up. Minutes later, two agents busted into the room, guns drawn. When I told them the ‘man’ was actually a ghost, they requested that I never do that again!”

Many years later, Cheney’s granddaughter accidentally summoned the Secret Service when she mistook a panic button in the bathroom for a way to flush the toilet.

A satellite image of the United States Naval Observatory from April 2012. (Photo: DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)
A satellite image of the United States Naval Observatory from April 2012. (Photo: DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)
The home as Vice President Al Gore awaited election results in 2000.  (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The home as Vice President Al Gore awaited election results in 2000. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Number One Observatory Circle was constructed to house superintendents of the USNO, but according to the White House, “the house was so lovely that in 1923, the chief of naval operations kicked out the superintendent so he could move in himself.”

Before 1974, vice presidents resided in their own homes if they had property in the D.C. area, or in hotels if they didn’t. This approach presented security challenges to the Secret Service and wound up being pretty pricey.

“[T]he cost of securing these private residences grew substantially over the years,” the White House website states. “Finally, in 1974, Congress agreed to refurbish the house at the Naval Observatory as a home for the Vice President.”

No vice president lived in the home until Mondale’s arrival three years later in 1977. (Gerald Ford became president before he could move in, and his veep, Nelson Rockefeller, “only used it for entertaining.”)

The red brick house was built as the official residence for the superintendent of the Naval Observatory. This photo is from about 1895, before the Observatory roads were paved. (Photo: U.S. Naval Observatory Library)
The red brick house was built as the official residence for the superintendent of the Naval Observatory. This photo is from about 1895, before the Observatory roads were paved. (Photo: U.S. Naval Observatory Library)
The house was painted white in the 1960s, as seen in this photo from January 1977. (Photo: PhotoQuest via Getty Images)
The house was painted white in the 1960s, as seen in this photo from January 1977. (Photo: PhotoQuest via Getty Images)

The various vice presidents who’ve lived at Number One Observatory Circle made their own unique additions to the property. Bush, who served as vice president from 1981 to 1989, added a horseshoe pit and quarter-mile jogging track.

Dan Quayle opted for an exercise room and swimming pool, the latter of which rather endeared him to his successors. In 2010, then-Vice President Biden remarked that Quayle was his “favorite vice president” because of the addition of the pool, which his “granddaughters love.”

The Quayle family had the pool installed when they lived at the vice president's residence from 1989 to 1993. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Quayle family had the pool installed when they lived at the vice president's residence from 1989 to 1993. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Bidens added the Family Heritage Garden of the Vice President, where all occupants and their family members, including pets, are memorialized on the stone pavers around a fountain. In this photo from Oct. 28, 2016, a fiberglass replica of a bronze dog by artist Charles Parks is on loan and wears the collar of the Biden's dog, Champ. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Bidens added the Family Heritage Garden of the Vice President, where all occupants and their family members, including pets, are memorialized on the stone pavers around a fountain. In this photo from Oct. 28, 2016, a fiberglass replica of a bronze dog by artist Charles Parks is on loan and wears the collar of the Biden's dog, Champ. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Vice President Joe Biden surprised his wife with a tree swing and a commemorative plaque on the grounds residence on Valentine's Day in 2010. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Vice President Joe Biden surprised his wife with a tree swing and a commemorative plaque on the grounds residence on Valentine's Day in 2010. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Pence family added the logo <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/new-curtains-a-beehive-and-a-basketball-court-the-pences-at-the-vice-presidents-residence/2018/04/12/c3817dec-18cb-11e8-92c9-376b4fe57ff7_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from the movie "Hoosiers"</a> for their time at the residence. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Pence family added the logo from the movie "Hoosiers" for their time at the residence. (Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As for Biden, he and Jill created the Family Heritage Garden of the Vice President in 2012 to honor all the vice presidential family members and pets who resided at the house. He also surprised Jill on Valentine’s Day in 2010 with a plaque on a tree in the backyard, which reads “Joe Loves Jill.”

During their four years at the Naval Observatory, the Pences added a beehive and a removable “Hoosiers” logo on the concrete to honor their home state.

While it’s unclear when exactly Harris and Emhoff will move into Number One Observatory Circle, they’ll undoubtedly bring their own personal touches to the residence. Keep scrolling for more photos of the historic home over the years.

Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush at the residence on Feb. 23, 1981.
Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush at the residence on Feb. 23, 1981.
Vice President George H.W. Bush answers a phone call in the residence circa 1983.
Vice President George H.W. Bush answers a phone call in the residence circa 1983.
Prince Charles talks with Dan Quayle at the vice president's residence on Feb. 17, 1989.
Prince Charles talks with Dan Quayle at the vice president's residence on Feb. 17, 1989.
Al Gore greets trick-or-treaters on Oct. 31, 1993. The annual event is for children only -- parents must wait at the gate.
Al Gore greets trick-or-treaters on Oct. 31, 1993. The annual event is for children only -- parents must wait at the gate.
Dick Cheney, his wife, Lynne, and their daughter Mary tour the vice president's residence before hosting a reception at their new home on Jan. 21, 2001.
Dick Cheney, his wife, Lynne, and their daughter Mary tour the vice president's residence before hosting a reception at their new home on Jan. 21, 2001.
Dick Cheney's Labrador retrievers, Jackson and Dave, prepare for Halloween at the residence on Oct. 30, 2007.
Dick Cheney's Labrador retrievers, Jackson and Dave, prepare for Halloween at the residence on Oct. 30, 2007.
Jill Biden gives a tour of the house to elementary school children from across the D.C. area in 2009.
Jill Biden gives a tour of the house to elementary school children from across the D.C. area in 2009.
The Bidens host Thanksgiving dinner at the residence with Fisher House Foundation service members and their families on Nov. 23, 2009.
The Bidens host Thanksgiving dinner at the residence with Fisher House Foundation service members and their families on Nov. 23, 2009.
Joe Biden arrives at a barbecue for wounded service members from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and their families at the Naval Observatory on May 25, 2010.
Joe Biden arrives at a barbecue for wounded service members from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and their families at the Naval Observatory on May 25, 2010.
Jill Biden participates in a Super Soaker battle at the event. 
Jill Biden participates in a Super Soaker battle at the event.
Biden speaks during a Cinco de Mayo breakfast on May 2, 2012.
Biden speaks during a Cinco de Mayo breakfast on May 2, 2012.
Biden takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as his family looks on during the official swearing-in ceremony at the Naval Observatory on January 20, 2013, a day before the inauguration. 
Biden takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as his family looks on during the official swearing-in ceremony at the Naval Observatory on January 20, 2013, a day before the inauguration.
Number One Observatory Circle photographed Oct. 28, 2016.
Number One Observatory Circle photographed Oct. 28, 2016.
The pool the Quayle family added, photographed on Oct. 28, 2016.
The pool the Quayle family added, photographed on Oct. 28, 2016.
The Pence family poses on the front porch before heading to the inaugural balls on Jan. 20, 2017.
The Pence family poses on the front porch before heading to the inaugural balls on Jan. 20, 2017.
Interiors of the then-newly remodeled residence on Feb. 25, 2018. 
Interiors of the then-newly remodeled residence on Feb. 25, 2018.
The Pence family added a beehive, shown here.
The Pence family added a beehive, shown here.
The dining room decorated for Christmas on Nov. 20, 2020. 
The dining room decorated for Christmas on Nov. 20, 2020.
The Vice President's home at the Naval Observatory, photographed on Nov. 16, 2016.
The Vice President's home at the Naval Observatory, photographed on Nov. 16, 2016.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.