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Inside Blair House, the president’s official guest house where Biden will stay the night before inauguration

Joe Biden Blair House thumbnail
President-elect Joe Biden will stay at Blair House, the president’s official guest house, on January 19 ahead of his inauguration as the 46th president of the United States. Background: Robert Knopes/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images; Inlay: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images
  • President-elect Joe Biden will stay at Blair House the night before his inauguration, honoring a decades-old tradition.

  • Blair House is the president’s official guest house, located steps from the White House.

  • It has been called the “world’s most exclusive hotel” since heads of state, royalty, and presidents-elect stay there as guests of the commander-in-chief and State Department.

  • Blair House was built in 1824 as a family home and purchased by the US government in 1942.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The White House may be the most famous building along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, but there’s a lesser-known government residence next door that will become an integral part of next week’s inauguration events.

President-elect has Joe Biden accepted an invitation to stay at Blair House, the president’s official guest house, the night before he becomes the 46th president of the United States.

“As is customary, the White House offered use of the Blair House for Jan. 19th and it was accepted,” a State Department spokesperson told The Washington Post.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins reported that the offer was extended by “the State Department rather than the Trumps, who refuse to make contact with the incoming president and first lady.”

It is a longstanding tradition that presidents-elect stay at Blair House prior to being sworn in as commander-in-chief.

Take a look inside the historic residence, which has acted as the “world’s most exclusive hotel” since World War II, hosting everyone from presidents-elect to heads of state and royalty.

Brennan Weiss contributed to an earlier version of this article.

Blair House is the president’s official guest house where Joe Biden will stay prior to becoming the 46th president of the United States.

Blair House
Blair House seen from Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on January 14, 2021. Dmitry Kirsanov/TASS/Getty Images

Only those who are officially invited by the president and State Department are permitted to stay at the residence.

Trumps, Barbara and George W. Bush at Blair House
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit Former President George W. Bush and Former First Lady Laura Bush at Blair House on December 4, 2018. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

It is located just across the street from the White House at 1651 Pennsylvania Ave and for decades has played an important role in the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

Blair House Location Skitch
An arrow shows the location of Blair House in Washington, DC. Google Maps

Since 1977, every president-elect has stayed at Blair House the night before they are sworn in as commander-in-chief, according to The Washington Post.

Jimmy Carter leaves Blair House 1977
Newly inaugurated President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter leave Blair House to attend the Inaugural Parade in Washington DC, on January 20, 1977. Mikki Ansin/Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post

It is tradition that presidents-elect sign their name in the Blair House guest book and attend a church service on the day of their inauguration.

Trump Blair House Inauguration Day 2017
President-elect Donald J. Trump departs Blair House to attend a church service at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Inauguration Day on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Chris Kleponis – Pool/Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post

Blair House was originally built in 1824 as a home for Joseph Lovell, the first surgeon general of the US Army.

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Blair Mansion pictured sometime between 1918 and 1920. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-npcc-00064

Source: Blair House

In 1836, Francis Blair, a close friend and supporter of President Andrew Jackson, bought the home for $6,500.

Blair House
Blair House seen from Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC on February 6, 2019. Robert Knopes/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Source: US Department of State

The US government then purchased it in 1942 when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president.

blair house 1942
The corner of the spacious library adjoining the master bedroom at Blair House in July 1942. AP

Blair House has since served as the official guest house for foreign dignitaries, heads of state, and visiting delegations to Washington.

jfk blair house
President John F. Kennedy hosted Panama’s president, Roberto F. Chiari, in June 1962. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum,

President Harry Truman stayed in the house for about four years during his presidency while the White House was being renovated.

churchill blair house
President Truman (left) and Winston Churchill stand outside Blair House on March 24, 1949. Abbie Rowe/US National Archives and Records Administration

Today, Blair House consisted of four interconnected townhouses containing more than 120 rooms. At 60,600 square feet, it is larger than the White House.

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The facade of 700 Jackson Place, an annex to Blair House, on an early morning in December 2015. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Source: Blair House, White House

Blair House’s network of rooms include 14 guest suites, three formal dining rooms, two large conference rooms, and a library. There is also a beauty salon, exercise room, and laundry facility.

Obama Blair House
President Barack Obama speaks with Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu before dinner at a retreat at Blair House on July 31, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Throughout the home, the finishings are traditional and luxurious.

Blair House
Blair House’s Dillon Room photographed on May 9, 2018. Stacy Zarin Goldberg/ TheWashington Post via Getty Images

When a former president dies, family members are allowed to stay at the residence before the funeral.

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Barbara Bush and her daughter-in-law Sharon Bush watch over grandchildren at Blair House in January 1989. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The residence is officially managed by the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol. Eighteen full-time staff members are responsible for cleaning and preparing the home for visitors.

clinton blair house
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in one of the conference rooms in 2012. Alex Wong/Getty

Since major renovations in the 1980s, Blair House has been a frequent meeting place for bilateral negotiations and high-level talks.

blair house egypt's president
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, left, meets with Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole and Senator Alan Simpson on April 4, 1993. Greg Gibson/AP

A few notable guests include Queen Elizabeth II, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

king of spain blair house dc
King Juan Carlos of Spain with a member of the US-Spain Council at the Blair House on February 24, 2000. Michael Smith/Getty

Visitors typically meet with a wide range of US officials at the home.

chinest guests blair house
From left: Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji at Blair House on April 9, 1999. Alex Wong/Blair House

After a meeting at the White House in 2015, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping walked to Blair House for a private dinner.

obama xi blair house
President Obama chats with Xi Jinping en route to dinner across the street from the White House on September 24, 2015. Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty

A year later, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of Myanmar who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

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Secretary of State John Kerry greets Suu Kyi before their lunch meeting at Blair House on September 14, 2016. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

When foreign dignitaries stay there, their countries’ flags are flown from the residence.

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Clinton meets with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at Blair House in 2009. Alex Wong/Getty

US officials frequently hosts dinners, official receptions, and parties at the residence, too.

japanese delegation blair house
Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, right, and his delegation meet with US business leaders at Blair House on May 2, 1999. Reuters

Though few may know about the historical significance of Blair House, it has played a key role in American diplomacy over the years.

Joe Biden Blair House
Joe Biden greets Israeli President Shimon Peres at Blair House on April 5, 2011. Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty Images

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