Inside Number One Observatory Circle, the often overlooked but stunning residence where Kamala Harris will move when she becomes vice president

Kamala VP residence thumb
Every vice president since 1977 has lived at Number One Observatory Circle. Background: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images. Inlay: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Number One Observatory Circle in Washington, DC, is the official residence of the vice president.

  • Located on the grounds of the Naval Observatory about 2.5 miles north of the White House, it is hidden from public view by shrubbery and doesn’t offer public tours.

  • Every vice president since 1977 has lived in the home.

  • On January 7, Congress certified Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ 2020 election win.

  • Take a look inside the private complex, where Vice President Mike Pence and his family currently reside and where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will move this year.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Joe Biden won’t be the only one getting a housing upgrade when he moves into the White House later this month as the 46th president of the United States.

The office of the vice president also comes with an official residence of its own.

Located on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, Number One Observatory Circle has been the official residence of the vice president since 1974. Walter Mondale, who served as the vice president under Jimmy Carter, was the first VP to call it home in 1977. 

Vice President Mike Pence and his family currently live in the private complex, and in just a few weeks, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her family will become the eighth permanent residents of Number One Observatory Circle.

Before Pence, Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Dan Quayle, and George H.W. Bush lived in the home.

Despite its high-profile occupants, the home has remain shrouded in mystery over the years. There are no public tours of the house, and it is hidden from the street by shrubbery.

“Ask almost any American where the vice president lives, and you’re almost sure to get a look of confusion,” historian Charles Denyer writes in “Number One Observatory Circle,” his definitive book about the the VP’s home.

Here’s a look inside the historic, secluded residence.

Though just over 2.5 miles north of the White House, the vice president’s residence at Number One Observatory Circle feels worlds away.

Number One Observatory Circle - VP Residence - DC
Number One Observatory Circle, the official residence of the vice president of the United States since 1974, pictured on October 28, 2016. Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle

Built in 1893, the three-story hilltop mansion is located on the secluded grounds of the US Naval Observatory, where scientists study the sun, moon, and stars for navigational purposes.

Aerial of the Naval Observatory
A satellite image captured April 2, 2012, shows the 72-acre US Naval Observatory, located within the traffic circle. DigitalGlobe/Getty Images

Source: The White House, “Number One Observatory Circle”

For 30 years, the building served as the home of the superintendent of the US Naval Observatory. Then in 1923, it became the official residence for the chief of naval operations.

vp residence
US Secret Service personnel close the gates to the US Naval Observatory in 2013. Charles Dharapak/AP

Source: The White House

In 1974, Congress designated the house as the home of the vice president.

Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter with Walter Mondale and Joan Mondale for dinner at the Vice-President's residence.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter gather with Walter and Joan Mondale for dinner at the vice president’s residence in January 1977. National Archives Catalog/Jimmy Carter Library (LP-JC)

Source: The White House

But the first vice president didn’t move in until three years later when Walter Mondale was elected second-in-command under President Jimmy Carter, historian Charles Denyer writes in his definitive book about the residence.

Walter Mondale dinner party vice president's residence
Walter Mondale hosts a dinner party for Jimmy Carter and his family in December 1977. National Archives Catalog/Jimmy Carter Library (LP-JC)

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle”

The ground floor of Number One Observatory Circle consists of a reception hall, living room, sitting room, dining room, garden room, lounges, pantry kitchen, and veranda, according to Denyer.

joan mondale vp house
Joan Mondale poses during a tour of the vice president’s residence for members of the media on March 23, 1977. AP

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle” 

On the second floor are the master suite, another bedroom, a study, and a den. The third floor used to be servants’ quarters, but now has four bedrooms for family members.

the observatory VP residence
An exterior shot of the vice president’s residence on April 2, 2012. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle” 

The main kitchen is located in the basement.

VP Walter Mondale in the kitchen of the Vice President's Residence
Walter Mondale lifts his Thanksgiving turkey from the broiler on November 11, 1977 in the kitchen of the vice president’s residence. AP Photo

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle” 

Every vice president has lived there since Mondale, bringing their own unique touch to the home’s 9,150 square feet.

Bushes and Reagans in VP home
Ronald and Nancy Reagan visit George H.W. and Barbara Bush at the vice president’s residence in 1981. David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle” 

George H.W. Bush installed a horseshoe pit on the grounds when he was vice president, Denyer writes.

vp residence
George H.W. Bush answers a phone call in the vice president’s residence circa 1983. David Hume Kennerly/Getty

Source: USA Today

Bush also installed a quarter-mile-long jogging track on the premises, which he used even after he became president in 1988 and moved south to the White House.

George HW Bush jogs at the vice president's residence
George H.W. Bush, along with an unidentified aide and agent, jog at the vice president’s residence on March 27, 1992. Barry Thumma/AP Photo

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle” 

When Al Gore’s family lived there, they would play games like catch, Frisbee, and touch football in the front yard. The residence is set on 12 of the Observatory’s 72 acres.

Al Gore VP residence
Al Gore celebrates scoring a touchdown as his daughters walk away during a touch football game with family members in November 2000 at the vice president’s residence. JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP via Getty Images

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle” 

The house features Queen Anne-style architecture, with an expansive veranda porch that wraps around the front corner.

Wrap-around porch VP residence
A wrap-around porch at the vice president’s residence pictured October 28, 2016. Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle

Since 1991, people have been able to donate to the non-profit Vice President’s Residence Foundation to help pay for decorating expenses.

George and Barbara Bush in VP residence
George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush pose at the vice president’s residence circa 1983. David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Source: The Center for Public Integrity

When Dick Cheney and his family moved in, they decorated the home using a color scheme of creams and greens.

vp residence
Dick Cheney, Lynne Cheney, and their daughter Mary, move into their new home in 2001. M. Spencer Green/AP

Source: The Washington Post

Dan Quayle added a swimming pool and exercise room during his tenure. In 2010, Joe Biden told reporters that Quayle was his “favorite vice president” because he helped build the pool.

Prince Charles Dan Quayle at the vice president's residence
Prince Charles talks with Dan Quayle at the vice president’s residence on February 17, 1989. Bettmann/Getty Images

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle” 

Jill Biden, Joe’s wife, was also grateful for past additions. “Each person has added something to make the home better for the next family,” she told The Washington Post in 2017.

Family Heritage Garden - VP Residence
Jill Biden helped create 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. Pictured October 2016. Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post

She was also especially fond of the “serenity” of the place. “When times get tough, and there were some pretty tough times for the Bidens, you could sit outside and reflect. It was very healing,” Jill Biden told the Post.

Joe and Jill Biden plaque, VP residence
Joe Biden surprised Jill with a commemorative plaque on a tree on the grounds of the vice president’s residence on Valentine’s Day in 2010. Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post

In 2009, Biden let it slip that the vice president’s residence was home to a bunker, according to former Newsweek correspondent Eleanor Clift.

Biden at vice president's residence
Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host a barbeque for wounded service members at the vice president’s residence on May 25, 2010. Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

Source: Newsweek

While Biden’s team refuted the claim, neighbors backed up the story with complaints about mysterious and loud construction sounds in the wake of 9/11 when Cheney lived at the residence, according to Denyer.

Cheney and Biden at Vice President's Residence
Dick Cheney shakes hands with Joe Biden on November 13, 2008, at the vice president’s residence. David Bohrer/White House/AP Photo

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle” 

Numerous leaders and dignitaries have been to the residence over the years. For eight years in a row, Biden hosted Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny on St. Patrick’s Day.

vp residence
Joe Biden talks with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny over breakfast on March 14, 2014. @VP44

Source: Medium

Before moving out, Jill Biden told the Post that the Pences would likely be surprised to find that the Observatory is a respite from the “hectic” nature of Washington life.

Pences and Bidens at VP Residence in 2016
Joe and Bill Biden meet with Mike and Karen Pence following lunch at the vice president’s residence on November 16, 2016. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post

The Pences have lived in the Observatory since January 2017. After moving in, they posed for Inauguration Day photos on the front porch.

vp residence
Mike Pence and his family pose for photographs on the front porch of the vice president’s residence on January 20, 2017. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle” 

Just like the White House, Number One Observatory Circle gets decked out for the holidays. The Pences have posed for official Christmas portraits, like the one here, in what appears to be the home’s sitting room.

vp residence
Mike and Karen Pence are pictured on December 9, 2017, in their official Christmas portrait at the vice president’s residence. @SecondLady

Source: “Number One Observatory Circle” 

The Pences have also gone all out for Halloween, decorating the home and greeting trick-or-treaters there.

Halloween at the Vice President's Residence 2019
Mike and Karen Pence greet trick-or-treaters on October 30, 2019, at the vice president’s residence. Official White House photo by Tia Dufour

Source: The White House

Like their predecessors, the Pences have hosted a broad range of guests, including politicians and world leaders.

Governors Lunch at the Vice President's Residence
Mike and Karen Pence speak with governors and guests on February 7, 2020, at the vice president’s residence. Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen

Source: The White House

Each summer, the Pences have hosted a pool party for veterans.

VP Residence pool
The Quayle family had the pool, pictured here in October 2016, installed when they lived at the vice president’s residence. Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

In June 2017, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue joined Karen Pence to unveil the addition of beehives to the grounds.

vp residence
Sonny Perdue and his wife Mary joined Karen Pence for a walk on the grounds in June 2017. US Department of Agriculture

Source: US Department of Agriculture

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her family will no doubt add their own touches to the historic residence when they move in this year. Though it remains to be seen whether she will enjoy the pool as much as President-elect Biden did.

Joe Biden Kamala Harris masks DNC
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

Editor’s note: Brennan Weiss contributed to an earlier version of this story.

Read the original article on Insider

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