President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, were the first occupants of the White House. During Adams' presidency (1797-1801), the capital moved from Philadelphia to Washington, a struggling hamlet built mostly in a swamp.
Pennsylvania Avenue was unpaved, and frequent rains turned it into a quagmire. Although the White House itself was only half finished, Mrs. Adams cheerfully tolerated the noise and confusion of workmen coming and going. She was as fond of pomp and ceremony as Martha Washington had been, and, in spite of the inconveniences, held memorable receptions and dinner parties. Indeed, her invitations were highly coveted.
But one immediate problem presented itself-where to hang the family wash.
The White House was inadequately heated, and a number of rooms were cold and damp. Mrs. Adams finally decided that the East Room was the warmest and driest place in her august home, and that's where the clothesline was strung.
And that first lady has never forgotten.
The ghost of Abigail Adams is seen hurrying toward the East Room, with arms out stretched at if carrying a load of laundry. She can be recognized by the cap and lace shawl she favored in life.
Although Abigail Adams is the "oldest" ghost ever to have been encountered at the White House, she is by no means the only former occupant to occasionally wander its halls and great rooms. The home of the American chief executive has been the site of so much intense life it seems only appropriate that from within its walls come stories and legends of presidents and first ladies who linger...after life.