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In the US, Where is the Residence of the Vice President?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The official residence of the Vice President of the United States is at Number One Observatory Circle, within the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory. Unlike the White House, it is not open to the public, although it is occasionally used for entertaining guests of the United States. Photographs of the interior of Number One Observatory Circle sometimes also appear in photographs of casual gatherings hosted by the Vice President.

This home was built in 1893, and it was originally intended to house the Superintendent of the Naval Observatory. It is constructed in the Queen Anne style, featuring a distinctive turret, gabled roofing, large wraparound porches, and a spacious entry hall. Originally, the residence was faced in terra-cotta colored brick, but it has since been painted white with green trim, giving it a more Colonial look.

In 1923, the Chief of Naval Operations took over the home. 51 years later, the United States Congress agreed to officially designate the home as the residence of the Vice President, providing funds to renovate and update it, although unfortunately historic preservation was not a concern at the time. This decision was made to address concerns about the expense of finding appropriate housing in Washington, DC, where the housing market is often tight; recognizing the valuable service of the Vice President, Congress felt that it would be reasonable to provide a residence for the holder of this office. The first Vice President to live at the official residence of the Vice President was Walter Mondale.

As with the private rooms in the White House, this residence is typically redecorated between administrations. Each Vice President has brought personal furniture and belongings, and often temporary loans with museums are arranged so that pieces of original art and antiques can be displayed. While some voters may resent this, the argument is that since the residence of the Vice President is used for entertaining guests of the United States, it is entirely appropriate to ensure that it is furnished and decorated with high-quality items.

Occasionally, the use of taxpayer funds to perform maintenance on the residence of the Vice President such as replacement of the air conditioning system, repainting, or rewiring is authorized by Congress. Allegedly, the home has also been outfitted with a secure bunker for the use of the Vice President and family in the event of a disaster or terrorist attack, although the White House has not confirmed this.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By andee — On Dec 30, 2011

@SarahSon - Actually they do give tours of the Naval Observatory. It has been several years since I was there, but I do remember going in the evening.

You have to have reservations in advance, and go through security like you would any military building.

If you are hoping to get a glimpse of where the Vice President lives, you will probably be disappointed.

When I went on the tour, it was mentioned that he lived there, but the tour was all about the military things that were there.

By SarahSon — On Dec 29, 2011

Until reading this article, I had never given any thought to where the Vice President lives. It's not something I remember hearing about on the news or reading anywhere in a magazine.

Even the times when they entertain guests there, I have never heard it being publicized. I can understand how this would be more convenient for the current Vice President.

I imagine trying to find a home in the Washington DC area for each Vice President could be quite a chore. Either buying and selling a house, or living in hotels would not be the same as already having a residence for you.

Do they also give tours at the Naval Observatory that are open to the public?

By strawCake — On Dec 29, 2011

You can count me in as one of the voters that resents paying for the Vice President to live. I read somewhere that the Vice Presidents salary is over $200K per year. Surely you can find a residence and decorate it yourself for that kind of money?

And really, how often does the Vice President entertain official guests at his home? I haven't read about anything like that in the papers recently, have you? Paying exorbitant sums of money to maintain and decorate the Vice Presidents home is just ridiculous, in my opinion!

By SZapper — On Dec 28, 2011

@Indemnifyme - It would be pretty glorious to be able to decorate your home with famous pieces of art. I guess the rest of us will just have to settle for high quality prints (unless you're planning on taking up politics soon.)

Anyway, it makes sense to me that the residence of the Vice President would be on grounds of the United States Naval Observatory. It seems like it would be fairly easy to keep a residence secure that's already on an official area like that.

And actually, I think the Vice President may have it even better than the president in that regard. I think I would hate to have tourists trampling around my house on a regular basis-at least the Vice President doesn't have to deal with that!

By indemnifyme — On Dec 27, 2011

You know, for some reason I kind of assumed the Vice President lived in the White House also, but I guess that was a little silly. The White House is huge, but I can understand why it's reserved only for the current president.

Anyway, after reading this article I'm kind of jealous of our Vice President. Not because of the house, but because he can borrow art from museums! I've always been a big fan of art, and right now I'm imagining how cool it would be to have Van Gogh's Starry Night hanging on my mantel!

By robbie21 — On Dec 27, 2011

@tigers88 - I've never seen it either. It must be off the beaten path - away from the mall, monuments, etc. It does seem appropriate that s/he should have a free, stately residence. There just seems something undignified about the VP hunting for a rental.

It's interesting how I think there have been two different ideas of who makes a suitable VP. One is the heir apparent - think George H.W. Bush or Al Gore. The other is the elder statesman, someone with a lot of experience but probably not someone you would vote for for president (a la Dick Cheney or Joe Biden).

And I guess there are two ways to approach that kind of position: as a reward for a lifetime of service or as a living grave. Daniel Webster famously refused the office of VP by saying "I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead and in my coffin." On the other hand, I was always a big fan of The West Wing and Leo, who had been an incredibly hardworking Chief of Staff, was running for VP. He said, "I see the vice presidency as more of an emeritus position."

By tigers88 — On Dec 27, 2011

Its funny, I have lived in Washington DC for years and I have never seen the Vice President's residence. Of course I have seen the White House about 500 times and since the time I was a kid until now I have taken the tour at least a dozen times.

But I have never seen where the VP lives. Honestly, I'm fine with that. In most administrations the VP just kind of hangs in the wings and they don't have much of an effect on the course of an administration. I'm glad that they have a roof over their heads and I'm happy to chip in for it, I just don't much care what it looks like.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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