Higher, stronger: Construction of new White House fence begins

July 9, 2019

Construction materials stacked on Pennsylvania Avenue will soon be used during the erection of a new White House fence.(WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Sheets of plywood, now stacked on Pennsylvania Avenue at the northwest corner of the White House grounds, will soon serve as construction fencing while a taller, stronger steel fence goes up.

The U.S. Secret Service and National Park Service are building the new fence surrounding the 18-acre White House campus, starting with one of the most-photographed views of the nation’s capital: the front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

Monday morning, construction materials were covered in plastic, and in neatly stacked boxes, before the temporary fencing is built surrounding the first stretch where the current fence will be removed.

The current fence is 6 feet 6 inches tall, and will be replaced by an approximately 13 feet tall fence with wider and stronger steel fence posts.

According to the Secret Service and Park Service, “the new fence incorporates anti-climb and intrusion detection technology” to deal with current and future security threats.

Construction will take place in phases, beginning with the northwest corner of the White House grounds. The second phase will move to the northeast corner of the White House grounds, on Pennsylvania Avenue.

At times, construction fencing will include the sidewalk directly in front of the White House, and extend into Pennsylvania Avenue, which has been closed to automobile traffic since 1995, after the Oklahoma City bombing.

In a news release, the National Park Service said it will continue to issue permits for demonstrations in Lafayette Park and the open areas of the White House sidewalk, and scheduled tours of the White House will continue as planned.

Discussion and planning of a new fence began in 2014 and the design was approved in 2017 by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission.

The new fence is a far cry from the first White House fence — a wood rail fence that was completed in 1803, during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. Portions of the current fence will be preserved in the Park Service’s museum collection.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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