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Inauguration History

The Location

Only recently have presidents taken their oath of office on the Capitol's West Front overlooking the monuments. Before President Reagan, the long-standing tradition was to hold the swearing-in ceremony on the other side of the Capitol. Throughout the nation's history, a variety of locations — inside the Capitol, around the District and halfway across the country — have been used because of weather, war or the unexpected death of the previous president.

Other Inaugural Locations

Year Location Reason for different venue
1789Federal Hall, New YorkCapitol building not yet built
1793Congress Hall, PhiladelphiaCapitol building not yet built
1797Congress Hall, PhiladelphiaCapitol building not yet built
1817Old Brick CapitolCapitol destroyed in War of 1812
1841Brown's Hotel, WashingtonDeath of Harrison
1865Kirkwood Hotel, WashingtonDeath of Lincoln
1881Residence, New YorkDeath of Garfield
1901Residence, BuffaloDeath of McKinley
1923Residence, Plymouth, Vt.Death of Harding
1945White HouseFestivities canceled because of war
1945White HouseDeath of Roosevelt
1963Aboard Air Force One at Love Field, DallasDeath of Kennedy
1974White HouseResignation of Nixon

The Weather

Severe winter weather has set the tone of this traditionally outdoor event several times, though typically the weather is mild. Ronald Reagan had both the warmest and coldest January inauguration.

Sources: Architect of the Capitol, National Weather Service | Graphic: The Washington Post

© 2005 The Washington Post Company