With less than a week left before President-elect Barack Obama and his family move into the White House, the family took a pivotal step yesterday – moving into the Blair House, which is located on the other side of Lafayette Square.

Obama and the future first family arrived early in the District on Jan. 4 in order to allow daughters Malia and Sasha to attend their first day at their new school, the Sidwell Friends School. However, their request to live in the presidential guest residence, Blair House, was denied by the Bush White House. The Obamas were forced to move into a hotel.

Presidents-elect typically stay in the 70,000 square foot Blair House five days before they are sworn in, according U.S. News & World Report. Many inauguration speeches have been practiced within its walls.

The Obamas requested to move into the Blair House more than a week earlier than presidents-elect typically stay there. The presidents-elect stay at the Hay-Adams Hotel across Lafayette Square from the White House is a first.

According to The Washington Post, “the White House declined, saying the building was already booked `by White House officials, the State Department and its Office of Protocol for various events.'”

Only one overnight guest was scheduled to stay in Blair House during the Obamas requested period – John Howard, the former prime minister of Australia, said The Washington Post. Howard stayed in the hotel on Jan. 12, the night before he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Obama and his family instead moved into the opulent Hay-Adams Hotel on Jan. 4, so their children could begin their studies at Sidwell Friends School the next day.

The luxury hotel, opposite the White House on 16th Street, has 145 rooms and was named for two former residents of the location: John Hay, a former Secretary of State, and Henry Adams, a noted writer and descendant of John and John Quincy Adams. According to the hotel’s Web site, “The Hay-Adams House opened in 1928 and quickly attracted prominent Washingtonians and elite travelers, including Ethel Barrymore, Amelia Earhart, Sinclair Lewis and Charles Lindbergh.”

Obama’s arrival into the city was greeted with praise and protest.

“His limousine pulled up to claps and cheers from crowds lining the blocks near the hotel and also the cries of protesters angry about the Gaza Strip – a reminder of the vexing problems he will face when he takes office. Then, in seconds, he was whisked inside,” reported The Washington Post.

Obama did not seem to mind the near two-week stay in the Hay-Adams, saying he and his family are getting used to the hotel lifestyle.

“We kind of did that for two years,” he told The Washington Post.

For safety reasons, many travel restrictions were set in place near and around the Hay-Adams including road and bus route closures. These restrictions were removed yesterday when Obama and his family moved to the Blair House for the remaining five days before their big move into the White House, where they will live for the next four years.

The 119-room Blair House is actually larger than the White House itself. It was designed to imitate a family home in order to be as welcoming as possible to presidential guests, though with 35 bathrooms, four dining rooms, a dry cleaning facility, a flower shop, an exercise room and a hair salon all within the main house, according to the Blair House’s Web site, it’s doubtful even the Kennedys would find it to be “just like home.”

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