Recalled the White House Historical Association: "Either the angry rollers rushed to the gates of the White House and demanded that they be let in to roll their eggs on the president's lawn or President Rutherford B. Hayes, alerted to the plight of the children, opened the gates to the South Lawn and welcomed all the rollers to his end of Pennsylvania Avenue."
But Mr. Willoughby notes: "You have President Hayes opening the gates of the South Lawn, but I think in that day and time there was a cow down there where Constitution Avenue is, and I think they had a barn and a henhouse and that sort of thing. I don't believe there were gates, because the South Lawn was a pasture and the fence wasn't built, as I've been told, until the advent of Franklin D. Roosevelt."
Yesterday, Bill Bushong of the White House Historical Association confirmed that President Ulysses S. Grant, whose two terms in the White House immediately preceded Hayes' presidency, "built a new iron south fence at the end of his first administration."
Once the fence went up, Mr. Bushong says, its gates were opened daily, probably at 10 a.m., for the public to gain access to what is now the South Lawn. "The south grounds of the White House were treated somewhat like a public park. People could stroll the grounds, view the gardens, enjoy the space."
He says it wasn't until security concerns emerged during World War II that "a perimeter was established around the White House with guard boxes" — a perimeter that has since expanded in size and scope.
John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .
Be the first to read John McCaslin's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.