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White House Chimney Sweeps Shake Things Up

Chimney Sweeps at the White House!
by Dave Lamb – dave@mychimneys.com
This Chimney Cleaning Tradition at the White House began with a speech by President Clinton in 1993 and one chimney sweeps reaction to the president’s words.

professional chimney sweeps“I know this economic plan is ambitious, but I honestly believe it is necessary for the continued greatness of the United States. And I think it is paid for fairly – by asking more Americans to contribute today so that all of us can prosper tomorrow” Bill Clinton, Address before Congress, February 17, 1993.

Among the millions of American citizens listening to former President Clinton’s address before Congress shortly after he was inaugurated for his first term, one in particular took his words to heart. Jeff Schmittinger, the owner of Wisconsin Chimney Technicians was inspired by the words of Bill Clinton and in the spirit of helping a debt ridden nation fix the federal deficit, Schmittinger put together a proposal to clean all 32 of the White House chimneys, for free!

After landing the contract in 1993 Schmittinger has held the bragging rights for 18 years now. Each year, 8 professionals in the field are nominated by their fellow chimney sweeps for the chance to serve his county and work at the White House for the cleaning of the many chimneys every other year. He has agreed to never charge and never advertise, but says that the honor is well worth it.

The chimney sweeps must pay their own way to the capitol city and pay for their accommodations and other expenses, but they all say the cost is well worth it. One man who helped out this year said cleaning the White House chimneys for a chimney sweep is the equivalent of a musician performing in Carnegie Hall. Each chimney sweep is nominated by other professionals in the field and can only participate for two years. It is a great honor to be chosen to clean the President’s many chimneys.

Last week marked the end of the 2011 cleaning of the chimneys at the White House. The three day cleaning was extended by an extra day after the interruption from the 5.8 magnitude earthquake along the east coast on Tuesday the 23rd of August. The work began last Sunday and with the earthquake hitting shortly after, a few of the sweeps were caught in tedious places when the storm hit.


That is not the Secret Service, it is the White House Chimney Sweeps!

Denise Schmittinger, the wife of Jeff Schmittinger who began the whole operation in 1993, was on top of one of the chimneys when she felt the shaking begin. Another one of the eight chimney sweeps at the White House this week who experienced the earthquake from a rooftop spot claimed to have not known what caused the trembling. His first thought was that it may have been an attack. Michael S. Elliott, owner of Central New England Chimney Sweeps in North Oxford, MA said, “I was terrified. I’d never felt anything like that before. I thought a truck had hit the building or there’d been an explosion underground”. Apparently the shaking continued for another 20-30 seconds, so it was quickly determined that it was an earthquake. The rooftop was immediately evacuated along with the rest of the White House staff and gathered on the front lawn till it was deemed safe to return.

Luckily, President Obama has been on a planned vacation with his family for this week and no actual damage was done to the White House. After a job well done, the chimney sweep survivors of the east coast earthquake have taken home with them stories of working in the President’s bedroom along with survival tales from the capitol city earthquake.

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