45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, is unlikely to find the White House in anything other than tip-top condition. However, things weren't quite the same when the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, moved into the residence in 1945. To his surprise and dismay, it had serious problems. Not only was it drafty and creaky - it was downright unsafe.
Chandeliers in the house were observed swaying for no apparent reason, and floors moved underneath people’s feet when stepped on.
All of the above resulted in a structural investigation being conducted on the building, revealing haphazard retrofitting, fire hazards and a second floor that was on the verge of collapsing. What’s more, the White House’s foundations were sinking, walls were peeling away, and disused water and gas pipes were weighing down the building and making it unsustainable.
The situation was so bad that, in June 1948, one of the legs of First Daughter Margaret Truman’s piano fell right through a floorboard of her second-floor sitting room. This event, along with others, made the Presidential family and its aides realize that serious measures were required to save the historic building.
In 1949, Congress approved a $5.4 million project to gut the building in its entirety, replacing its interior while retaining its historic facade.
Architects, engineers, and workers toiled for the next 22 months, trying to figure out how to remove unstable structural elements while somehow ensuring the exterior of the building remained intact.
All of the construction equipment used on the site had to be carried inside in pieces, then re-assembled before being used in order to prevent exterior damage. The first and second floors were replaced, while several expansions and basement levels were added, including a bomb shelter that was capable of withstanding a nuclear attack.
President Truman and his family returned to reside in the White House in 1952, with a small ceremony marking the occasion. The First Family received a gold key to its newly-refurbished residence.
January 3, 1950: A second floor corridor.