header print

The White House Renovation of the 1950s

 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.

 
Click on images to enlarge
 
May 17, 1950: Bulldozers move earth around inside the gutted shell of the White House.
white-house-makeover-1950s

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.

white-house-makeover-1950s
January 19, 1950: The East Room.
white-house-makeover-1950s
February 6, 1950: View from the servants' dining room.
white-house-makeover-1950s
February 10, 1950: Workers dismantle a bathtub.
white-house-makeover-1950s
February 14, 1950: Workers gut a lower corridor.​
white-house-makeover-1950s
February 20, 1950: The Blue Room.
white-house-makeover-1950s
February 23, 1950: Workers remove the main staircase.
white-house-makeover-1950s
March 1, 1950: The east wall of the state dining room.
white-house-makeover-1950s
March 9, 1950: Men stand in the second floor Oval Study above the Blue Room.
white-house-makeover-1950s
 
Unknown date in 1950.
white-house-makeover-1950s
Unknown date in 1950.
white-house-makeover-1950s
February 27, 1950: A crane lifts a 40-foot beam towards a second-floor window while workers load debris onto a truck.
white-house-makeover-1950s
November 6, 1950: Workers lay concrete ceilings for basement rooms below the northeast corner of the White House.
white-house-makeover-1950s
January 23, 1951: The Lincoln Room.
white-house-makeover-1950s
June 21, 1951: The East Room.
white-house-makeover-1950s
November 21, 1951: The state dining room.
white-house-makeover-1950s
January 4, 1952: Workers install new steps on the South Portico.
white-house-makeover-1950s
February 16, 1952: The South Portico with scaffolding removed.
white-house-makeover-1950s
December 4, 1951: A third floor corridor.
white-house-makeover-1950s
January 23, 1952: The state dining room.
white-house-makeover-1950s
March 24, 1952: Library of Congress employees place books on the shelves of the West Sitting Room.
white-house-makeover-1950s
March 27, 1952: President Harry S. Truman and First Lady Bess Truman return to the White House after the renovation.
white-house-makeover-1950s
 
All Images are Copyright © The National Archives. Content Source: Mashable
Cover image by Deposit Photos.
Sign Up Free
Did you mean:
By clicking "Join", you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
Sign Up Free
Did you mean:
By clicking "Join", you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy