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What the White House Looks Like Completely Gutted

The National Journal posted a story about the renovation of the White House in the years after WWII. See the photos from the National Archives via the Truman Library.

Experts called the third floor of the White House “an outstanding example of a firetrap.” The result of a federally commissioned report found the mansion’s plumbing “makeshift and unsanitary,” while “the structural deterioration [was] in ‘appalling degree,’ and threatening complete collapse.” The congressional commission on the matter was considering the option of abandoning the structure altogether in favor of a built-from-scratch mansion, but President Truman lobbied for the restoration.

“It perhaps would be more economical from a purely financial standpoint to raze the building and to rebuild completely,” he testified to Congress in February 1949. “In doing so, however, there would be destroyed a building of tremendous historical significance in the growth of the nation.”

So it had to be gutted. Completely. Every piece of the interior, including the walls, had to be removed and put in storage. The outside of the structure-reinforced by new concrete columns-was all that remained.



The Shell of the White House during the Renovation, 05/17/1950

Original Caption: The Shell of the White House during the Renovation, 05/17/1950

Created By: National Archives and Records Administration. Office of Presidential Libraries. Harry S. Truman Library. (04/01/1985 – )

From: Series: Photographs Relating to the Administration, Family, and Personal Life of Harry S. Truman, compiled 1957 – 2004, documenting the period 1849 – 2004

Contact: Harry S. Truman Library (NLHST), 500 West U.S. Highway 24, Independence, MO, 64050-1798. PHONE: 816-268-8272; FAX: 816-268-8295; EMAIL:truman.reference@nara.gov.

Production Dates: 05/17/1950

Scope and Content Note: Window openings provide bursts of light into the cavernous interior of the White House, supported only by a web of temporary steel supports. The exterior walls rest on new concrete underpinnings, which allow earth-moving equipment to dig a new basement.

Persistent URL: arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=6982099

Truman Library URL: www.trumanlibrary.org/photographs/view.php?id=22

Access Restrictions: Unrestricted

Use Restrictions: Unrestricted

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