Did you know that during the Truman administration the White House it had a full gutting and renovation? The iconic building had been home to every US president since John Adams took residence in 1800, but after years of neglect during the Great Depression and World War II, the building had fallen into a very sad state.
Above: workers dig the extensive basement under the North Portico (1950). Below: The south face of the White House with scaffolding (1950):
According to The White House Museum, Truman initiated a controversial project in 1948 to extensively expand the building to make room for staff that had grown during the war, but when that project was rejected, the frustrated president settled on the addition of a second floor balcony. Still, all did not go to plan: soon after construction of the balcony, building inspectors found the residence to be structurally unsound. Floors swayed. The presidents bathtub was sinking into the floor. The leg of Margaret Truman’s piano broke through the floor in what is today the Private Dining Room. Plaster was found to be sagging as much as 18 inches from ceilings. It was soon declared that the whole building was in a state of imminent collapse.
Workmen digging the sub-basement inside the nearly demolished White House (1950):
Starting in 1949 the president took up residence across the street from the White House and the entire structure of the original wood beam interior was gutted, leaving only the exterior walls. Some fixtures where saved for reconstruction, including many fireplace mantles and facades, but much of the interior was scrapped and some was even sold as souvenirs. The interior, with a few modifications and expansions was then reconstructed using a much stronger steel and concrete frame. Truman moved back into the nearly new building in 1952.
Central Hall during reconstruction, looking east (circa 1950):
The new elevator being installed (1951):