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The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America's Most Famous Residenceby Robert Klara
Synopses & Reviews
Critically acclaimed author Robert Klara's The Hidden White House leads readers through an unmatched tale of political ambition and technical skill: the Truman administrations controversial rebuilding of the White House.
In 1948, President Harry Truman, enjoying a bath on the White Houses second floor, almost plunged through the ceiling of the Blue Room into a tea party for the Daughters of the American Revolution. A handpicked team of the countrys top architects conducted a secret inspection of the troubled mansion and, after discovering it was in imminent danger of collapse, insisted that the First Family be evicted immediately. What followed would be the most historically significant and politically complex home-improvement job in American history. While the Trumans camped across the street at Blair House, Congress debated whether to bulldoze the White House completely, and the Soviets exploded their first atomic bomb, starting the Cold War.
Indefatigable researcher Robert Klara reveals what has, until now, been little understood about this episode: Americas most famous historic home was basically demolished, giving birth to todays White House. Leaving only the mansions facade untouched, workmen gutted everything within, replacing it with a steel frame and a complex labyrinth deep below ground that soon came to include a top-secret nuclear fallout shelter.
The story of Trumans rebuilding of the White House is a snapshot of postwar America and its first Cold War leader, undertaking a job that changed the centerpiece of the countrys national heritage. The job was by no means perfect, but it was remarkable—and, until now, all but forgotten.
"In 1949, under the direction of President Truman, an extensive reconstruction of the White House began. Home improvements might not seem like much to base a story on, but Klara (FDR's Funeral Train) turns the tale of this controversial project into a delightful and informative narrative. Truman already had plenty to worry about during his presidency (e.g., the Cold War, low approval ratings), and swinging refrigerator-sized chandeliers, ghostly creaks and groans, and a piano falling through the floor weren't helping to ease his mind. When the White House was finally examined, inspectors discovered dangerously compromised beams, scorched timbers leftover from the fire set by the British during the War of 1812, and distressing evidence that the entire building was sinking. Over the course of three years, all but the exterior walls were demolished and rebuilt, and both Margaret Truman and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt remarked that the new White House felt like a cheap hotel. Klara brings the reconstruction's major players — including Truman and his family, architect Lorenzo Winslow, and contractor John McShain — to life in sharp prose, infusing this cracks-and-crevices exposÃ© with plenty of entertaining drama. B&w photos throughout. Agent: Gary Heidt, Signature Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Critically acclaimed author Klara leads readers through an unmatched tale of political ambition and technical skill: the refurbishment of the White House during the Truman administration
In 1948, Harry Truman, President of the United States, almost fell through the ceiling of the Blue Room in a bathtub into a meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution. A team of the nation's top architects was hastily assembled to inspect the White House, and upon seeing the state the old mansion was in, insisted the First Family be evicted immediately. What followed was the biggest home-improvement job the nation had ever seen. The Trumans moved across the street to the Blair House, the Congress argued about how much the job would cost, and then, in the midst of it all, the Soviets exploded an atomic bomb.
Indefatigable researcher Rob Klara reveals what has, until now, been little understood about this episode: Americas most famous historic home was basically demolished, giving birth to todays White House. The facade was left intact, but the entire structure was taken apart, removed, and replaced with a steel structure with a complex series of steel-reinforced subbasements and bomb shelters. The story of Trumans rebuilding of the White House is a snapshot of postwar America and its first Cold War leader, undertaking a job that changed a piece of Americas national heritage. The job was by no means perfect, but it was remarkable—and history has nearly forgotten about it.
About the Author
ROBERT KLARA is the author of the critically acclaimed book FDR's Funeral Train. Salon called him “one of the most engaging writers youll ever read.” His work has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, American Heritage, and The Christian Science Monitor. Klara has been a staff editor for many magazines including Adweek, Town & Country and Architecture. He lives in New York, New York.
Table of Contents
ForewordChapter 1: Moving DayChapter 2: The Great White JailChapter 3: The PorchChapter 4: "Like a Ship at Sea"Chapter 5: The InspectionChapter 6: The EvictionChapter 7: The Slow MurderChapter 8: Wanted: Home for PresidentChapter 9: "The People Want a New Building"Chapter 10: The VerdictChapter 11: "Shoot it"Chapter 12: The Shovel in the EarthChapter 13: Wreck It GentlyChapter 14: "We are no longer ahead"Chapter 15: The Hidden White HouseChapter 16: 27 RoundsChapter 17: Furniture, Rugs and DraperiesChapter 18: The TourChapter 19: Something to Remember You ByChapter 20: "Every Dollar Must be Saved"Chapter 21: The Generals BurdensChapter 22: Missing PiecesChapter 23: "A Race Against Time"Chapter 24: Open HouseAfterword
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