The White House didn’t always look the way it does today. In fact, due to major destruction caused by a fire set by the British in 1814, most of the White House has been reconstructed. Additionally, it has been noted that with each of their residencies, past Presidents have made modifications to the iconic home. One of the most dramatic changes came with renovations set forth during the term of former President Harry S. Truman.
After a structural survey revealed extensive issues with the home, Truman arranged for a complete overhaul of the White House to save it from collapsing. During the renovation, the President and his family lived in the Blair House (now known as the President’s Guest House), located across the street from the White House.
The extensive renovation, which took place between 1948-1952, cost a staggering $5.7 million to complete. Major structural changes included the replacement of original wooden joists with new load-bearing internal steel beams, a new concrete foundation, repositioning of the Grand Staircase to open into the Entrance Hall, as well as the addition of two sub-basements.
The interior of the White House was gutted, leaving the frame of the home as a shell. During its reconstruction central air conditioning was added, as well as the addition of separate bathrooms for each guest room.
The following pictures were taken by Abbie Rowe, the National Park Service Photographer. He was able to photograph the entire White House renovation process. Below are his photographs:
The White House as we know it today has been altered and shaped to suit and accommodate the needs of its residents.
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