The White House is Falling Down

"The damned place is haunted, sure as shootin. . . . You and Margie had better come back and protect me before some of these ghosts carry me off." Harry Truman, in a letter to his wife Bess, September 9, 1946

Shortly after moving into the White House, President Truman noticed the telltale signs of a building under serious physical stress. He frequently complained of drafts and unusual popping and creaking noises and joked of “ghosts” that inhabited the old house. "The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth. I can just imagine old Andy [Jackson] and Teddy [Roosevelt] having an argument over Franklin [Roosevelt]," he wrote to Bess back home in Missouri in June 1945.

Early in 1948, in response to the President's concerns, engineers confirmed that the White House was in a serious state. Burned to the exterior walls in 1814, further compromised by the successive additions of indoor plumbing, gas lighting, electric wiring, heating ducts, and major modifications in 1902 and 1927, some said the White House was standing only from the force of habit. The decision was made to move the Trumans across the street into the Blair House for three years while the White House underwent a complete reconstruction within its original exterior walls. In December 1949, crews began dismantling the interior.

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