The White House, Totally Gutted

Illustration for article titled The White House, Totally Gutted

In 1948, the White House was almost abandoned. After it had been burned by the British in 1814, and endured the stress of the addition of modern amenities like plumbing and electricity, it was on the verge of being condemned. Staircases were sagging, a fresco in the East Room was held in by scaffolding, and it was actually dangerous to be inside. In fact, the 1948 social season had to be cancelled (gasp!).

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President Harry S. Truman told Congress that while it might be "more economical" to tear it down, that would be destroying a very important national monument. So in 1950, it was completely and totally gutted.

Every column, every wall, every single piece of the inside was taken out and put into storage. Check out these amazing photos of the White House during the reconstruction, taken from the National Archives' Flickr account. [National Journal via Digg]


A view of construction work from the outside.

Illustration for article titled The White House, Totally Gutted

Iron beams holding up the original walls.

Illustration for article titled The White House, Totally Gutted
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The White House's East Room.

Illustration for article titled The White House, Totally Gutted
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The main corridor of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

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The skeletal walls of the bedroom and sitting room.

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Above, the Oval Study. Below, the Blue Room. Part of the floor was removed to install steel shoring columns.

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Remnants of the East Room fireplace.

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The shell of the White House.

Illustration for article titled The White House, Totally Gutted
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Images from National Archives Flickr account

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DISCUSSION

peters-glen
peters.glen

Question: Did the steel structures become a permanent part of the White House or were they merely temporary support systems? Were the original supports and structure all brick and mortar and stone? If the steel was permanent structure, then I can see how some might feel that the White House feels less authentic and more facade-like. It is still the original skin though and the majority of the finishing materials would have either been re-used or replicated/restored.

I wonder sometimes about the danger of having such iconic monuments to a civilization. It would be an interesting article to talk about the number of attempts to destroy key monuments throughout the world within the past century and the effects that had on the respective nations at that time.