Back to Top

c. 1949-1952

Decimating the White House

Remember that time they completely destroyed the inside of the White House and drove a massive bulldozer through it?

Hey, remember that time when they completely destroyed the inside of the White House and drove a massive bulldozer through it? Didn’t think so.

It happened, though. And it all kicked off with the arrival of President Truman and family in 1945. It’s important at this point to know that the property had a complicated history.

Built after 1792, burnt down by the British in 1814, reconstructed, added to, subtracted from, West Wing, East Wing — this was a building that had (almost literally) been around the block.

Which is why when Truman took up residence, he was displeased. Something was wrong. Floors groaned and creaked, winds blew in and out, strange sounds echoed in unusual corners. Why? Because it was on the brink of collapse.

No overstatement. It remained standing, said the Commissioner of the Public Buildings Administration, only “by force of habit.” The foundations were descending into the earth, the walls were falling away from the superstructure, and the entire second floor was so dilapidated as to be a fire hazard.

The bottom drops out

Perhaps the inspectors were being a little overzealous? Erring on the side of caution? After all, this was a building that had stood strong for almost 150 years. Then the piano in the President’s daughters room fell through the floorboard.

Steps needed to be taken immediately, before there was no more floor to be stepped on. In 1949, Congress approved one of the most extraordinary renovation projects the world had ever seen. The entire inside of the White House was removed, leaving only the external facades.

How on earth did they get a bulldozer, and a truck, inside the building? They were dismantled into their component parts, carried into the White House, and then reassembled.

Oh, and when completed, 22 months later, the White House also had a new component to its structure: a bomb shelter.

National Archives
National Archives
National Archives
National Archives
National Archives
National Archives
National Archives
National Archives
National Archives
National Archives
National Archives
National Archives

Watch this

Uber Begins Experimenting With 1-800 Number for Rides

see more from
More