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The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  387 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
Critically acclaimed author Robert Klara leads readers through an unmatched tale of political ambition and technical skill: the Truman administration's controversial rebuilding of the White House.

In 1948, President Harry Truman, enjoying a bath on the White House's second floor, almost plunged through the ceiling of the Blue Room into a tea party for the Daughters of the A
...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Erin
Oct 09, 2013 Erin rated it really liked it
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

Since we met, my husband has teased me for reading books like Robert Klara's The Hidden White House, likening me to Abigail Chase and giving me a hard time for burying myself in information that will never come up in regular conversation which is why I found it so amusing when the tables turned and he suddenly wanted to know more about the book I'd casually mentioned over dinner a few days before.

Suspicious, I began fishing
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Dennis Brack
Dec 11, 2013 Dennis Brack rated it it was amazing
As a news photographer who has covered the White House for fifty-three years, I’d had the honor and good fortune to walk through the White House grounds Northwest gate, (after a tight security check), and look to my left and marvel at the magnificent building that we have for our presidents. I knew a little about the Truman restoration, certainly the assassination attempt at Blair House, but I knew very little about the nuts & bolts of the massive project that took place in Harry Truman’s on ...more
Sallee
Jan 20, 2014 Sallee rated it really liked it
Very few people know that in 1948 President Truman found that the White House was slowly collapsing. The White House was in extremely poor shape and was not safe to live in. Walls were cracking, floors were moving and foundations were sinking. This book is about the rebuilding of the entire frame and foundations of the White House while keeping the exterior intact. The job took millions of dollars, much red tape and inside bickering between the contractors and the government commission overseein ...more
Leslie Goddard
Nov 14, 2016 Leslie Goddard rated it it was amazing
A terrific book. He not only uncovers mountains of research on what was a fascinating project, but also tells the story in a lively, entertaining way. I have little background in engineering or architecture, and was impressed at how well the technical information was clearly, concisely explained. Loved this book. Should be a model for other writers of history for the general public. Highly recommended.
Gerry Welsch
Jan 22, 2014 Gerry Welsch rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Fascinating and very well written. A great mix of history, politics, architecture, design and humor.
Andrew Whitaker
Feb 02, 2017 Andrew Whitaker rated it it was amazing
A complete history of the renovations of Americas most historic residence. Even the Secret Service doesn't know some of this stuff
WendyB
Sep 10, 2013 WendyB rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
A wonderful bit of history that has many interesting facts about the rebuilding of the White House during the Truman era.
Tim Lake
Mar 23, 2017 Tim Lake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. Had no idea the White House was in such bad shape following the Roosevelt administration.
I chuckled when I read about President and Bess Truman's escapades in Blair House.
The pictures from the official White House photographer allows you to see the restoration progress as Klara is describing it.
If you enjoy Presidential history and the White House, this is a must read.
Terri
May 04, 2017 Terri rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting reading. I haven't yet figured out if Harry Truman was right in what he did, or should have planned better. Am still wondering how they got a bulldozer inside the gutted Whitehouse...(pictures included)
Jennifer Heise
Sep 23, 2014 Jennifer Heise rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, presidential
Anyone who has read either Backstairs at the White House or Upstairs at the White House is aware that the Big White Jail, as Truman once called it, nearly fell down on Truman's head during his second term, and had to have extensive structural repairs.

However, most people don't know how extensive those repairs were. Or how much danger the Trumans, and other denizens of the White House, were in before the building was closed for repairs. Nor, of course, do they know (though they can probably suspe
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Rebekah Scott
Sep 23, 2013 Rebekah Scott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
It’s one of those stories so utterly ridiculous, it can’t be anything but true. It was early 1948. President Harry Truman, relaxing in a bath upstairs in the family residence of the White House, while downstairs his wife, Bess, was entertaining a group of ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution. As she stood, fulfilling her duties as First Lady, shaking hands and greeting people, she became aware of a faint tinkling sound. The Blue Room chandelier, a massive display of crystal and b ...more
Lynne Perednia
Dec 23, 2013 Lynne Perednia rated it liked it
Harry Truman had more to worry about than carrying on FDR's work when the president died and the plainspoken man from Missouri became the nation's leader, winning the war and deciding whether to drop the atomic bomb. The White House was falling apart right around him, his family and visitors to the country's most famous residence.

Although it's not true that the leg of Margaret Truman's piano went through the floor and the ceiling of the next level, it did break through the flooring. The house wa
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Dave Donahoe
Oct 05, 2013 Dave Donahoe rated it it was amazing
Read as a first reads selection

I loved this book. I thought it was a great read that had just the right amount detail, background and "hey, I didn't know that" to make it a perfect history book. Klara has taken an event that many people probably don't know about, myself included, or may have never thought about and brought it to life. Do you really think that Barack Obama lives in the same house as John Adams?

In 1948, the White House is falling down, quite literally, on the President and his gu
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Brooks
Nov 25, 2013 Brooks rated it really liked it
Easy and fun read. Covers the history of the rebuilding of the White house from 1949 through 1953. Really fascinating story of how close the white house was to falling and/or burning down.

Why was it so bad?
- Original house was well buit for the time - 1792 and 1818. 12 x 12 wooden beams, 12' wide foundations for outerwalls. Except for one critical item. The outerwalls had good foundations, but the interior walls did not and all of Washington DC is poor soil. So interior sank, while exterior lea
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Lisa
Apr 03, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing

Fascinating book about the infamous reconstruction of the White House from 1949 to 1952, in which Harry S. Truman spent most of his 2nd term as President living at Blair House, a government residence generally used for visiting dignitaries.

Occupants and employees of the White House had noticed for years that the building was making loud creaks and that the floors were sagging, the ceilings sported large cracks, and the house was obviously in some danger. It took another year or so to obtain the
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Biblio Files
Aug 23, 2013 Biblio Files rated it really liked it
I love these thin-sliced histories that focus on a very specific piece of the past. The Hidden White House details the remodeling of the White House in the early 1950s. To call it remodeling is a little misleading. The White House was in such poor repair that it really had to be rebuilt from the foundation up.

Robert Klara describes the state of the White House that forced the president and his family to move out of the White House and into Blair House for three years while the planning and rebu
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Dana
Sep 24, 2013 Dana rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I was trilled to win this book through the Goodreads giveaway program. "The Hidden White House" managed to take a slightly boring topic, White House repairs, and turn it into an engaging read. This is clearly attributable to the strong writing and energy that author Robert Klara brought to the subject. After visiting Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago, I was prompted to learn more about our nation's most famous residence, and this book was perfect! The author discussed the interconnection between ...more
Rina
Nov 10, 2013 Rina rated it it was amazing
This book caught my eye on NetGalley and I’m so glad I was given a chance to review it. What a fascinating account about a little known aspect of history. I was shocked at the White House’s state of disrepair and what had been done to the load bearing walls and supports! I knew that the White House had undergone some major renovations but I never knew the extent until I read this very well researched and fascinating account.

My Review:
As stated above Robert Klara has done an excellent job resear
...more
Natalie Hart
Oct 26, 2013 Natalie Hart rated it it was amazing
Robert Klara writes history like it should be written: packed with funny little stories (like Harry Truman washing his underpants every night in the sink of his White House bedroom, p.23), detailed accounts of things people sacrificed (like the contractor John McShain who'd seriously underbid the project, lost $, lost his vigorous health in the stress of the end of the project, had to manage and coordinate all the subcontractors, and then was completely left out of the official book published ab ...more
Rick Theule
Feb 18, 2017 Rick Theule rated it really liked it
Mr. Klara has written a wonderful story of what was a long and tedious project. Having already read a couple of books on President Truman, this book was a delight to read as it included the personality of the President as he dealt with many different people and situations.
Kathie
Oct 08, 2013 Kathie rated it really liked it
My husband received an advance reading copy through Goodreads. I have always enjoyed architecture, design, and thoroughly enjoy many of the shows on HGTV. Although the advance copy has a number of typographical errors in it, it was an enjoyable read. The renovation of the White House began in 1948 when President Truman nearly fell through the ceiling of the Blue Room in a bathtub while a reception was being held there. The renovation was far more like reconstruction of a home that was near colla ...more
Jessica
Dec 23, 2016 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: presidents
I love Harry Truman, but he isn't perfect and his temper could get the best of him. Eleanor Roosevelt had warned the Trumans she hadn't done much to maintain the house--she simply didn't have time. Trumans arrived to threadbare carpet, sun damaged curtains, cracks in plaster and house that was literally swaying under the weight. After a few unfortunate incidents: chandelier swaying over the DAR ladies, because Truman was taking a bath upstairs (he literally could have fallen through the floor) a ...more
Allison
Aug 21, 2013 Allison rated it really liked it
This is quite the tale of a major American symbol crumbling around the President and the effort to restore and ultimately rebuild it among Washington bureaucracy and during a time that restore and conserve meant a little bit different than it does today. The first half of the book focuses on the building's deterioration and Truman's motivation for fighting Congress for money. One of the biggest motivators? Margaret Truman's piano falling through the floor. The White House was that bad. Truman's ...more
Kent
Dec 31, 2013 Kent rated it liked it
In 1948 while President, the piano in the bedroom of Harry Truman's daughter nearly crashed through the floor onto the floor below. Subsequent engineering studies revealed that the entire White House was in extreme danger of complete collapse unless immediate and drastic repair work was done.

Robert Klara's book describes the history of the White House, the travails of Harry, Bess and Margaret Truman during their first years of dealing with living in a dilapidated, run down building, the discove
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Doug Ebeling
Sep 13, 2016 Doug Ebeling rated it it was amazing
Really interesting account of the re-building of the White House that took place under Truman. Basically the entire structure was set to collapse, the seriousness of which was discovered when Truman was taking a bath above a reception room and the heavy chandelier began to swing. This book takes you through the entire process of discovering the seriousness of the situation, Truman's decision to stay in the White House until the election, despite the danger. And then the decision to take the buil ...more
Brian
Nov 29, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it
Robert Klara unveils the history behind the major renovation and rebuilding of the White House during the Truman administration. Possibly the largest expansion and certainly the most thorough renovation of the executive mansions is detailed from the construction difficulties to congressional battles to the personal histories of the staff that served the White House for decades. The renovations of the executive mansion that had become a veritable death trap in the days before Truman relocated to ...more
Michael Fish
Sep 25, 2013 Michael Fish rated it really liked it
A thoroughly fascinating and entertaining read. While the subject matter might appear dry and unappealing to many, Klara builds a narrative that becomes quite engrossing. The book was a real surprise to me. While I knew of the renovation and knew a bit about Truman, I was shocked to learn the extent of the rebuild and found my self quite fond of the mild mannered & reluctant President.
The biggest shock really is the cause of the rebuild, which becomes the greatest takeaway of the book. Toda
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Jennifer
Nov 17, 2013 Jennifer rated it liked it
This was a fascinating book telling a hidden history of the White House that most people are probably not familiar with. Professionally, I am very interested in preservation and restoration, and I am always keen to visit historic sites and houses and to see what measures have been taken to preserve the buildings against inevitable decay. I have not been to see the White House in person, but the story of this building, and the trade-offs between it's value as a historic artifact and a living, fun ...more
Susan Lundberg
Aug 23, 2015 Susan Lundberg rated it really liked it
I have read a lot of White House history. A lot. I learned some things in this book that I hadn't known before, which is a good thing. Delightful, really.

An excellent account of the mid-century renovation of the First Residence, which ironically was upgraded again in 2010 for new wiring and other electronic needs, but not on the scale of the early 1950's renovation.

Always one of my favorite Presidents, Harry Truman's input on this project was as passionate and thorough as any contractor or wor
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Jim Cabaj
Sep 21, 2013 Jim Cabaj rated it it was amazing
The Hidden White House is a amazing journey of the reconstruction of the White House during the presidency of Harry Truman. I had a hard time putting down this book, packed with interesting facts that you almost hope is fiction. I could not believe what took place to this institution.

President Harry Truman is the reluctant president forced into the White House. The new first family are warned about the White House by my the First Lady as she moves out. Rats, creaking boards, swinging chandeliers
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Robert Klara is the author of FDR’s Funeral Train, The Hidden White House, and The Devil's Mercedes: The Bizarre and Disturbing Adventures of Hitler's Limousine in America. Hailed as “a major new contribution to U.S. history” by Douglas Brinkley, Klara’s first book earned a starred review from Kirkus. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, American Heritage, and The Guardian, ...more
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