“The Hidden White House” – Mold, Fire Damage, and Rats!


th“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 the repairs, the First family, the architects, important political figures and members of the White House staff, which all culminated into a political upheaval!

When President Truman wanted to add a balcony to the exterior of the White House the public was outraged!  He received nasty letters telling him to leave the structure alone.  While in D.C., I learned that the White House was dilapidated and had been infested with rats when the Lincolns lived there.  So I was surprised that so many decades later, vermin still infested the White House!  Some of the other problems with the White House included, termites, water damage, fire damage (from the War of 1812), mold, and unsound architecture.  Although Truman’s balcony was met with resistance, it soon became necessary to commence serious repairs to the mansion’s structure when a piano leg fell through the floor.  These repairs would allow the only attempted assassination of a president in a home that was not the White House.  This book also briefly focused on Truman’s path to the White House, and his presidency.  I don’t know that Truman is a president I would have read about, but the information Klara selected to discuss about him in this book was very interesting.  The book was very well researched, as evidenced from the numerous references and footnotes.

This was an interesting read that I would recommend to history buffs.

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