President Harry S. Truman was forced to vacate the White House for years.

  • White house front view
White house front view
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In November 1948, President Harry S. Truman and his family were forced to vacate the White House regarding concerns over the building’s structural integrity. Truman had moved into the White House after taking office in 1945, but a series of incidents — including one in which the leg of his daughter’s piano fell through the floor — affirmed that the residence required extensive renovations. A dissatisfied Truman called repairs from Theodore Roosevelt’s administration a “botch job.” Analysts also suggested that the building deteriorated during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s time in office, as the Great Depression and World War II forced FDR to reallocate vital resources away from much-needed repairs.

The Truman family moved into nearby Blair House, a building purchased by the federal government in 1942 to serve as the President’s official guest residence. Though Truman wasn’t pleased with the displacement, he also wasn’t in a rush to return to an unsafe building. The President authorized an extensive renovation that lasted from 1948 until 1952, during which deeper foundations were dug and a steel frame skeleton was added to the White House’s interior. Nearly the entire building was renovated; a balcony installed by Truman in early 1948 was one of the few elements left untouched. After lengthy delays, Truman moved back into the White House in March 1952, and spent the final 10 months of his presidency there.

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