Book Review: The Hidden White House – Robert Klara

The Hidden White House coverTitle: The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence
Author: Robert Klara
ISBN: 9781250000279
Pages: 384
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


When President Harry Truman moved his family into the White House, he had no idea that the executive residence was literally falling down around him. But by 1948, he could no longer ignore the sad fact that the White House was no longer safe for habitation; it was structurally unsound and years of poorly planned renovations had made the situation worse. Truman decided that it was time to renovate the residence, but he had no idea that he would be changing the very foundations of the house and that it would never be the same.

October Bloggers Recommend Pick:

The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence by Robert Klara (October 22, Thomas Dunne) The reconstruction of the White House during the presidency of Harry Truman is the subject of this meticulously crafted work of nonfiction. The White House was literally falling down around the Trumans; Klara explores the politics behind the project, writing in an absorbing narrative style, and chronicles what was saved and what history, in the end, was tragically thrown away. —Swapna Krishna

Full Review:

Living in Washington, DC, I’m very interested in the history that’s imbued in each structure in this city, especially in the older buildings such as the White House and Capitol. I was aware that the White House had been renovated under President Truman, but until reading The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence, I had no idea of the extent of the repairs. The structure was gutted; one of the only original pieces left in the mansion is the facade. How did this come to happen? And where are all the White House originals?

Klara presents a comprehensive view of the renovation and reconstruction in The Hidden White House. He looks at the situation from every angle: the builders, the appropriations from Congress, and even world events. Of course, there was a political fight around the cost to rebuild; it would have been much less expensive to demolish the structure entirely and start from scratch. What’s more, the United States didn’t want the world to know that they couldn’t even keep their president’s house upright; it’s interesting how something that is so complex in and of itself became much more so because of the fact that it was the executive mansion.

Time was the name of the game when it came to the renovation in The Hidden White House; Klara details how the renovations fell further and further behind schedule. Because of these pressures, things were lost and let go along the way, pieces of history that should have been preserved. It’s almost tragic to see how much was simply thrown out in an effort to get the mansion in livable shape. Klara writes an entertaining and gripping story in a narrative style that’s easy to read.

The Hidden White House is a fascinating account of a story that everyone should know, yet one that has almost been lost to history. Klara has done a great job bringing it dusting it off and bringing it back into the spotlight. Any reader interested in history, especially U.S. history, should not pass this book up. It’s an enlightening and fascinating book that will absorb readers from beginning to end.

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